Leonard Cohen’s Last Words To Me: “I love your mother’s house”

thewall9One of the rewards of posting about Leonard Cohen at Cohencentric (and its predecessor, 1HeckOfAGuy.com) was the receipt of unsolicited email from Leonard. While I was certainly grateful that he took the time to respond to my questions about a concert date, his contacts with other musicians, the provenance of a photo, etc, the ultimate treat was a spontaneous email from Leonard.

As it turned out, the last words I received from Leonard Cohen were in one of these spontaneous emails. It arrived a week or two before his death and consisted of only five words plus his signature initial:

quoteup2
I love your mother’s housequotedown2

L

My Mother’s House

A word of explanation is necessary. While most of my blogging is accomplished in service of Cohencentric.com, I also maintain a personal blog, AllanShowalter.com, which features — well, everything other than Leonard Cohen. It offers posts, for example, about Julie Showalter and her writing, Neil Ellis photos, A.E. Housman, the Duchess (aka Penny Showalter), broomcorn, my former homes in Oklahoma, northwest Illinois, & the Ozarks, David Mamet quotations … .

Anyhow, I had published a number of posts on AllanShowalter.com under the umbrella title of “DrHGuy’s Family Home Curios & Oddities Photo Safari,” comprising views of the doodads, antiques, gadgets, widgets, junk, tchotchkes, collectibles, curios, odds, ends, and much, much more that lined the walls and in the geological layers of miscellanea that arose from nearly every horizontal surface in my mother’s home in the Ozarks. The photo atop this post displays several specimens.

raodersA representative selection can be found at Living Room Exhibits, and links to all the exhibits are located at Summary Page: DrHGuy’s Family Home Curios & Oddities Photo Safari

Leonard’s Message

Leonard had an extraordinary ability to embrace folks on their own terms. While many have written of engaging with Leonard Cohen over metaphysics, musicology, Judaism, sociological phenomena, Zen Buddhism, poetry. or other, similarly weighty topics. Our conversations, on the other hand, were much more likely to deal with our families, future plans, mutual acquaintances, preferences in exercise programs, tales of his band members and backup singers …  A modicum of gossip and a few jokes were also commonplace.

So, at a time when he was severely ill and still in the midst of the coming out of You Want It Darker, his final album, Leonard Cohen was cruising the web. And, he landed not my blog about him but my blog about everything else but him and then took the time to email me to let me know that he liked the posts about my mother’s collectibles.

For the record, my reply was “I’m glad you like it, especially given that ‘the voluptuous feeling of simplicity’ wasn’t  mom’s decorating touchstone.”

Now, I believe Leonard sincerely enjoyed those photos of mom’s cabin in the Ozarks. But, I am convinced the reason he sent that email was that he knew I would appreciate knowing that he enjoyed those photos of mom’s cabin in the Ozarks.

Leonard once inscribed a photo,

quoteup2
to Allan

One of the greatest men alivequotedown2

Leonard

 

lcautophotoBut, the comment of his I treasure most is “I love your mother’s house.”

And, I still check my email every morning for messages from Leonard.

How DrHGuy First Connected With Leonard Cohen: The Great Event

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Update (2017): Introduction

This is the final post published in response to questions about how l first became involved with Leonard Cohen

Touring & Blogging

After the Feb 19, 2009 Leonard Cohen Beacon Theatre show, I blogged onward.  A review of 1HeckOfAGuy.com1 postings reveals that less than half of these entries spotlighted Leonard Cohen. Other posts included political corruption in Illinois, “Microsoft Software Packaging – Stupid or Malicious or Stupid & Malicious?,” college mascots, A.E. Housman, local snowfalls … .

And, while Leonard Cohen was the site’s most dependably popular topic, the individual posts that garnered the most hits were from other categories. In My Mother’s House Are Many Tchotchkes and 15 Mistakes To Avoid When Choosing A BDSM Safe Word, for example, had far more viewers than any single Cohen entry.

But all was not well, and by summer 2009, my enthusiasm had waned to the point that I considered giving up the blog altogether. I shared this sentiment with a long-time Cohen fan who was also active online. Shortly thereafter, this fan informed me that a backstage visit with Leonard Cohen at his October 29, 2009 Chicago Rosemont Theatre concert2 had been arranged.

Now, as rare as Leonard Cohen interactions with admirers and reporters were in the two or three years just before his death, they were even less common during the 2008-2010 tours. Stories of celebrities, old acquaintances, and government officials being rebuffed when they requested personal meetings were routine. So, this was what we folks from the Ozarks would term “a big deal.”

