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

Was Leonard Cohen A Vegetarian?

Because questions about Leonard Cohen’s vegetarianism arise periodically, I’ve compiled a summary for reference.

Was Leonard Cohen A Vegetarian?

Yep. Leonard Cohen was a self-professed vegetarian for a few years in the 1960s. The exact dates given or his vegetarianism are a tad inconsistent..

Leonard Cohen Loses His Veginity

There is some confusion about when Leonard’s stint as a vegetarian began and ended. The best contemporaneous description I’ve found is this excerpt from Is the World (or Anybody) Ready for Leonard Cohen? by Jon Ruddy. Maclean’s: October 1, 1966.

He [Leonard Cohen] has started eating meat again after being a vegetarian for two years. He had stopped eating meat because he disapproves of the killing of animals. He wrote:

Great torsos of meadow animals strung in glistening exhibition Heads piled in pyramids like parked cannon balls some of them cruelly facing a display of their missing extremities.

He started eating meat again because he got to dislike a certain kind of arrogance he had developed about being a vegetarian. The arrogance was shown in his subtle and partly unconscious attempts to convince Marianna, the sweet-faced Norwegian blonde he has been living with for six years, that not eating meat somehow would make her a finer person. Sometimes Marianna would abstain, sometimes she would be fiercely carnivorous. Now, sitting there among the turtles, drinking Welch’s grape juice, eating a licorice cigar, Cohen says, “1 don’t know, everybody has become kind of loony.”

In his description of the life Leonard & Suzanne [Elrod]  led on their rented Tennessee farm in 1968, Nadel writes1

At the time, he [Leonard Cohen] was continuing  with his macrobiotic diet (between 1965 and 1968 he was a vegetarian). Cohen often had nothing to offer his guests but soy tea.

In the same volume, Nadel notes

A January 28, 1968 article in the New York Times captured Cohen’s state of mind … He offered diet tips; three years earlier, he had been a vegetarian, now he ate only meat.

Leonard Cohen On Vegetarianism

In Ladies and Gentlemen… Mr. Leonard Cohen, the 1965 documentary about Leonard Cohen from the National Film Board of Canada, Leonard declared:

Well its true, ever since I stopped eating meat I feel a lot better among animals, I feel I can be much more honest when I pat a dog.

He also wrote A Person Who Eats Meat2, which he recited during his performance at the 1970 Isle Of Wight Festival:

A person who eats meat
wants to get his teeth into something
A person who does not eat meat
wants to get his teeth into something else
If these thoughts interest you for even a moment
you are lost.

And, he composed

So you’re the kind of vegetarian
Who only eats roses
Is that what you meant
with your beautiful losers

The final words of this poem (for more about this poem, see They Eat Roses, Don’t They? Leonard Cohen, Roses, Vegetarians, Poetics, & Abligurition) from Parasites of Heaven (1966) provide the name for Cohen’s novel, Beautiful Losers.

The serendipitous consecutive mentions of Cohen’s Beautiful Losers (1966) and his vegetarianism proffer an irresistible opportunity to – finally – present my favorite passage from that novel that features vegetarians and hilarity in equal parts:

Secret kabals of vegetarians habitually gather under the sign to exchange contraband from beyond the Vegetable Barrier. In their pinpoint eyes dances their old dream: the Total Fast. One of them reports a new atrocity published without compassionate comment by the editors of Scientific American: “It has been established that, when pulled from the ground, a radish produces an electronic scream.” Not even the triple bill for 65˘ will comfort them tonight. With a mad laugh born of despair, one of them throws himself on a hot-dog stand, disintegrating on the first chew into pathetic withdrawal symptoms. The rest watch him mournfully and then separate into the Montreal entertainment section. The news is more serious than any of them thought. One is ravished by a steak house with sidewalk ventilation. In a restaurant, one argues with the waiter that he ordered “tomato” but then in a suicide of gallantry he agrees to accept the spaghetti, meat sauce mistake.

