Monday, September 12, 2011
When I first arrived in Hamilton, late in November 1973,I was wearing a long black cape that made me look like a witch. A friend had given it to me as a going-away present, and now that I think of it, he had received it himself as a present from a woman who I believe was a practicing Wiccan. My friend said it would help keep me warm – it was made with heavy black wool and had a roomy peaked hood. In Montreal, a cape like that would have passed as just another fashion statement. But Hamilton was not Montreal. As I explored the downtown streets of my new, temporary home, I attracted considerable attention. More than once, someone in the street would come to a full halt, stare me in the eye, and one even asked, “Who are you?”
I would sometimes chat with these friendly people, whom I took to be an informal greeting committee, albeit some struck me as a bit strange, even by my standards. Then, usually deciding we had little in common other than a superficial interest in the colour black, I would continue on my way, my costume drawing more looks from other passersby.
Nor did I know that Hamilton is the Masonic capital of Canada. Even if someone had told me all this, it would have meant nothing to me, a young woman of 23 with a B.A. in History and English, and very few marketable skills, one of which was writing.
It was on York Street that my strange adventure began. York Street was originally an Indian trail, and later a military road built along a portion of Hamilton harbour. It was lined with old, Victorian-style mansions which offered cheap rent and access to a neighbourhood where hippies had gathered, a few years earlier. Not much was left of that scene: a natural food store, a coffee house offering folk music, one or two book or record shops. And a few community organizations, like the newly opened Hamilton Women’s Centre, which was the first place I went to look for work in early January of 1974. A bad choice as it turned out, but a logical one since I was qualified for the job of coordinator. I arrived for my first interview, in my long black cape, and before I knew it I was on the short list, and then hired. I was advised, as a welcoming gesture, to pay a visit to one of the Centre’s founding directors, a woman named Nairn Galvin. I wondered why, and was told “You would have a lot in common with her.” So, out of politeness but also curiosity, I phoned her number and was invited over for dinner. As it turned out, Nairn Galvin was a witch, a role she played to the hilt, living with 14 cats in a candlelit apartment filled with rare knickknacks, Indian tapestries, and the like. She served me wine in a silver goblet, and told me about her decision, at age 30, to become a witch – up to then, she’d been a Catholic nun. Then she read my Tarot cards. It was all very interesting – no more than that. I thanked her and went home. That night, she appeared to me in a dream in which she seemed to be trying to take possession of my soul. I managed to fend her off and never saw her again.
My job as women’s centre coordinator began in a blaze of light, but ended in dishonour. First, the Hamilton Spectator sent a reporter to interview us for a feature. She quickly took a deep dislike to my two co-workers, and focused on me. When the article came out, quoting me liberally, while describing the other two in disparaging terms, there was hell to pay.Intensely bored with feminist politics, I decided to quit.
I found another job, a few doors away, writing a booklet on the history of York Street for a citizen’s group that was protesting the demolition and redevelopment of the neighbourhood. That kept me employed until mid summer.
I was riding my bicycle down York Street in the direction of downtown, having just dropped off the finished manuscript of York Street: a People’s History. I’d also collected my final pay cheque. I was suddenly, once again, unemployed, but that hardly mattered, just then. The sun was slanting through the trees, glinting off the windows of old abandoned buildings as I pedalled east in rush hour traffic. I passed the natural foods store, where I had worked for a few days earlier that spring.When I stopped at a traffic light another cyclist came up on my left. He looked to be a boy of about 19, small and scrawny, with lank black hair tied down with an Indian headband to reveal one pointed ear, like that of an elf.
"So, where you goin'?"
The light changed and I took off, ignoring him.
"Aw come on, " he persisted, cycling alongside. We exchanged a few brief sentences. Somewhere downtown, where we parted ways, he expressed his wish that we meet again sometime.
The next day was a Saturday and I was parking my bike at the market, when he showed up again on his bicycle. "Why’d you take off so fast? " he asked. We chatted the length of time it took for me to lock up and get away. He reminded me of some grinning, undernourished street kid, the kind that attaches himself to you in a foreign country and begs to show you the sights. I found him unthreatening since I towered over him in height. I didn't need anyone to guide me around Hamilton. I was already familiar with its constricted social life. All the well-off people lived up the hill, overlooking the downtown where the rest of us went about our lives. Hamilton had a light and dark side. It seemed you were either a practicing, fundamentalist Christian – one of the saved – or you were like this boy. One of the damned.
