Michiko Rolek On Her Lunch Conversation With Leonard Cohen & Their Menu

From right to left: Leonard Cohen, Michiko Rolek, her husband, Ron, and a Mount Baldy monk

After was posted on this site, I received these photos with this gracious message from Michiko:

Hello Allan,

Thank you for inspiring me to revisit my experience with Leonard Cohen.

A couple of things came to mind from a conversation I had with Leonard that I tuned out until very recently, and I thought you might find them interesting. As he mentions,

“You might even be able to skip having to visit a place like this, or if you are already in one, perhaps with this valuable information you can slip away…She has made some important matters wonderfully clear.”

Leonard’s teacher,  Joshu Sasaki Roshi, was sitting with us after lunch and shared that I was fortunate to be born into a famous zen family, but I felt a little uncomfortable and just smiled and listened.

Looking back, I recalled hearing from a head monk that Joshu Sasaki asked Leonard to write the foreword because I shared zen secret tools to nurture our original nature.

My recent “Aha moment” was realizing that Leonard used the zen secret tools (brilliant basics) that we discussed at lunch to leave the zen monastery and go back on the road. Now, his words about actually “slipping away” from a zen monastery rang true with deeper meaning.

He also made a comment about my bandana and the connection between zen and the art of mindfulness training being rigorous like the military. I agree wholeheartedly. Leonard lived his practice and he manifested mastery of the fundamentals like focus, dedication, discipline, and fearless confidence to stay in the zone.

I am grateful, Allan, for you inspiring me to have these insights re. my mindful moments with Leonard.

My passion is re-ignited to share zen and the art of mindfulness in a whole new light, a diamond sky of wonderment.

Michiko

Leonard Cohen Food Files: Salmon Sandwich, Ice Cream, & Tequila Cocktail

In an earlier email, I had asked Michiko “What Leonard prepared for the lunch you shared?”  She responded

I recall Leonard preparing a delicious sandwich served on homemade bread with salmon, a fresh salad with spring greens. I recall his warm smile when he served ice cream for dessert. And, since it was a day off for the monks, he had a tequila cocktail.

Joshu Roshi & Michiko Rolek

“Here is Leonard Cohen! He is super old. I love him. He was so incredible.” The Kids, Cohen, & Coachella 2009

“We’d played festivals in the past, and I’m not crazy about the setup.”

Leonard Cohen in anticipation of Coachella

In Leonard Cohen’s February 20, 2009 interview with the LA Times, he voiced concern about his April 17, 2009 show at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival:

“We’d played festivals in the past, and I’m not crazy about the setup. You’re on a roster with a whole lot of other people. You don’t have the evening. I like to be in a room with people for three hours, have a beginning, middle and an end. We can’t do our whole set, it’s not our rhythm. But we have heard it’s a special hospitality there. We’ll play our best and look forward to it.”

In addition to the environment and the staging logistics listed by Cohen other potential hazards also loomed ominously.

Cohen would be trapped, for example, between the personification of pop music nostalgia, Paul McCartney, the headliner of the first night who would would be playing the evening’s grand finale, and the multitude of hip and trendy bands who were invited precisely because they were currently surfing on the waves of popularity. And, as can ascertained by the 2009 Coachella poster below, Leonard did not receive top billing.

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Leonard Cohen and Ralph Gibson At Galerie Agathe Gaillard, Paris

Who Is Ralph Gibson?

Before answering my own suspiciously convenient rhetorical question, I should explain how this query arose: I saw the above photo posted, among other shots of Leonard Cohen, somewhere online without any identification of the subjects, the photographer, the location, the date, the occasion, … Now, Leonard Cohen is photographed with lots of folks in whom the typical viewer would have little interest (e.g., fans, restaurant staff, minor politicians, and the occasional blogger). This photo, however, seemed to carry more significance than would a casual snapshot of one more anonymous well-wisher or someone hoping to snag an autograph to sell on eBay.

After searching, I identified the figure on the right as Ralph Gibson, the photographer as Yvette Troispoux, and the event as an opening of Ralph Gibson ‘s work at the Galerie Agathe Gaillard  (no date). Of course, as a card-carrying Philistine, I still had no idea who Ralph Gibson was or why Leonard Cohen was pictured with him

Ralph Gibson is …

best known, in the words of Wikipedia, as “an American art photographer.” From my reading, he, in fact, appears to fall into the category of well-known and much respected by his peers but misses the cut for the photographer-rock star classification (aka photographers recognized by the general public). A generous sampling of his work can be found at his web site.

Leonard Cohen – Ralph Gibson Connections

The earliest connection between Ralph Gibson and Leonard Cohen began in the late 1960s when both artists were residents of the Chelsea Hotel and where Gibson printed “his photographs for The Somnambulist, his first Lustrum photography book in his tiny kitchenette.”1

Leonard Cohen and Ralph Gibson, along with John Cage, Allen Ginsberg, and others also provided financial and editorial support for a “critically-acclaimed literary journal, Zero.”2

Finally, it turns out that Ralph Gibson worked on a project for Leonard Cohen. Specifically, Ralph Gibson played guitar on Leonard Cohen’s New Skin For The Old Ceremony album and is correspondingly credited for his efforts.

One source3 indicates Gibson also toured with Cohen, but I can’t find independent confirmation of that.

One might presume that a big time photographer who knew and performed with Leonard Cohen would have taken batches of photos of the Canadian singer-songwriter. At time of posting, however, I found only one such shot, “Leonard Cohen, Montreal, 1973 [on bed with guitar]” listed in a catalog of Gibson’s work. The photo is displayed on several web sites, including fleurmach.

Credit Due Department: Photo by Yvette Troispoux. The art from New Skin For The Old Ceremony album showing the credits was contributed by Dominique BOILE.
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  1. Source: Chelsea Hotel Through the Eyes of Photographers Exhibit by Wendy R. Williams, posted at New York Cool. []
  2. Source: Bill Womack bio at Helios web site. []
  3. When Time Stands Still by Leif Wigh. Posted at Moderna Museet: 2009 []

Leonard Cohen 1985 – Photo By Richard Dumas

Photo: Leonard Cohen Plays Grant Hall, Queen’s University In Kingston – 1970

Note: While the photo is inscribed “Leonard Cohen, Grant Hall 1974,” I find no reference to a Leonard Cohen show in Kingston that year.  He did, however, play a concert at Grant Hall (shown below), Queen’s University in Kingston on October 15, 1970.

Thanks to Gordana Stupar, who alerted me to this photo