“You need this love to be grounded, until there is no difference between you and your love, or what you love or what you are. It’s just the one thing.” Leonard Cohen


My old teacher told me that the older you get and the lonelier you get, the deeper is your need for love. Like everyone else, I have looked for such deep love. And as you get older, you need this love to be grounded, until there is no difference between you and your love, or what you love or what you are. It’s just the one thing.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


From Leonard Cohen als Zen-Mönch, a video shot during one of the several visits Leonard Cohen and Roshi made to a Zen Center in Austria from 1990 to 1996. Quotation interpreted and, in part, translated by Rike.

Note: “My old teacher” is Roshi. The words quoted are from a videotaped interview that is overdubbed in German. This quotation as represented comprises Leonard Cohen’s words in English except portions obscured by the overdubbing, in which case a translation of the German overdubbing is used.  In this quotation, for example, the phrase “be grounded” is an English translation of the German narration.

A similar Leonard Cohen quotation can be viewed at Leonard Cohen on being asked “What is the best advice you have ever received?”

An Examination Of Leonard Cohen’s Take This Waltz In The Gin Game – Part 2: The Tragedy Of Love Touched But Not Grasped



Introduction: The Gin Game & The Dance Scene

Part 1 of this post, The Basics Of The Play & Its Add-on Dance Scene, provided background on D.L. Coburn’s “The Gin Game” and its dance scene as groundwork for an inspection of the role Leonard Cohen’s Take This Waltz plays in that production.

Part 2 will focus on the specific functions of the dance scene and its music as well as my argument that the music could have been used to greater effect.

I contend that (1) the use of this specific song is key to the dance scene, which itself, though not part of the original script, exponentially enhances the drama and pathos of the play and serves as catalyst for the audience’s investment in the fate of the characters and, by the way, (2) the scene’s full potential is not realized because of the manner in which the music is implemented in the orthodox, playwright-sanctioned production of the play.1

The Significance Of The Outcomes Of The Card Games

At the center of “The Gin Game” is the cosmic joke that we humans cling tenaciously and desperately to the very flaws that can destroy us – even when those faults are made all too apparent. Psychiatrists call the tendency of individuals to repeat a traumatic event or its circumstances over and over again “repetition compulsion.” Fonsia and Weller are the elderly poster children for repetition compulsion.

In “The Gin Game,” Weller, who cajoles Fonsia into playing gin and teaches her the rudiments of the game, becomes increasingly frustrated to the point of apoplexy as Fonsia wins hand after hand, all the while maintaining her veneer of sweetly innocent decorum to the point of apologizing for winning, further antagonizing Weller.

This repeated scenario of Fonsia’s victories over the pompous and laughably over-reactive Weller is initially pleasing and genuinely funny to the audience, providing false cues for anyone familiar with movies or TV to infer that “The Gin Game” is a romantic comedy with the familiar Katherine Hepburn-Spencer Tracy story line in which the sweet but shrewd – and a tad shrewish – female wins the the crusty male curmudgeon’s heart, which on analysis, turns out to be composed of gold.

The sense of hope is boosted in other scenes as well. An easily spotted example is the transformation in appearance of Fonsia and Weller before and after their first meeting. When first seen, Weller wears “terry-cloth slippers, khaki pants, a pajama top and an old brown wool bathrobe” while Fonsia is clothed in “faded pink slippers, an old housecoat, and a cardigan sweater.” Encouraged by their first contact, Weller next appears in “a jacket and tie, khaki pants and loafers,” and Fonsia “looks like a different woman [in] a print dress, a rose-colored cardigan, and open-toed sandals.”

What was comical and hopeful, however, turns threatening and tragic as Weller proves unable to tolerate the assault on his brittle ego caused by ongoing losses at gin. His increasingly lurid language and escalating violence (e.g., throwing over the card table after yet another loss) drive Fonsia (and likely the audience) into a psychological retreat.

