Sunday, June 11, 2017

Who Am I?

This is a question I've been meaning to answer. It keeps coming up in connection with finishing my memoir about Leonard Cohen. You might almost say it plagues me. Why do I think my story is important enough to keep telling it, over and over? There are plenty of people who knew Leonard better than I did. I can think of a few: Irving Layton, Nancy Bacal, Morton Rosengarten, Suzanne Elrod, Marianne Ihlen, Bill Cunliffe, Hazel Field --

Or Kelley Lynch - she probably knows him better than anyone, having worked for him for seventeen years.

Some of these people are already dead, unfortunately, while the rest of us soon will be. That in itself is reason to write: to postpone silence. Not that death is an ending, necessarily. Sometimes it's another kick at the can.


Asked if he believed there is life after death, Leonard once said "I hope not."


Really, Who Am I to add my two tiny cents to the hagiographies? How much time did I actually spend with our Man? Adding up the actual hours in his company, maybe they amount to a week or two, spread over twenty years? Most of those meetings left me baffled and confused, frankly. They were profoundly puzzling moments that I spent the next twenty years combing for hidden meaning. And of late, the pieces have begun to coalesce into a kind of giant painting that, finally, makes some real sense.

A while ago in a dream, Leonard appeared stuck in a part of Hell. He was naked and sweating as he hung from a cross. Yes folks: a Cross. I know some of his fans will find this offensive, but after all, it was just my lucid dream. Despite his discomfort, he was very lucid too.

There could be any number of reasons why he was hanging in Hell. There are actions over a lifetime for which time in Hell is the usual punishment. Harming others. Telling lies. Theft and murder. Some things he did while alive were done under pressure, or the influence of drugs. Of course, no one at his Facebook site would believe this but I have to say it because it's the truth. Even Leonard acknowledged all this: besides, it's not exactly news if you pay attention. To survive in the world in which he operated, you have to be a cold-blooded killer. In life, due to his early training, Leonard was game for almost anything, including guilt and regret - but guilt and regret can't erase judgment, and judgment is based on facts. That's the crux of it, the latest round in the endlessly ironic saga that  is Leonard Cohen, even after death.

"Kill or be killed" was the motto he chose at 16 for his high school yearbook, and the name of his first published story. I suspect at graduation he already had some notion of the world he was entering, the one he'd entered at birth.

And the biggest irony: he saw the end coming but couldn't prevent it. So now he's in Hell. And what did he tell me, as he hung there suffering in my dream? As usual, he was a few steps ahead of most of us and spoke plainly, making it clear that he will remain in Hell until he has atoned for the lies he told when he was alive.

In fact, he appeared to be leaving it up to me to tell the truth, and get him out of Hell.

I'll leave that with you for now, while I continue mulling the best approach to this sensitive subject.  Meanwhile, on Hydra today they're unveiling a bench in his memory and celebrating his Life.

Although I never knew him to sit on a bench -- on Hydra he preferred the bar -- I'm sure he wishes he was there now, gazing out at the Peloponnesus.


Let's mince words. I'm not a 'fan'. Or a 'groupie' either. I actually knew Leonard, personally, unlike some of his prominent publicists at LeonardCohenFiles and Cohencentric. They have taken on the Herculean task of presenting him to the world, as he wished to be known. On these sites you will find endless files and archives and discussions offering insight into the side of him that can be discussed in public, and occasionally some bit of information that points in the direction of his secret life. 

I've been banned from both those sites for posting details that reflect his hidden side. My bad. I'm also not particularly welcome at the Leonard Cohen group page on Facebook where I sometimes have felt the need to confront the rampant idolatry. I think you could coherently argue that idolatry is a sin - in fact it's the first one listed in the Ten Commandments. If he were here, and in his right mind, Leonard would be quick to point that out - but instead while he was alive he was quite tolerant of people who idolized him, treating them as the useful idiots they were happy to be.

If I sound harsh and cynical, so be it. It seems I've evolved into some sort of realist.

The Real Leonard was no easy thing to live with, or discuss. I would say in all honesty I loved the Real Leonard and that love was returned, for reasons that never totally made sense. Later, the same love became twisted and a burden I was not prepared to bear. In fact, sorting this out became a Sisyphian task that I wouldn't wish on anyone, not even myself. That's why I abandoned it while Leonard was alive. It just wasn't worth all the misery, undercurrents and slander.

Although typecast as a rejected girlfriend, or worse, I often had access to him when others did not. He put up with me, for unknown reasons, staying in touch over years when I was often confused and angry. He was almost always calm and positive during those private moments that were stolen from the handlers. In most of these secretive meetings nothing happened -- we sat in silence. He was patient, never patronizing or phony. He had perceived that I was clueless about the reasons for our "relationship." With good reason.

I think he was waiting for me to remember our first encounter, decades earlier. I never could. Since it had happened in the context of classified experiments in a notorious mental hospital, while I was a very young child, it was dark and unmentionable -- locked away in a secret closet behind walls of amnesia. Amnesia was a survival strategy allowing me to sidestep the fear and insanity that swallowed certain others who had been through the same thing. My mind was, thankfully, still blank.

I know this now, but I didn't back then.  But Leonard knew. He chose not to speak about it. "If you don't know, then I can't tell you." He simply waited. Meanwhile, the others came and went, serving the public figure.

I cannot endorse the public figure known as Leonard Cohen. That persona was (and is) a fabrication, designed by secret committee to delude us. It worked like a charm. People still believe in it because, after all, what choice do they have? They didn't know him. They never met him when he was a young  mental patient undergoing "psychic driving" in the hands of CIA psychiatrists under intense pressure by their funding agencies to create artificial personalities who would serve their masters, body and soul, as robotized slaves and entertainers. 

Conspiracy theory, you say? It's not a theory when you've lived it.


Oddly, this old poem appeared the other day. It's about "Annie" -- surely you've read it, if you're a Cohen fan, in which case you know it was written in the late 1950s for his first girlfriend, Anne Sherman. I remember it from long ago but, until just now, I never thought twice about it.

Now of Sleeping (from The Spice Box of Earth)

Under her grandmother's patchwork quilt
a calico bird's-eye view
of crops and boundaries
naming dimly the districts of her body
sleeps my Annie like a perfect lady

Like ages of weightless snow
on tiny oceans filled with light
her eyelids enclose deeply
a shade tree of birthday candles
one for every morning
until the now of sleeping

The small banner of blood
kept and flown by Brother Wind
long after the pierced bird fell down
is like her red mouth
among the squalls of pillow

Bearers of evil fancy
of dark intention and corrupting fashion
who come to rend the quilt
plough the eye and ground the mouth
will contend with mighty Mother Goose
and Farmer Brown and all good stories
of invincible belief
which surround her sleep
like the golden weather of a halo

Well-wishers and her true lover
may stay to watch my Annie
sleeping like a perfect lady
under her grandmother's patchwork quilt
but they must promise to whisper
and to vanish by morning -
all but her one true lover.

Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but I recognize this scene. And it does seem odd that he would address his twenty-something lover Anne as if she were a sleeping child. Of course, in Cohen's poems, women often are depicted asleep. Still, it seems like the wrong erotic approach. No wonder she left him! And who are the "Bearers of evil fancy of dark intention and corrupting fashion/ who come to rend the quilt/ plough the eye and ground the mouth" ? How did these violent monsters invade this child's dreamworld, and the poem? Who am I to question? Nevertheless, it adds another layer to the surfacing mysteries --