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  1. Various Positions: A Life of Leonard Cohen by Ira B. Nadel (Random House of Canada, Oct 29, 2010) []
  2. Selected Poems 1956-1968 []

Anjani Thomas, Leonard Cohen, & Frozen Novelties

In 2014, I posted (on my former sites) several Leonard Cohen-related items published by Sore Dove Press that were then up for auction. A review of these demonstrated that they warranted reposting on Cohencentric. While most of these pieces are artistic presentations of Leonard’s own work or the work of others pertinent to Leonard Cohen, today’s subject is the above card bearing the legend, “I am a firm believer in the healing power of frozen novelties,” attributed to Anjani Thomas, Leonard Cohen’s backup singer, collaborator, and romantic partner.

Publisher and poet Soheyl Dahi explains:

The quote was given to me by Anjani. This was part of series of cards in a box called ‘Slogan Series’. I asked her to give me her favorite slogan and that was what she gave me.1

While there is no evidence that Anjani’s statement of faith in Popsicles and similar treats arose from Leonard, there is little doubt of the Canadian singer-songwriter’s affection for (more posts on the subject at the link).

Credit Due Department: Thanks to Karl Lohninger, who reminded me of these Sore Dove Press items.

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  1. Anjani had a way with offbeat answers. When I asked about her favorite nickname for Leonard for my Leonard Cohen, AKA … – The Nicknames list , her response was “Master of the Egg Salad Sandwich.” []

Leonard Cohen On Drinking Scotch

At this point in the show I would have a cigarette here and drink some obscure scotch like Lagavulin…
– Leonard Cohen at the  Dec 5, 2012 Toronto Concert1

Leonard Cohen has been telling his 2012 concert audiences about his intent to start smoking again when he reaches 80.  At the Dec 5, 2012 Toronto concert, however, he upped the ante, adding the tippling of scotch to his anticipated 2014 onstage routine.

Consequently, to keep Cohen fans au courant with the Canadian singer-songwriter’s preferences and plans, Cohencentric offers this introduction to …

Lagavulin Scotch

Lagavulin, according to  Wikipedia, “is an Islay single malt Scotch whiskey produced at Lagavulin on the island of Islay, United Kingdom. The whiskey has a powerful, peat-smoke aroma, and is described as being robustly full-bodied, well balanced, and smooth, with a slight sweetness on the palate. The standard Lagavulin single malt is 16 years old (43%), though they regularly release a 12-year-old cask strength variety, a Distiller’s edition finished in Pedro Ximénez casks, and 25- and 30-year-old varieties.”

The lowest cost found in an online search this morning [at time of original posting: Dec 7, 2012] for the standard 750 ml bottle of Lagavulin Scotch 16 Year Single Malt was $59 (without shipping costs).

It should be noted that in the past, Leonard Cohen has also indicated, in addition to a taste for scotch, a predilection for cognac2  and Chateau La Tour 1982.3  He also concocted an alcoholic potable named Red Needles, consisting of “tequila and cranberry juice and Sprite and fresh cut fruit.”4

Update:  I can affirm that Leonard indeed partook of Lagavulin at least once in 2014.  See  Lunch At Leonard’s In LA – Leonard Cohen & Kezban Özcan Host Nosh For Duchess & DrHGuy

Note: Originally posted Dec 7, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

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  1. Quoted in Point of View: Be Leonard Cohen by Samantha Swan (Ardent Pictures: Dec 6, 2012) []
  2. I never discuss my mistresses or my tailors by Nick Paton Walsh. The Observer, Sunday 14 October 2001 []
  3. The Q Magazine Questionnaire in Q Magazine, September 1994 []
  4. Readers who have not previously tried this cocktail are strongly advised to test a few sips before committing to its consumption in quantity []

Two Photos: Leonard Cohen In The Kitchens Of His Hydra & L.A. Homes

Leonard Cohen: Hydra, 1970s

Posted by Adam Cohen on Facebook

Update: Dominique BOILE offers the information that this photo was taken in 1981 by Bruce Brown.

Leonard Cohen: Los Angeles, 2001

Leonard_Cohen_PolaroidPhoto by Chris Buck: Photos – Chris Buck’s 2001 Leonard Cohen Shoot: Rosicrucians, Photographic Destiny, & Pastrami Sandwiches With A Side Of Chopped Liver