Remembering Lou Reed, the vegan restaurant patron

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Lou Reed

Ten years ago I went to a Halloween party with the theme “rock stars” and I dressed up as Transformer era Lou Reed. A couple years later I encountered him a few times because he frequented Sacred Chow, where my college boyfriend was a cook, though mostly Lou's maid came on his behalf.

When I was in grad school I worked at Candle 79, another vegan restaurant, where he was a regular. We all looked forward to him coming in, not because he was particularly friendly or effusive, but because it was so exciting to see him, and despite his (many) idiosyncracies, he was polite and quiet, and tipped well, and it was easy to just enjoy the fact that you were watching him eat seitan and drink lemonade.

On Halloween in 2009 I was working at Candle, and Lou came in pretty late, around 9:30. I ordered him the appetizer (flax chips on the side!) and juice he got every time as he walked in the door, and then walked him and the rest of his party up to a booth in the corner where he wouldn't be gawked at too much. As we were on our way up my boss, Benay, asked “so what did you do today, Lou?” He turned around on the stairs, and looked right at me and said, straight faced as usual, “I was at the Halloween parade”.

Lou ended up being the last customer I had at Candle 79–I found his order jotted down on a piece of scrap paper in my pocket a few weeks later–and during that meal something subtly funny happened, I don't remember what, but he made a (purposely) ridiculous face at me. Lou Reed's (mostly deserved) reputation as a curmudgeon still made him pulling a silly face at his hostess unexpected, but my interactions with him made me think that mostly he had lived hard for a lot of years, and was just enjoying living in the slow lane and reveling in quietude whenever possible.

Hannah Archambault as Lou Reed in 2003