Thursday, May 19, 2011

There is a crack, a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in.  -- Leonard Cohen

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

An Hour before Dinner

Whenever we visited John's parents (and probably when we didn't) right around an hour before dinner, one of them would ask the other "What would you say to a wee bit of Scotch?" The other would answer, "Hello, wee bit of Scotch."

This is not the kind of thing you think you're going to miss when they're gone.  Just something to keep in mind.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Songs from a Room

A friend of mine told me her father had made a list of everything he'd ever wanted to do before he died, and that he was systematically going through and doing everything on the list one by one. I thought that was a wonderful idea, started to think about what I'd put on my list, and immediately hit a snag.

I'm pretty sure sleeping with Leonard Cohen is one of the goals on my list that just isn't going to happen. I believe this may be yet another instance in which the phrase "You can do anything you want to if you want to bad enough" is exposed as one of the more profoundly cruel untruths our parents tell us as we're growing up.

Nonetheless, sleeping with Leonard Cohen (well, not sleeping, exactly, but I'd settle for that. Hell, neither of us is as young as we once were.) is something I've wanted to do ever since the summer I was 19 and discovered his album, Songs from a Room. Before that I hadn't been aware he was a songwriter. I'd read Suzanne in a poetry anthology. Freshman English. Modern Literature. We were supposed to be studying the poem on the opposite page, but I fell in love with Suzanne and I wrote a paper about that poem instead. I got an A-. In case you were wondering.

And then, maybe a year later, I found Songs from a Room.

People talk about the song or the book or the teacher who changed their life, and sometimes they mean it and sometimes they don't, but that album... that album... that album gave voice to the world inside my head. Inside my heart. Inside my dreams.

That album spoke for me. Spoke of me. Made real the world I had created from songs and poems and memoirs. Magazine articles. Pictures. Overheard conversations. Listening to those songs was like listening to myself. I played it every day, all summer long. That Fall I ran away from home.

In truth, looking back 40 years on, I didn't really want to sleep with Leonard Cohen (which is probably just as well). In truth, I wanted to be Leonard Cohen. Failing that I wanted to be Suzanne. Failing that, I wanted to be Marianne.

How many women, I wonder, have slept with how many men who were really only stand-ins for the person they wanted to be?

I am at a turning point in my life. I am more than halfway through, even counting the longevity of my ancestors. I am not the person I was hoping to become. I have not achieved the things I hoped to achieve. I have no idea how realistic my ambitions were or how valid my self-disappointment is. I am well aware I don't think like other people, don't hold the same standards, and am no kind of reliable judge in these matters. I have come to understand that I started out far more wounded than I realized at the time and that I may owe Leonard Cohen an even greater debt of gratitude than I thought.

Because of him, I got some wild adventures and some very satisfying sex, at least one great poem, and lots of great stories. And I got a small sip of a world that was already slipping away before it disappeared for good.

Sometimes I think if I just try hard enough (and want it enough) I could recreate it. Sometimes I feel it as an ache somewhere in the vicinity of my rib cage. Always I am grateful that I got that taste, and those memories.

And if I never became Leonard Cohen (speaking metaphorically, of course), I know that I was sometimes Suzanne, a Sister of Mercy more often than was probably wise, and maybe even somebody's Marianne.

Sleeping with Leonard Cohen was never the point. It was just the dream I used to launch my life.