And, sure enough, I met Leonard at that concert, and as is my wont, I wrote about it:

The photo atop this post, in fact, was taken by Lorca Cohen at that meeting (the inscription was added later).

It turns out that meeting Leonard Cohen face-to-face is a tremendous incentive to continue blogging about Leonard Cohen.

Quelle surprise, eh?

This was a turning point, impacting not only this critical juncture in 2009 but also similar episodes in the future. Over the ensuing years, I intermittently became discouraged because of real or perceived slights from readers, journalists, Leonard’s management, his record label … only to have these vicissitudes dissipated by praise from or just contact with Leonard himself.

So, here we are.

It’s been a privilege.

  1. 1HeckOfAGuy.com was a predecessor of both Cohencentric.com and AllanShowalter.com []
  2. The scheduled show nearest my home at the time []

The Half-Sister Of Mercy, Leonard Cohen, & DrHGuy

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Introduction: This post is part of The 2009 Beacon Theatre Show Detour in the saga of How DrHGuy First Connected With Leonard Cohen.

 

On The Sidewalk In Front Of The Beacon Theatre Before The Leonard Cohen Concert, I met …

among others waiting for the theater doors to open on that cold February night,

  • A thirty-something entrepreneur so intent on seeing Leonard Cohen perform that he had flown from South Africa to New York that afternoon with the return flight scheduled to depart only hours after the end of the show
  • A mother and daughter, both of whom eagerly confessed to harboring lurid aspirations vis-a-vis Mr. Cohen
  • A native New Yorker who asked me if Leonard Cohen was indeed performing at the Beacon that night and, following my confirmation of the announcement on the marquee, promptly engaged a scalper in an animated and easily overheard conversation which concluded less than a minute later with her purchase of a balcony ticket for several hundred dollars over the original price
  • The Girl With The Leonard Cohen Tattoo

and, as the perceptive reader might deduce from  the title of this post, I met The Half-Sister Of Mercy (HSOM).

An Aside On Leonard Cohen’s “Sisters Of Mercy”

Leonard Cohen has told the back story of his song, “Sisters Of Mercy” man times1 This rendition is an excerpt from a December 4, 1974 interview quoted at Diamonds In The Lines: Leonard Cohen In His Own Live Words:

… like a lot of my material it’s [the song, “Sisters of Mercy” is] just completely documentary. It doesn’t concern high metaphysical questions but an accurate reportage as authentic and precise as I can make it, a description of exactly what happened on the interior landscape. And I was in Edmonton during a tour by myself of Canada, I guess this was around 67. I was walking along one of the main streets of Edmonton, it was bitter cold ; and I knew no-one and I passed these two girls on a doorway. They invited me to stand in the doorway with them. Of course I did. And some time later, we found ourselves in my little Hotel room in Edmonton and the three of us were gonna go to sleep together. Of course I had all kinds of erotic fantasies of what the evening might bring. … And we went to bed together and I think we all jammed into this one small couch in this little Hotel and it became clear that it wasn’t the purpose of the evening at all. And at one point, in the night, I found myself unable to sleep, I got up, and by the moonlight – It was very very bright, the moon was being reflected off the snow, and my windows were very bright – I wrote that poem by the ice-reflected moonlight while these women were sleeping and it was one of the few songs that I ever wrote from top to bottom without a line of revision . The words flowed and the melody flowed and by the time they woke up the next morning, it was dawn. I had this completed song to sing to them.

To those readers who know me and are now beginning to panic, be assured that, mercifully, in the story of the HSOM and me, I do not write nor do I sing a song.

DrHGuy Gets Lucky

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  1. Sisters Of Mercy Lyrics

    Oh the sisters of mercy, they are not departed or gone.
    They were waiting for me when I thought that I just can’t go on.
    And they brought me their comfort and later they brought me this song.
    Oh I hope you run into them, you who’ve been traveling so long.

    Yes you who must leave everything that you cannot control.
    It begins with your family, but soon it comes around to your soul.
    Well I’ve been where you’re hanging, I think I can see how you’re pinned:
    When you’re not feeling holy, your loneliness says that you’ve sinned.

    Well they lay down beside me, I made my confession to them.
    They touched both my eyes and I touched the dew on their hem.
    If your life is a leaf that the seasons tear off and condemn
    they will bind you with love that is graceful and green as a stem.

