A LEONARD COHEN STORY: MY EXCLUSIVE ENCOUNTER WITH LEONARD COHEN IN MANHATTAN.
It’s 2:00 PM in Manhattan. It is January 20th 2012.
Unfortunately, I’m not staying at the Chelsea Hotel, but at the Holiday Inn on W 57th St – Midtown West.
I am no Janis and I am no Edie; I was born too late. But who knows, maybe he never had an Alice in his life. And, there ain’t no cure for love. If you are confused, let me unfold the story.
Thanks to my writing, to this blog, and to my humble perseverance (without any kind of support or interest from the press in my home country,) I flew from Los Angeles to New York City to meet the man who has somewhat changed my life.
I wear a white Chanel-style coat. I want him to see me in the audience. And my lips are deep red, like blood—not really strawberries.
I am aware it’s quite early and yet I cannot wait any longer. I decide to have a smoke, walk a couple of blocks to release the tension; I will get get on a cab on the way.
I wear Chanel N°5 for the occasion. I did not have any money, this unexpected trip cost me quite a lot, but Sephora had a great deal on Madison Avenue. And, with $10.00 I manage to get a small dose of it—nothing makes me feel feminine like drops Chanel on my neck and wrists. It is just what I need, feeling that I am doing something right today.
When I get to Joe’s Pub, in the East Village—where the listening party organized by Columbia Records will take place an hour later—I realize I am the first one to arrive. So I take the time to admire the beautiful Public Theater the club is part of. I can’t concentrate on the architecture, the smell, the old photos or the posters of upcoming events on the walls. I notice a lot of dust on the rusty-colored bricks all around me—the place is being renovated. That’s what I do when I try to switch the radio off, the one in my brain. I notice useless details of the surroundings in order not to pay attention to what is going on within. I cannot remember the last time I was so nervous.
I take a slow, deep breath. It is time to tell myself this is not a dream. I am really meeting Leonard Cohen.
I wish I could write forever, because I fear not being able to remember the emotion and the irresistibly sweet tone of his voice; my trepidation and the heartbeat, the exact words and the look in his eyes, sinful and innocent at the same time. However, I am afraid you will be bored before I actually get to the ‘music part.’ So I will do my best to entertain you, while inking this day forever on my skin.
With my surprise the audience is exceptionally small—it’s a private and exclusive event. I’m the youngest one, which makes me very proud.
I finally take my seat in the candlelight darkness of the intimate velvet room; I go for the small round table in the front, not even thinking about who’s sitting next to me (later I will found out he is.)
The waiter offers me some wine and I politely decline asking for a Pellegrino instead, with a straw. My lipstick should last up to 8 hours, but you never know.
We are about to listen, for the first time, to Old Ideas, the new Leonard Cohen’s album that will be released on January 31st, 2012. The Man himself will introduce the album, and then a chat with him will follow.
You’re the lucky one – the host, Rita Houston, next to me whispers in my ear: “Leonard will be sitting right here, to answer questions.”
We all stand up. He takes his hat off: “Thank you my friends.” He says, looking fragile and shy. “Thank you for being here.”
I am ready for his music now. I will think about the rest later.
The album starts playing. And, as I lose myself into the fire of the burning candles in front of me, I finally relax. I let the melody of his words in.
Cohen’s voice is deeper and lower than ever, despite the fact that he has quit cigarettes. And in between a rhythm from an old blues and a sweet melody that seems to come all the way from cold Eastern Europe, he tells a new story of Isaac. Nevertheless, this time the gypsy boy seems to have found some kind of peace, or acceptance at least: “I was blessed to have someone special by my side” – he tells me, quoting his teacher, the Za-Zen master Old Roshi, who is 25 years his senior – “and I must thank them if this unstable life of mine has found some brightness; that’s how a bit of light got in.”
Show me The Place – which is very special in Cohen’s heart – is still my favorite song of this album. Nonetheless, Amen blew me away with its religious name and some kind of respectfully profane, erotic poetry that carries a deeper and universal message. A warm Sharon Robinson in the chorus stands up, together with a gloomy yet sensual instrument of wind – the beautiful trumpet with a gypsy violin by its side.
Coming Home gets under your skin and really makes you want to sleep with that lazy bastard in a suit.
Not that I really care about age in a man, especially when talking Cohen, but at 77 he still knows how to speak to a woman. In Anyhow you can almost smell him, while he whispers in your ear and arouses your brain with simple lines that shoot the bullet – Dreamed about you baby, you were wearing half your dress, I know you have to hate me, but could you hate me less? Crazy to Love You is a step back into Leonard’s folk tradition but with a twist; a classic love ballad in the form of a moyen-age song.
“Do you want anything to drink?” He asks me later, in his dressing room – “I have water, nuts, and some fruit…”
“How old are you, darling?”
Wait…I should be the one asking questions. No, I have never been a real journalist, after all.
“Will you give me that manuscript or are you going to hold it in your hands, darling?”
The manuscript was my novel, a very raw draft. How did the dream end?
Some stories you just want to keep to yourself. Some stories must be protected, kept safe in your heart. For such memories will never fade away. I can tell you that I spent some precious time with him, gave him my novel with a special dedication. Because Leonard has been that crack that allowed some light in during some of the darkest times of my life.
With his charm, elegance and grace he touched my heart and gave me a life lesson that I will never forget.
Thank you, Leonard for being exactly how I thought you would be; the most charming, gentle, handsome, sexy and humble man I have ever met. And thank you, Robert for making this dream come true. This blog is dedicated to you.
|Joe’s Pub – New York – Listening Party for Leonard Cohen‘s Old Ideas – The Stage|
Note: When I wrote this account, back in 2012, I did not yet know that he would actually read the novel and change my life. I owe Leonard more than he thinks. When I went to New York the novel was supposed to be a gift for him. The encounter would not have been possible without this blog and without Robert Kory. (2013)