Photo of Leonard Cohen at Molde (2009) by Geoffrey Wren
To Tinkie is a passage from The Notebooks section of The Flame by Leonard Cohen (background information at The Flame – Leonard Cohen’s Final Book). Tinkie was the Scottish Terrier Leonard called “the closest being to me during my childhood.”
SL: Did you have a dog when you were little?
LC: Yes, I had a Scottie, Scottish terrier. His name was, my mother named him, Tovarich, “comrad”. We called him Tinkie. And yes, a very – I guess the closest being to me during my childhood. The dog would sleep under my bed and follow me to school, and wait for me. So that was a great sense of companionship.
SL: Because you sometimes write about the dog.
LC: Well I have his picture on my dresser in Los Angeles. We loved that dog. My sister gave me his picture framed as a present.
SL: And what happened when he died?
LC: He died when he was about 13 years old, which is quite old for a dog. And he just asked to go out one night – you know how a dog will just go and stand beside the door? – so we opened the door, it was a winter night, and he walked out, and we never saw him again. And it was very distressing. I put ads in the newspaper, and people would say, “Yes, we have found a Scottie,” and you’d drive 50 miles and it wouldn’t be your Scottie. And we only found him in the springtime when the snow melted, and the smell came from under the neighbour’s porch. He’d just gone outside, and gone under the neighbour’s porch to die. It was some kind of charity to his owners.
My advice is highly valued. For instance, don’t piss on a large pine cone. It may not be a pine cone. If you are not clear about which spiders are poisonous, kill them all. The daddy long legs is not a true spider, it actually belongs to the Seratonio crime family. Although insects value their lives, and even though their relentless industry is an example for all of us, they rarely have a thought about death, and when they do it is not accompanied by strong emotions, as it is with you and me. They hardly discriminate between life and death. In this sense they are much like mystics, and like mystics, many are poisonous. It would be difficult to make love to an insect, especially if you are well endowed. As for my own experience, not one single insect has ever complained. If you are not sure which mystics are poisonous, it is best to kill the one you come across with a blow to the head using a hammer, or a show, or a large old vegetable, such as a petrified beet.
Excerpted from The Luckiest Man In The World (Mt Baldy, 1997) – Book Of Longing by Leonard Cohen.