At the time, I had made friends with a woman my own age, a devout Christian running an agency called “Adopt a Grandparent.” From an old, Anglican, Hamilton family, Margi was one of the few people I had met, so far, with whom I could actually talk.
The following afternoon, a Sunday, Margi and I decided to cycle over to the Botanical Gardens and around Hamilton escarpment. We were crossing the Queen E. bridge, where we had a view of a park called Cootes’ Paradise. Midway across the bridge, I caught sight of a familiar figure cycling toward us in the opposite lane.
He screeched to a halt an did a U turn. " "Three times in three days,” he said. “Must be a reason!" He was wearing a little cap, this time, and carrying a beat-up knapsack. By now, I almost felt I knew him.
There was no dissuading him. He came along with us on our ride and kept up a stream of conversation, first with me, then with Margi, who had a softer disposition and bigger breasts. We came to a densely wooded area, and as we passed a cemetery, our friend threw down his bike and told us to wait while he crossed the highway and headed for one of the grave stones. He stood by the grave for several minutes. From where we waited by the roadside, we could see his lips moving as if in prayer.
Jumping on his bike again, he told us he'd been talking to his grandfather, who had passed away some years earlier but often still appeared to him in dreams. A little farther on, he stopped again, pulled a hunting knife out of his backpack, and disappeared into the woods. We wondered if we should wait this time, or keep going, but after a minute or two he came crashing through the brush and was back on his bike. "Got a trap in there I was checking," he explained. "And now I have something I want to show you girls. It's a lookout at the top of the escarpment, where you can see for miles. A fantastic view of Lake Ontario and a 500-foot drop to the ground below."
We said, No thank you. We needed to be getting home now. We'd skip the view, and the 500-foot drop, this time around. We turned around and an hour later we were back downtown, but still he clung to us. He said he was suddenly feeling very sick, and needed us to come home with him, now. We offered to take him to the hospital. He rode off in a huff.
At her front door, Margi wondered why I’d befriended him in the first place. I said I’d never befriended him. He’d attached himself. He’d turned up three times in three different places in three days. “Maybe he’s following you,” she suggested. Given the locations of our encounters, especially the last one, in the middle of a long bridge over a ravine that divided Hamilton into two separate halves, I didn’t think so.
“Well, you attracted him,” she concluded.
I braced myself for the prospect of running into him every day for the next few months, but I never saw him again, the rest of that summer, fall and winter. In September, I found a new apartment on East Avenue, not far from downtown. In November, my father died, and my mother came to stay with Margi and me. I was working a split shift as a proofreader at the Spectator, correcting wire service copy and front page stories which were often about gangsters and terrorists in Quebec, stories that painted a bizarre picture of Montreal as a violent, crime-ridden place – although I remembered it as a place where art and culture flourished.
Then came spring, when my mother and I decided to move back there. I had packed up my belongings, and was arranging the final details. Margi would take over the apartment at 72 East Avenue North, # 2.
A few days before we were to leave, a misdirected letter arrived in our mailbox. It was an official looking letter, from National Steel Car and was addressed to a James Brewster, 72 East Avenue. Apartment 2. I had never received any of James Brewster’s mail before, but I assumed he must live at 72 East Avenue South, a few blocks away across Main Street. I pencilled in “South” but forgot to mail the letter. It stayed on the table in our hallway until the day before we were to leave, when I dropped it in a mailbox on my way to the laundromat.
When I walked in with my bags of dirty laundry, sitting in a chair near the door was my little pointy-eared friend. He looked surprised, as well as pleased, that our paths had crossed again. I avoided his eyes as I loaded up the machine, added detergent, shoved in three quarters. “Want to go for coffee?” he asked. I declined, and hurried out the door. Then I made sure to stay away for at least two hours, so he would be gone by the time I went back to use the dryer.
I half expected my clothes to be gone, too, by then, but instead, on my machine I found note in ballpoint pen and round, childish handwriting:
“Come on over to my place and have a beer with me.”
It was signed:
“James Brewster, 72 east Avenue South. Apt. 2.”
I reread the note several times, not quite believing it. I wished to God I had not mailed that letter! Otherwise, I would have shown it to Margi along with the note, and got her reaction.
In a city of 500,000 people, what were the chances that any individual you randomly met on the street even once would turn out to be living at the mirror image of your own address? One in 500,000… I guessed. And the chances that person would show up three times on three successive days, and attach himself to you for no apparent reason, and that this person would also be someone who speaks to the dead, carries a knife, and tries to lure you to his apartment, not once, but twice. And that he would resurface a few days after you received a letter for him in your mailbox, and 48 hours before you were to leave town for good –
The odds of all that happening, by the normal laws of probability, were infinitesimal.
