Leonard Cohen and a Trip Down Memory Lane

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R.I.P. Leonard Cohen and thanks for the music.

“My reputation as a ladies’ man was a joke that caused me to laugh bitterly through the ten thousand nights I spent alone.”
― Leonard Cohen

“Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.”
― Leonard Cohen

“Remember when I moved in you and the holy dove was moving too, and every breath we drew was, “Hallelujah.”
― Leonard Cohen

I associate Leonard Cohen with a rich collage of memories.

I first moved to Germany when I was twenty-two. My German boyfriend and I met at a party in Dublin. That first year we had  a long-distance relationship until he was accepted to study for a year at Trinity. After that, or before it—or both—I stayed in his flat in Karlsruhe. He had a huge collection of LP’s—we still have them.

For me, school was over and motherhood had not yet begun. I was free and happy and the world around me was new and exciting.

I call it my Pink Period. My boyfriend and his friends fixed up an old bicycle for me. I painted it pink, and because I had some paint left over, I painted my suede ankle boots too.

Getting back to Leonard Cohen. He reminds me of that whole period—candlelit rooms, dancing to Harry Belafonte at parties occasionally financed by Blutspenden (donation of blood). Shameful, I know. They sold their blood for the price of a few bottles of wine, which was very cheap. A lot of students did this. And their blood was pure, like their hearts.

You learn to be creative when you’re living on a tight budget.

It was a communal time too. We’d get together and bake Zwiebelkuchen (onion tart), or one of our flatmates would bring huge vats of Most, a most bitter apple cider in its early stages of fermentation. It wasn’t too bad after a glass or two. Roland’s family had a small farm and he’d go down there to Schwabenland (near Stuttgart) every autumn and help harvest the apples.

When I hear Leonard Cohen, I immediately unlock a trunkful of memories and old photos. For some reason, I also associate Leonard Cohen with Raymond Chandler. Since I was enjoying doing nothing much at the time, I availed of the local library services and swept the shelves clean,  devouring Steinbeck, Marlowe, Hemingway, Anais Nin and whatever books the library deemed literary enough to add to their collection. When I hear Leonard Cohen’s songs, particularly Suzanne and So Long Marianne, the memories come rushing in.

When I wasn’t out on my pink bicycle on my way to the Schlossgarten (castle garden) for a morning under the big chestnut tree with a flask of coffee and my Walkman, I was sitting in his high-ceilinged room, listening to my boyfriend’s record collection, or reading.

Turns out my boyfriend (now husband) didn’t particularly like Leonard Cohen. A lot of men don’t, it seems. Ah, but we women love him. And you know, I’m not even too sad he’s gone because he left us his music and poetry and he’s as much alive now as he was then. He lived a long and rich life and now it’s time to move on.

This cycle of birth and death is part of life. Since we’re in autumn on this side of the world and are witnessing the leaves changing colour and falling off the trees, not to mention major changes coming up on the political arena, we know we have to get through this until the next spurt of growth.

Leonard Cohen’s rich, deep voice crooned out pure poetry like no other.

His voice transports me to a different world. It warms me like a glass of good rich wine and awakened a hard-to-put-a-finger-on-longing for something, a Sehnsucht, as the Germans say. The pathos flowed from his huskiness’s throat, which I’m sure was lubricated with a fair amount of rich amber liquid.  He told stories with his poetic lyrics. He was a deeply spiritual man too and I think he had his share of heartache, at least that’s what comes across in his lyrics, and his voice.

Some people are just born like that. Melancholic, deep, soulful. Unforgettable.

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