Judith Braun and Jack Lazariuk
celebrating Judith's "favourite song"
Suzanne Holland and her loving companion
Michael Epstein (they live in San Francisco)
Robert Bower, New York, Leonard's archivist
Sharonne Cohen, Israel
From Judith Braun, Germany:
- It is a silly attempt to try deliver these precious days' atmosphere by written word, but I'll at least try to try!
1st of all you might be wondering what it is like to finally have the gallery-photos materialize into flesh, to suddenly hear real voices instead of having the friends smile at you via lines of letters only? Just close your eyes, make up your most daring dream what it should be like, add a solid dose of undreamt surprise to your most inventive vision and you'll have ready the mere outlines of what happened.
It is hard to go into details here, because one would either have to compose pages and volumes to do justice to every "Companion(ess)-of-the-Heart" we met, or it is better to leave it at that and just whisper a heartfelt "Thank-you for being you. And thank-you for having been, being - and hopefully - remaining part of my life."
2nd you might appreciate to learn about non-ng-related magicians who popped up to scatter even more golden sparkles over our anyway wonderful experience:
The Montreal Metro Station Master who hospitably let pass our entire sightseeing-gang for free, once she realized that we're walking the Cohen-path.
The Svede Jan Eric Lundquist who sang Cohen so beautifully that even Leonard's sister Esther sighed, that his voice was matchlessly sexy.
The aforementioned lovely Lady herself of course, whom to mingle with us nobody would have dared to expect: (Either she is a shining model of courtuousness and self-control and therefore made us feel so welcome as guests in her and her little brother's home-town, or she really enjoyed our curious herd grazing the Montreal-pastures.) She sang and laughed with us, talked and listened to us and even opened Leonard's current house for us, so that we could violate the privacy of his direct neighbours, peek into sacred rooms and gather another priceless memory to take home with us.
Nancy White, a singer, songwriter, comedian and Cohen-fan of most rare callibre pampering us with an unforgettable concert that fondled our hearts and split our sides with laughter. Make sure to carefully store her name in your backheads and try get hold of one of her cds/concerts: Not only is she a brilliant artist and devoted Leonard-connoisseur, but besides one of those rare, rare women who feel not afraid of being funny.!
Suzanne Holland, The Fairy-Queen (a singer and fan from South-Africa), who happens to be the true incarnation of what Leonard must have had in mind when writing the song. Wrapped in rainbow and sunlight, her voice a blend of molten gold, velvet and honey, her spirit bewitching, enriching and wise. Even though she did no official concert, she sang for us for hours. Not just once, but wherever and whenever she turned up. Actually she captured my heart so totally, that I found myself dragged away in her wake so helplessly, happily and gratefully, that I'm still all occupied by relishing this new friend I made.
Again: A 1000 heartbeats deep thank-you to the committee who made this possible and to all you friends for your precious real-life company. The same to Leonard for the mesmerizingly beautiful new songs he sent and for not turning up. ( - How ever should we have enjoyed our togetherness so relaxedly, how ever would we have made it to focus on each other so warmly and gratefully, had our attention been trapped by The High Unholy One only.!?).
From Jarkko Arjatsalo's album:
From left: Jarkko and Eija Arjatsalo (Finland); Dick and Linda Straub
(New Jersey) with Judith Braun (Germany) in their middle.
At Moishe's with Leanne Ungar, Leonard's sound engineer
From Jeff Leister, Illinois:
In 1968, before playlists and hard-sell prerecorded commercials, FM radio was graced with dj's who had a sense of music's value to the soul. I used to hear, from time to time, a voice at once melodic and sorrowful. This particular song, a narrative with such a profound sense of loss, held also a wonderful sense of irony and humor; especially at the end. The whistling. The "la-la"s as they built to a crescendo of madness just as the song faded out. I would always miss the name of the song and the artist. Who the hell is that? I had to know. After a month or so a friend of mine pulled an album out of his collection and played it for me. The first song was Suzanne. I'd heard it before and was quite pleased to be hearing it again. I checked out the album cover. LEONARD COHEN. Okay. Each song pulled me in. Another copy was sold; just get me to the record store. Then it happened. One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong. There it is! Son of a gun, so that's who does that. That song cemented the bargain between the artist and his follower.
Eventually in late 1969, early 1970 (my senior year in high school) I learned he also had some books out. Now, every time I hear Leonard's introduction to Take This Waltz about how Federico Garcia Lorca "ruined his life" I remember walking down Wisconsin Avenue in Milwaukee hitting the bookstores in search of his literature. I'd started writing poetry on my own about five years earlier in response to hormones and good old rock and roll. I picked up a copy of The Spice-Box of Earth and The Favorite Game. And that was when Leonard, in his turn, ruined my life. And I too am grateful. I wouldn't want to to live in any other world. After graduating I spent my first summer of freedom living in my grandmother's attic. The girl I'd left behind in high school had been sent by her mother to live with a family about ten miles away as a "mother's helper". Every night I put my grandmother's telephone on two 20 foot extension cords and hauled it up the attic stairs and waited for her call. I read to her from Spice-Box and Selected Poems 1956-1968. I played his albums for her. Sometimes I sang along. She was enchanted. The next day I'd ride to work on the bus and on the way home, because my mind was living in this heightened plane,
I'd compose one, two, sometimes three poems holding them in my head,
juggling, developing, needing deperately to get home to a piece of paper.
I seldom lost them. I'd sit down at the kitchen table and out they'd pour
like liquid from my mind, through my arm, wrist, hand and pen. Then I'd
read them later that night when she'd call. I have never since felt more
like a poet. I was suffering beautifully, outrageously for my art. I was
inspired by the best.
To make this pilgrimage in May of 2000 was a life-long dream. Better than that. My dream was simply to check out Montreal. I never would have seen half of what I saw at the event had I gone on my own. To be in a room with 199 other souls and be treated to the first strains of Cohen's voice performing a new song heard outside the studio in three years (and that was only one new song---this was about one third of a new album!) was intensely moving to say the least. My Secret Life. The energy of the music. The energy of his voice. His words. His words. His words. And it was not down hill from there by any mean. It was a plateau. A heavenly plateau I shared with these other souls. It was only approximately forty seven hours give or take a timeless unit that cannot be measured by any means. I did not want to leave-----physically. As far as my soul goes-----I never will.