    When I left they were sleeping, I hope you run into them soon.
    Don’t turn on the lights, you can read their address by the moon.
    And you won’t make me jealous if I hear that they sweetened your night:
    We weren’t lovers like that and besides it would still be all right,
    We weren’t lovers like that and besides it would still be all right
    . []

How DrHGuy First Connected With Leonard Cohen: The 2009 Beacon Theatre Show Detour

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Introduction

quoteup2
You will never untangle the circumstances that brought you to this moment. Embrace your fate.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen,
quoting from Bhagavad Gita1

This is the fifth entry I am posting (or reposting) in response to questions about how l first became involved with Leonard Cohen:

 

 

In the journey of destiny that led to me spending much of the past decade posting breaking news, scholarly analyses, frivolous japery, performance videos, concert set lists, bootleg collections, animations, and more – all dealing with Leonard Cohen, there is a detour. And, as is the case with most modern journeys of destiny, that detour goes through New York.

Once this scenic route diversion is documented, we’ll return for the kinda sorta thrilling Leonard Cohen Meets DrHGuy conclusion.

Payola – And About Time

As we ended our last episode, my son’s recovery near-catastrophic injury and the death of the woman in my life in mid-2008 had reduced my blogging to a desultory level although the Leonard Cohen World Tour, which also began in 2008 was receiving massive approbation from critics and fans alike. I still heard from both Leonard Cohen and Anjani Thomas, but my attention was elsewhere.

Then, Leonard and Anjani invited me to the Feb 19, 2009 Beacon Theatre concert, the first time the Canadian singer-songwriter had appeared in the US in 15 years, proffering a comped ticket.2

Tales Of The 2009 Leonard Cohen Beacon Theatre Show

The first Leonard Cohen concert I attended was the Feb 19, 2009 show at the Beacon Theatre in New York. The concert itself was outstanding, and I also had a non-musical experience or two worth sharing.

One of these episodes has been posted: The Girl With The Leonard Cohen Tattoo. If you haven’t seen this entry, it is, if I say so myself, a worthwhile read.

Viewers may also be interested in Best Bootlegs – The February 19, 2009 Leonard Cohen Beacon Theatre Concert

“The Great Event,” as Leonard might term it, is The Half-Sister Of Mercy, Leonard Cohen, & Me,” the next post in this series.

 

________________________

  1. From Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man, the 2005 documentary []
  2. Which is how I ended up at the concert inevitably promoted via the Take The Manhattan Title Entitlement.

    rsheadline

    I.e, Headlines about the show featured Leonard Cohen’s title, “First We Take Manhattan” with a word addition or change to end up with something like “Leonard Cohen Takes Manhattan,” offering this quickie reference to the municipality where the concert takes place rather than an interesting, enticing, or informative title. Is that the best Variety, Rolling Stone, The Daily Press (Ontario), The National Post, (The National Post story was also republished with the same title,  “Leonard Cohen Takes Manhattan, Again” in other sources such as USA Today and Yahoo News)  Paste Magazine, and The Edmonton Sun can come up with in the way of creative titles? After all, it’s not like the days of fixed typefaces when the titles of articles had to not only reflect the content but also be the right size for the allotted restricted space measured in picas, points, and ems so a phrase that fit the content and the space might be reused many times. []

How DrHGuy First Connected With Leonard Cohen: 4. The Less Dramatic, More Remarkable Aftermath

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Update (2017): Introduction

This is the fourth in a set of entries that I am posting (or reposting) in response to questions about how l first became involved with Leonard Cohen:

 

 

How Did You Get That Leonard Cohen Autograph?

Ongoing readers may recall that within the titular letter referenced in Anjani Writes Dear DrHGuy Letter included this offering:

the poet would like to send you his latest literary offering Book Of Longing, just to show there are no hard feelings over your reckless communiqué.

“The Poet,” it turns out, was Leonard Cohen (lucky guess, eh?).  And, sure enough, a few days later I received a copy of Book Of Longing with the above autographed title page. And, it made for a dandy anecdote:

Five or six years ago, I posted the above image in a LeonardCohenForum thread about Leonard Cohen autographs. I was then asked something along the lines of “How did you get that Leonard Cohen autograph?”1 My account of the process follows:

Ah, it’s the age-old story … Boy (that would be me) finds girl (Anjani) via composing a review of girl’s album (Blue Alert). Boy, coming across a comparison of girl to Holly Cole and Tanita Tikaram, makes the obvious move, interjecting into the review the suggestion for a four-way comprising him and the three female vocalists. Girl leaves a positive comment on the post, thanking boy for the positive review. Boy publishes next post interpreting girl’s comment as an indication that girl is torn between running to him and staying with her boyfriend – Lynyrd Skynyrd, Lenny Kravitz, Leonard Bernstein … Lennie somebody, Negotiations ensue re four-way Vs three-way and consequent permutations of participants. Eventually, however, girl sends a Dear John letter (technically, a Dear DrHGuy letter), and it’s splitsville (aka boy loses girl). Boy gets autographed Blue Alert album from girl and autographed poetry volume from boyfriend/poet/singer-songwriter/icon as consolation prize.

