Monday, November 14, 2016

Leonard Cohen

Last week was crushing emotionally after idiot Americans voted Donald Trump president.

I was depressed at the open expression of hatred expressed by voters. The lack of judgment. I did not think I could be more down.

Then Leonard Cohen died.

I have taken to getting quite high before I go to work now because the job has become anathema to me. I cannot function there unless I feel numb. I prefer whiskey but whiskey doesn't last.

Leonard Cohen died on Thursday. I did not get high on Friday.

Didn't need to. I was dead inside. I functioned as quietly as is possible in retail work, stayed away from people as much as I could, endured the five hours and headed home.

I discovered Leonard Cohen in 1994. In retrospect, the way I came across this man seems so stupid, so insignificant.

I saw the movie "Natural Born Killers". I was not on a spiritual journey, I was not looking for inspiration. I was looking for a heaping helping of insanity and violence.

Leonard Cohen had two songs on the soundtrack. "Waiting for the Miracle" and "The Future." When I heard them I immediately came to attention and thought "Who is this? These lyrics are heavy duty; the mood of the songs inflames my emotions".

Went out and bought some of his music, read up on the man, read some of his poetry, and fell in awe. I have been there ever since.

I read "Beautiful Losers", one of the two novels he wrote before beginning his music career. Difficult book to read, almost impenetrable. Sometimes you need to stretch yourself when you are dealing with a mind like Leonard Cohen's. How can you avoid boredom if you don't step outside yourself? It is worth the effort. I have read it twice. I will read it again.

I came across Leonard Cohen randomly in 1994 in a superficial, back door kind of way but because of that he has been in my life for 22 years, for which I am deeply grateful.

I knew immediately when I first heard his words and his music that his soul would connect with my own, and that proved to be true in a way much deeper than I could ever have predicted.

There are people who have covered Leonard Cohen songs in delicate beauty. Taken his words and music and lifted them even higher.

Jeff Buckley is the most well known for his cover of "Hallelujah." It is exquisite. If you haven't heard it you should go to YouTube and listen to it. You will feel like you are sitting in church. Or in life in its purest form.

Antony covered a song called "If It Be Your Will" in a Leonard Cohen tribute concert and documentary called "I'm Your Man", released in 2005. This is the one that shakes me to my core. Please go to YouTube right now - dial up Antony If It Be Your Will and listen. He hijacks your emotions and intensifies them until your only choice is to cry.

My favorite Leonard Cohen story is told by Rufus Wainwright.

Leonard was always impeccably dressed. The first time Rufus met him was in Leonard's kitchen and Leonard was wearing only a t-shirt and boxer shorts. He was feeding a little bird he had found that had fallen out of the nest. Leonard was chewing up sausage into tiny pieces and feeding them to the bird.

I was getting ready for bed Saturday night and Saturday Night Live came on. No fanfare, no bullshit. Just Kate McKinnon in character as Hillary Clinton sitting at a piano and singing "Hallejulah". She sang a few verses then said "I'm not giving up and neither should you."

Seems silly but it hit me hard. It connected Leonard Cohen's death with the tragedy of the election.

I had been distracted. Had some friends over for dinner. A simple night of friendship, laughter, food, conversation, games and drinks. Very nice. Took me away from my head for a while.

I was in a fog since Tuesday night. A fog that got pretty thick after Thursday night. Saturday night brought me back a ways. Saturday Night Live returned me to the funk.

I am mourning Leonard Cohen today. It had to be this way. I had to be alone. I have listened to a lot of his music.

Equally apropos, I had my cancer finale this morning. Last check up on the nose, a quick look at the back. Everything is fine. I don't need to cover up the nose anymore. I am left with a dent on the nose and a significant scar on my back. Reminders.

Just before I left his office the Doc made sure that I am set up for regular monitoring by a dermatologist. He said "I want you to be healthy, I want you to live for a long time. But these two incidences of cancer are a sign that the sun has done some damage to you. That you may have to deal with this again in the future. So you need to be religious with the dermatologist."

This is what I love about the man. He doesn't sugarcoat anything yet he manages to give me a sense of confidence.

And he's into the blues.

So that is where my life is at. I have to spend the rest of my time with an awareness that cancer may not give up. And I have to use that knowledge to concentrate on beauty in my life; on the things and the people who count.

Leonard Cohen's death is wrapped up in that. His death makes my life smaller. It hurts as if he were family.

In fact, 2016 has been especially brutal for me; many people who I loved and respected have died.

My life keeps getting smaller. That is the way life works. As I get older it will continue to shrink. I will not be able to do this, I will not be able to go there, I will not be able to enjoy that.

Leonard Cohen leaves a huge vacuum. A hole in my heart. Muhammad Ali did the same. It took quite a while to accept that Ali was gone.

I have not yet accepted that Leonard Cohen is gone.

Nick Cave's tribute may be the most accurate: "For many of us Leonard Cohen was the greatest songwriter of them all. Utterly unique and impossible to imitate no matter how hard we tried. He will be deeply missed by so many."

Leonard Cohen himself recently said: "I am ready to die. I hope it's not too uncomfortable. That's about it for me."

That is so Leonard Cohen.

And so is the "clarification" he offered later on, saying that he was "exaggerating". "I've always been into self dramatization," he said last month. "I intend to live forever."

I will miss Leonard Cohen deeply.

It is a comfort when you know there is a human being out there fighting life's harshness with beauty and honesty and reflection.

I do not know who I will turn to now.

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