Even if I had wanted to go over to James Brewster’s for a beer, there was no time – we were leaving. And even had there been time, I would not have answered this invitation. I had read Jung, and thought of myself as a connoisseur of strange coincidences. But this one set me on edge.
I couldn’t even prove it had actually happened. No one but me had touched, or seen, the letter addressed to him that had arrived at our house. Other than me, no one but Margi had met James Brewster – and she had only met him once, eight months earlier, not three days in a row, as I had.
Had we gone home with him that day, last summer, when he told us he was sick and needed our company, we would have found out where he lived. But that did not change the fact that, a few weeks later, we would move into our new place, at almost exactly the same address.
It was not just the improbability of such a series of coincidences occurring in the order that they did. It was my sense, even back then, that they were not coincidences, but something else, for which I had no proper name and no explanation, except one that whispered that there were “forces” out there, capable of arranging such a series of events. That it was up to me, the single witness, to figure it out.
And most important: it was up to me NOT to get involved in asking How or Why. Because at the bottom of it all, lay a powerful Joker who might not be joking. One does not pop over for a friendly beer with such a joker, or his representative.
Not that, of course, James Brewster would have known the answers. I suspected, rather, that he was someone who dabbled in strangeness. That he liked to flow with the dark currents that ran through town. In the 18 months I'd lived there, I had heard enough. People had told me about the covens that met at the University or on the escarpment where a friend’s daughter and her friends had stumbled on animal bones from a recent sacrifice. Another friend’s upstairs neighbour had been writing a sociology paper on one of these covens, when she was warned to abandon her project. She didn’t, and soon after she fell three storeys, and was now a vegetable.
And there was Nairn Galvin, and her silver chalices, and those chronically angry women at the Women’s Centre. And the people who took my black cape as a sign that I was one of them. And the lost-looking creature I sometimes saw, when I worked the night shift, prowling the downtown streets in sequins and platform shoes and David Bowie hair. There was spooky Dundurn Castle and the Masonic Lodge, and the Pentecostal Church, and the cloud of depression that hung over Hamilton, a city that seemed to exist on the dividing line between heaven and hell. All of it was strange. All of it suggested a world of secrets and closed doors guarded by powerful entities – some of this world, others not.
I closed the door on all that on the day we left for Montreal. Every now and then, on a very few occasions, I told this story to someone, always drawing the same blank stare. “What do you think it means?” I would ask.
No one had a thing to say. Except Leonard Cohen, who nodded. “It’s good you told me that story, because I’m one of the few people around who might understand it.” He never elaborated, however.
John Lilly, the neuroscientist who liked to spend time in flotation tanks on LSD and Ketamine, at around the same time Leonard was in similar experiments at McGill, came up with a theory that there are entities in the universe who arrange these mind-bending coincidences that can change our lives. You can read about them here.
I know nothing of those entities. I do think there are dimensions we can enter, however, in which the laws of cause-and-effect are scrambled.
Another just happened to me when I published this blog.
I was looking for an image to represent "Hamilton" and found several depicting the Mohawk leader, Joseph Brant. That's how I learned that good old James Brewster bore an uncanny resemblance to one of Hamilton's legendary personalities.
Brant was a peculiar figure, with traits that normally don't coincide: he was both Mohawk and Mason, as well as a United Empire Loyalist. Originally from Ohio, he fought with the British against the American revolutionaries who were making raids on the Canadian border, and in the area around Hamilton on Lake Ontario. He would have been very familiar that old Indian trail that eventually became a military road and later, York Street.
The resemblance is so outstanding that in the first seconds when the image of Brant came up, all I could see was the face of James Brewster grinning out at me.
I wonder where he is now... and why it has taken me all these years to write this story.
Friday, September 2, 2011
The man in the photo, taken at McGill University in 1951, is 17-year-old Leonard Cohen. He's wearing a blindfold, and his ears, fingers and hands are encased in padded restraints which prevent movement and cut off all sensory stimulation. This is one of Dr. Donald Hebb's famous/notorious sensory isolation experiments, for which student volunteers were paid the then-princely sum of $20 a day. Some of the volunteers were unable to stand this torture for more than a few hours. Some tore off the bandages and banged on the door of the isolation chamber, screaming and crying to be released.
Back in the 1980s, when I lived next door, Leonard Cohen once told me he enjoyed these experiments. He said he learned to dissociate, leave his body, and go on long voyages through the universe. The experience was so pleasant that later he volunteered to be placed in a flotation tank while on LSD. He enjoyed that, too.