Fonsia, however, cannot ultimately withdraw from the battle, even when it is clear that the only victory she can win will be Pyrrhic. She is herself rigidly insistent, because of her embedded history of unfulfilled hopes, on protecting her own facsimile of self-esteem at all costs and consequently approaches every interaction with the presumption that others, especially men, will attempt to attack, cheat, or abandon her.

This combination of traits prevents Weller and Fonsia from achieving more than a momentary connection and ultimately dooms their chance of forming an enduring relationship.

Because both characters are locked into their self-sabotaging personalities, conditions deteriorate until the final game turns into a furious no-holds barred battle that leaves both contestants dismayed, mortified, and – rightfully – frightened.

The Waltz As Redemption

The counterpoint to the mutually assured destruction, to use an especially appropriate Cold War term, of the card games is the dance Fonsia and Weller perform which offers the sole glimpse of genuine joyousness and selfless human connectedness in the universe created in “The Gin Game.”

Continue Reading →

  1. The only production of “The Gin Game” I’ve seen is the video of the PBS version of the play. Since the PBS TV screenplay was adapted from the script by the playwright, D.L. Coburn, my working assumption, until shown otherwise, is that the staging of the dance in this production is in line with his intentions and instructions. []

Leonard Cohen Is Here – Now, It’s A Party


Left to right: Murray McLauchlan, Sandy Engbloom, Lesley McDonnell, Leonard Cohen

Leonard and I were good friends for too short a time in the late seventies. We were mutual friends of Lesley McDonnell. We mostly hung out at the Club 22 at the Windsor Arms in Toronto and certainly had some good times and great conversations.

EG: there was an Art Opening of an Artist that did paintings of all of his songs. he insisted that I go with him but I begged off as I was having the first visit with my daughter in 5 years. leonard said to bring her. So I bring seven year old Sarah and her sister 4 year old Shaleen and they pretty well destroyed the place. Somewhere there is a video of Leonard with a kid under each arm and having a great time.

Excerpted from Leonard Cohen by Gary LeDrew (Name Dropper: March 2011)

Credit Due Department: Thanks go to Linda Sturgess, who not only spotted this photo on Instagram but also tracked down the information on affiliated blogs.

Video: Leonard Cohen On His Depression, Connection To Poland, Life At The Zen Center, & Fans



In just over four minutes, this 2010 interview shown on Polish TV, some of which is given over to descriptions of him rendered in Polish, Leonard Cohen tells of his 40+ years of association with Poland, his duties at the Mt Baldy Zen Center, his many years of enduring depression, and his dedication to his fans. There are also some interesting shots of Cohen backstage (as in the screenshot atop this post) and during the soundcheck.

I cannot recall another recorded interview in which the Canadian singer-songwriter explicitly attributes the resolution of his depression to his “teachers:”

My only interest and my compelling activity was to try to lift myself out of a chronic depression. And fortunately, through the grace of my teachers, I was able to do that.quotedown2


Note: A summary of Leonard Cohen’s Depression, Its (Failed) Medical Treatment, & Its Resolution is accessible at the link.  All posts dealing with this facet of Leonard’s life can be found at

Leonard Cohen Interview – Poland 2010
Video from coolcohen100

Impeccable Video, Classic Performance: Leonard Cohen Sings Hallelujah – Birmingham 2013


I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing hallelujah

Leonard Cohen – Hallelujah
Birmingham: Sept 8, 2013
Video: albertnoonan

Note: Originally posted Sep 10, 2013 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“The atmosphere here is romantic, more so than any other city I know” Leonard Cohen on Montreal

When a guy gets attached to a city, it becomes a city of the mind. I still have this notion of Montreal as the capital of the sentimental world – the atmosphere here is romantic, more so than any other city I know. I was formed by this place, and now I feel obligated to give something back to it.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


