Tuesday, December 6, 2011

December Sunsets and the Velvet Underground

Here's something I wrote six years ago that came to my mind on a day when the sun came down before I even got to Penn Station. It makes me a bit sentimental, since I wrote it back in my Illinois days, a time that just keeps looking better in hindsight.

I love December sunsets so. So today, after feeding my friends Rachel and Ed's wondrously lustrous feline Delores, I took a walk around in the late afternoon, listening to the Velvet Underground's first album on my discman. It's one I love, especially in December, it just sounds wintry to me for some reason, even though I first started listening to the album in the spring of 1994. Nico's voice (or Nordic foghorn, more accurately) is like a chilly north wind, and the sparks of feedback courtesy of Lou Reed's guitar shoot into my skull like the cold air knifes through my coat. When I listen to "Heroin" or "All Tomorrow's Parties" on that album, though, they seem to physically warm me somehow.

John Cale's background drone on "Heroin" replicates the hazy feeling of a December dawn. The setting sun today created that orange-grey dusk that somehow sets my heart affire in ways that I cannot comprehend. It is ethereal, as if I am on another planet further from the sun, where the sun is more of a star that provides light but no warmth, and a dim light at that. Perhaps it is in the shortest days of the year that we come closest to seeing universal death, and it just might be that brush with mortality that gets me every time.

Or maybe just memory. Growing up, my family would go to Mass on Christmas Eve at 5PM, the church's "children's Mass." Because my parents have a pathological fear of being late, we always arrived more than half an hour early, able to take any seat in the church, and right as the sun was setting. The church lay in a spot where the sun would strike the stained glass quite directly, flooding the church with a golden bath of color and warmth. It would set before the special Mass so full of ritual, and in a child's eyes, magic. (When a child is very young, that's what religion is to them.) The setting sun of Christmas Eve was probably the closest I came to religious ectasy in my life, and I guess there's a piece of that exhilerating feeling in the sunset I saw today.

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