Order THE MAN NEXT DOOR
We now know that D.O. Hebb's sensory isolation experiments became the foundation for torture techniques used by the CIA etc. in its secret prisons around the planet. Hebb, a neurologist, had CIA clearance, and also allegedly experimented on small children, mainly orphans and aboriginal children who arrived in his laboratory courtesy of McGill and the RCMP. Having access to human guinea pigs made Hebb's research that much more impressive. He also, of course, worked with rats and monkeys. It seems quite likely that his famous "rat" study on the effects of sensory isolation on IQ, would have been based on his experiments with children. McGill, at the time, was controlled by a network that included many British-trained, mind controlled pedophiles with an interest in eugenics -- and probably still is today.
In 1951, when this photo was taken, Leonard Cohen was 17, i.e. still a minor. One wonders who signed the permission slip -- his mother? Or perhaps they just didn't bother with those little details, back then.
Leonard Cohen went on to become a poet of note. In fact, that same year, 1951, he published his first book, Let Us Compare Mythologies. It would be interesting to do a textual analysis of all of Cohen's writing - someday when I have more time I plan to do that (: -- combing his poetry and novels for references to the secret program that he has been part of for most of his life. Up to now, his biographers seem to have overlooked all the references to hospitals, (Nazi) doctors, psychiatric experiments, electroshock, etc. They also have failed to adequately explain the missing years (mid-1950s, i.e. peak years of the MKULTRA program) when Cohen did some sort of graduate work at Columbia University in New York.
McGill and Columbia happened to be co-epicenters of MKULTRA research into mind control. As were certain studios and film-making teams at the NFB, the arm of British intelligence that brought our Leonard to national attention in 1966, with the film LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, MR. LEONARD COHEN. As was the Silva Mind Control organization, where Leonard met Suzanne in the late 1960s. As was Nashville, where his musical career took him later. And let's not forget the Chelsea Hotel, where he hobnobbed with musicians and CIA programmers like Kris Kristofferson, always mentioned whenever Cohen introduces his song "Chelsea Hotel" about the time he had sex with mind-controlled singer Janis Joplin. That night Janis was apparently looking for Kristofferson one of the "handsome men" she preferred, according to the song, one of the creepiest in Cohen's repertoire in my opinion.
It's very obvious to anyone who happens to have followed Cohen's career, that the singer-songwriter who composed I'm Your Man has spent most of his life surfing the mind control circuit that took him from McGill to New York and then Europe where he connected with the Rothschilds.
Let's just say that early on, he "volunteered" and the rest is musical history. This is a topic for a long article, but for now I'll keep it small and personal. Lately I've been thinking back to times when I witnessed Leonard Cohen's programming either in operation, or failing to operate properly. That is, when I lived next door to him and one or more of his handlers. By the mid-80s had many people grouped around him who seemed to be there to smooth things over. He also once told me depended heavily on doctors and psychiatrists at the (notorious MKULTRA hospital) Allan Memorial Institute, a half hour walk from his house near Saint Laurence Boulevard. In fact, during those years, he frequented the swimming pool behind the Allan, where doctors, nurses, and other hospital staffers hung out with people from the Entertainment scene -- I was told by a former orderly that the purest cocaine from the hospital pharmacy could be bought beside the pool on just about any summer day.
It is one thing to meet and get to know Leonard Cohen. It would be hard to imagine or find a more charming, generous, affable, funny guy to have as a neighbour. Unfortunately, though, that's only one of many personae, or "alters" -- Cohen has many. I wouldn't like to guess how many. I suspect there may be hundreds. What this means is, getting to know him is virtually impossible, because his various alters are not necessarily aware of one another. This explains why, while living next door, I witnessed events that sometimes made no sense, and would have been impossible if Cohen were a normal person, with a single core personality.
Mind controlled entertainers and public figures -- and this also applies to certain mind-controlled politicians, like Pierre Trudeau, a friend of Cohens -- require handlers to help them manage situations caused by their having various alters that don't all work together. These handlers, e.g. Kris Kristofferson, who likely was Janis Joplin's programmer -- are there to coordinate and conceal the fact that these public figures are "programmed multiples."
An incident comes to mind that occurred in about 1985, when I had been living next door to Cohen for two years. During that time, I had rarely seen him. I was busy, in those days,making a living by writing and editing. I also had a weekly program on local community radio, went out with friends most evenings. I had little to do with my neighbours who, in many ways, behaved like members of an exclusive club.