The Trials Of Leonard Cohen by Jack Kapica (Montreal Gazette: Aug 25, 1973). Accessed at the Google Newspaper Archives. Photo of Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours, better known as the Church where “the sun pours down like honey, On our lady of the harbour” by Sally Hunter. See Our Lady Of The Harbour – The Montreal Church Embedded In Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne

Resources: Leonard Cohen’s Montreal is a compilation of the best articles about Leonard Cohen’s Montreal homes and haunts as well as videos and a list of pertinent landmarks:

Zen’s 10 Oxherding Pictures & Leonard Cohen’s “Ballad of the Absent Mare”

In Let The Grief Inform Your Throat (JenniferWarnes.com), Jennifer Warnes offers, among other matters, her account of how Leonard Cohen introduced “Ballad of the Absent Mare” to her.

After being away on a silent retreat, Leonard Cohen came over to my house wearing an old beige MacGregor jacket, and his face was radiant. There was a little leap inside him. It’s impossible to be sad around Leonard when he is filled up like this because his smile comes from deep places. He came over to share a brand new song, called The Ballad of the Absent Mare. Not every day this happens

… Leonard had found some old pictures somewhere. They were called The Ten Bulls, old Japanese woodcuts symbolizing the stages of a monk’s life on the road to enlightenment. These carvings pictured a boy and a bull, the boy losing the bull, the bull hiding, the boy realizing that the bull was nearby all along. There is a struggle, and finally the boy rides the bull into his little village. “I thought this would make a great cowboy song”, he joked.

A scholarly examination of the relationship of these images, used for centuries to illustrate “the stages of a practitioner’s progression towards the purification of the mind and enlightenment, as well as his or her subsequent return into the world while acting out of wisdom,”1 can be found at Green, R., (2017). Teaching Zen’s Ten Oxherding Pictures through Leonard Cohen’s “Ballad of the Absent Mare”. ASIANetwork Exchange: A Journal for Asian Studies in the Liberal Arts. 24(1), pp.29–58. The abstract follows:

This paper describes how to teach Zen’s famous Ten Oxherding Pictures through Leonard Cohen’s song “Ballad of the Absent Mare.” It also explains how instructors can contextualize these pictures within the history of Buddhist visual culture and thereby frame Cohen’s adoption of them as a cowboy ballad motif. The essay begins by describing the metaphor of the ox. It then reviews three theories about the origin of the pictures, contextualizing them within the history of Buddhist visual culture. Finally, it provides a PowerPoint presentation that connects each of the Ten Oxherding Pictures to verses of Cohen’s song and offers comments for instructors’ use in class.

Credit Due Department: Graphic atop post by Tenshō Shūbun – Shokoku-ji Temple website, Public Domain, Via Wikipedia Commons


  1. Wikipedia []

Leonard Cohen On How His Career Would Have Been Different “If I had one of those good voices”

I think if I had one of those good voices, I would have done it completely differently. I probably would have sung the songs I really like rather than be a writer.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

“Leonard Cohen’s Nervous Breakthrough” By Mark Rowland, Musician, July 1988. Photo of Leonard Cohen at 1993 Juno Awards by George Kraychyk. Originally posted April 9, 2009 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Now Online – Resources: Leonard Cohen’s Montreal

With many Leonard Cohen fans planning trips to Montreal later this year and with interest in Leonard’s Montreal roots on the rise, an increasing number of requests for information have been sent my way. Consequently, Cohencentric now offers a page dedicated to Resources: Leonard Cohen’s Montreal.

Resources: Leonard Cohen’s Montreal offers links to the best articles about Leonard Cohen’s homes and haunts as well as videos and a list of pertinent Montreal landmarks.

Note #1: Resources: Leonard Cohen’s Montreal is a work in progress with items and new information being added continuously.

Note #2: Resources: Leonard Cohen’s Montreal is not a travel guide although it may be helpful in trip planning. Some landmarks listed, for example, no longer exist (these are, for the most part, labeled) and other locations might not be appropriate to visit.