Happens every day.

Actually, the inscription on this page is the last time I recall receiving a message from Leonard that used my full name. In person and in his emails, I was most often “Dr Heck” and, less often, “Allan.” (He inevitably and invariably referred to Penny, who became my spouse three years later, as “The Duchess” in keeping with her blogonym.)

Real Life Intervenes

After that mid-August 2007 exchange of messages with Anjani, I heard from her with some frequency.  I also began hearing from Leonard occasionally. A few months later, however, my son was the victim of a car accident and went into coma. I immediately received an endearing, compassionate message from Anjani and Leonard, including Leonard’s recounting of the head trauma incurred by his own son Adam and Adam’s recovery thereafter.

For the next few months, I was focused on my son’s neurological problems and his subsequent treatment.

Then, early in 2008, the woman in my life had a recurrence of breast cancer (the same disease that ended the life of my wife, Julie). Over the next months, she slowly withered and, in June 2008, not long after Leonard Cohen began his 2008 tour in Newfoundland, died. My interest in blogging waned although it didn’t dissolve altogether. I stumbled along with posting about not only Leonard and Anjani but also such matters as my family, county seals, the local weather and wildlife, broomcorn, … (The site was a tad less focused in those days.)

Then came the 2009 Leonard Cohen Beacon Theatre concert.

But that’s for the next post.

______________________

  1. OK, the response was actually, “You really must tell us more about this. And we expect a detailed, witty recollection in your inimitable style,” but “How did you get that Leonard Cohen autograph?” makes for a pithier heading []

How DrHGuy First Connected With Leonard Cohen: 3. Anjani Writes Dear DrHGuy Letter

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Update (2017): Introduction

This is the third in a set of 1HeckOfAGuy1 entries that I am reposting in response to questions about how l first became involved with Leonard Cohen

 

 

The content below was originally published Aug 17, 2006.

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Hey, That’s Not A Bad Way To Say Goodbye
Anjani WritesTo DrHGuy

Dearest HGuy,

Being that you’ve already heard my voice AND seen me in my knickers* whereas images of you on your site are curiously (coyly? purposely? blessedly?) absent, I am at a slight disadvantage in imagining your participation in the admittedly remote possibility of a night of wild debauchery with Tina and Tanita.

In any case, although I am unable to return your fervent declarations of adoration, may I take this moment to express my appreciation for your stalwart efforts to mine the innermost chambers of your psyche for the entire world to peruse? Please consider setting these couth illuminations into a book that I feel sure would make for pleasurable bathtime reading.

And now, a word from the poet:
Note from LC: When you next write heckofaguy, please thank him for his strenuous efforts on my behalf.

And if you would offline, care to send me your snail mail address, the poet would like to send you his latest literary offering Book Of Longing, just to show there are no hard feelings over your reckless communiqué.

As Ever,
AT

*I refer to page 4 of the Blue Alert cd booklet.

From DrHGuy To Anjani

Anjanikins,

Well, there is a photo of me located at Walkernastics: DrHGuy’s Walker Dismount Demo, although it doesn’t feature me in your knickers, as intriguing as that thought may be. I fear that visualizing me will not do much in stimulating your orgiastic visions.

And, as it turns out, I’m familiar with page 4 of the Blue Alert booklet, although my viewing has always focused almost exclusively on your implied domestic skills. [Note To Readers: No, I’m not going to scan page 4 into the blog. That kind of thing is a private matter between Anjani and me – and the thousands of folks who own the CD. Buy your own darn copy.]

I’ve been to splitsville2 enough times to recognize a “Dear John/Dearest HGuy” letter, however gently and graciously written,3 when I see one. This is, however, the first such goodbye missive I’ve received that included a consolation prize4 (“Thanks for playing, and you’ll receive the home version of our game.”), which is a classy touch. The gift of The Book Of Longing is much appreciated. I’d reciprocate in kind, but I suppose the collection of erotic limericks I’ve composed while in the throes of dating, Terse Verse: Perverse & Worse, is inappropriate at this point.
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  1. 1HeckOfAGuy.com was a predecessor of Cohencentric []
  2. I had assumed that no one has ever used “splitsville” outside an Archie & Jughead comic book, but Google gets 400,000 hits for the word. Go figure. []
  3. It could be so much worse. There’s a country-western song with the instructive title, “Get Your Tongue Out Of My Mouth, Because I’m Kissing You Goodbye” []
  4. I don’t think that residual tic over my left eye I’ve had since the ex-barrel racer and I broke up counts as a consolation prize []