The incident I'm thinking of happened out of the blue, one day. I got a phone call from Leonard, whom I hadn't seen in several months. He invited me next door for tea. Cautiously pleased with the invitation, which seemed to suggest we were back on a friendly footing, I rang his doorbell, he opened the door, and we drank tea in his kitchen. We chatted, he may have played me a new song or two, or showed me a drawing. Just like in the old days when we'd been friends.
Then he said he had an appointment somewhere and needed to take a bath. I offered to leave. He said, No, just sit here for a few minutes in case the phone rings. He got in the bath, I sat in the kitchen, and sure enough, the phone rings. It's Hazel, the woman next door. I tell her Leonard is in the bath, and to please call back in a few minutes, which she does. At this point, the story becomes a bit extraordinary. I am standing a few feet from the phone, and I can hear Hazel shouting. I can't make out what she's saying, but she is screaming what appears to be verbal abuse, and Leonard, who has his ear to the phone, becomes rigid and just listens. The screaming goes on for, maybe, half a minute during which he does not move, does not respond, or react. When the screaming stops he says "OK" and hangs up. The phone rings again, He picks it up. More of the same shouting. Once again, he listens without affect, without moving, and says "OK." Then he hangs up, turns to me, and in a blank tone says "You'd better go now." Which I do.
But I'm upset with Hazel, so I phone her when I get home, and leave a one-line message on her answering machine suggesting that she stop doing whatever it was she was doing when she phoned him, shouting like a drill sergeant.
Later that night, there is a meeting in his front room. I happen to walk by, and unusually, the blinds are up and I see Leonard, encircled by the people I thought of as his "cult followers". He is speaking to them, gesturing dramatic. I only get a glimpse of this meeting as I pass the window, but my snapshot impression is that he is asking for their help in some difficult matter that is causing him great anxiety.
And sure enough, half an hour later, I get a phone call, from a woman called Birgit, whom I know quite well, but consider to be a fairly hardcore Cohen groupie. She has come from the meeting. She arrives as I'm cooking supper, sits in my kitchen, and goes straight to the point. I have to move from the neighbourhood, she says, and stop harrassing Leonard Cohen. I'm, well, stunned. It's the first time anyone has spoken to me in two years about how I came to be living next door. The first time anyone has suggested it might be a problem. But I'm not stupid. I'm quite aware that my presence in the neighbourhood has caused concern for certain people. The fact, however, is, that I am there as the result of a peculiar coincidence. That there is no way I could have found this apartment on my own -- I'm there, and I can't really explain how it happens, in a city of 1 million people, I manage to move in next door to Leonard Cohen -- it just happened. That's it, that's all.
I also knew, back then and today, that nobody in Cohen's circle believed this. And neither do I, to this day, really understand how things like that happen. But that day, he had invited me over, as if letting bygones be bygones, and it had appeared, for about an hour, that relations were back to normal -- until Hazel called, that is, and shouted into the phone, and he went numb.
And who called the meeting? And what was it about? No explanation was ever given. Another cult member, Charlie, phoned me the next day and invited me across the street to his place, for tea. We sat in silence. I didn't feel like talking until someone explained to me what was going on on that block.
No one ever did.
Looking back, in the light of what I know now, but had no notion of back then, I would say: yes, there was a cult. Leonard seemed to be at the head of it. His word held great weight, then and now. But the man who invited me over for tea and chatted normally earlier that day, was not the same man who addressed the meeting later that evening.
These were separate "alters" that might not have known of each other's existence. The alter that addressed the meeting did not recall having phoned me that day, and may not have recalled the two phone calls that came from Hazel -- which was when they "switched" --
A few years later, when I had all but forgotten this incident, Leonard phoned me again from next door. This time, he told me, he was in very bad shape. "I can't get from one second to the next," he said. "Can you come over? You're the only one who understands me."
Worried, I rang his doorbell and he let me in. He asked me to go shopping for him, to buy food because he didn't feel able to leave his house. "I'm on this new anti-depressant, but it's not working. I'm in an incredible state of anxiety."
Remembering that other day, five years earlier, I said "You must be doing something wrong. You need to be in some kind of therapy to figure it out."
That suggestion just seemed to alarm him. "The doctors at the Allan are doing everything they can for me. Drugs are the only solution."
That was in about 1990. It was one of the last times I saw Leonard in person. Every so often, I'd read an interview with him, but over the next 20 years it seemed he just kept giving the same interview over and over.
We live in an age of totalitarian Mind Control, and entertainers like Leonard are front-line soldiers -- as well as victims. We listen to them at our own risk.