Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Lunchbucket ON aka "The Tower of Song"

Leonard Cohen came to Lunchbucket last night and played the Square Peg in the Centre of the Hole, looking almost exactly like this photo here. Despite its unfortunate name, the Square Peg is one of the best concert halls in Canaduh.

Miracle of miracles, I got to go. A day pass for the evening because, as I said to Nurse Ratchet while abasing myself and grovelling, "C'mon Nurse Ratchet! After all, he is a pote! He's Canaduh's natural national pote now that Irving Layton's gone."

Nurse Ratchet sniffed and said, "Larry he is a po-ette, not a pote. When are you going to surrender your shiftless rebelliousness and stop trying to rearrange the language according to your own arcane little rules?"

"There's nothing ette about Leonard Cohen", sez I, "And I'll surrender when they erect a monument to Ogden Nash in Timeless Square! Meanwhile, kin I go see Leonard Coe, kin I huh, kin I please, pretty please?"

And so she let me. And Suzy Homemaker too, as a sort of chaperone.

Really, it's no con to say Leonard Cohen is a pote. He's a real life, legit, musical pote. And he's a Canajun national treasure...one whom many Canajuns don't even really know. More's the pity.

But the audience last night was positively adulatory. They gave him a standing ovation before he even started! And then he started with The Future. And just went on from there into the past, the present, the non-existent, the fantastic, the revelatory, the self-deprecatory, the whole story.

I'm not sure quite how old he is, about 75. After the third song or so, he commented how he hadn't been on that stage for 15 years, back when he was just a kid with a crazy dream. He was clearly enjoying performing, but one can't help but wonder if he'd just as soon be home in his drawing room petting his partner. Because really, the only reason he's on tour...the only reason we get the pleasure of seeing him perform a 3 hour tour of his music, is because he needs the money. And that's a whole other story of not "Taking Care of Business" I guess and getting screwed because of it. Trusting someone too much, or not really caring about what might happen. And if it was the latter, then that was his secret, unconscious plan to end up back on the road playing to thousands of adoring fans.

The band was fabulous, of course. Naturally, because of HWSRN, I have an affinity for the keyboard player of any band. Cohen's keyboard player was Neil Larsen, an absolute master of the Hammond B3, and a name I recognized immediately, tho I can't say who he's played with. However, he has a sound-patch for the old Yamaha DX7 synth named after him.

Cohen rolled out all the hits. He started off his second set with Tower of Song which, for me anyway, is nothing short of sublime and contains what I think may be his most famous line: "I was born with the gift of a golden voice..." Pure irony, of course, but he actually does sing pretty well, although not always on pitch. He has a poet's sense of timing too...knows just when to be a little off-beat from the backup singers. At the end of the song, the back-up singers sing, "Doo dum dum dum de doo dum dum." When it was over, Cohen said that he had studied the spiritual masters looking for the key to life. And that was the answer. Doo dum dum dum de doo dum dum.

All night long, the songs, the lines, seemed to be making reference to his current situation...the financial one, I mean, and the necessity of touring. But also to his past. He made jokes about his spiritual quest, his drinking, his loves and losses. He even dedicated a song to Bo Diddley...the most un-Bo song he has, Take This Waltz. And the audience lapped it up.

Then the show was over. But the master showman (who barely has to even move to get a reaction) kept coming back for more. Giving more. Encore after encore. The people loved it. Even tho it was clearly planned that way. For one encore they barely went off stage and meanwhile the stage crew were bringing out Leonard's guitar and rearranging things. Obviously he was coming back. There were, maybe, two people who got bored.

Not me. If I could write one song as well-crafted as Hallelujah, I'd die a happy wayward pote.

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Anonymous said...

Thanks for telling the story, Lar. Second best to being there. You know what's co-incidental, if it is? While reading your blog about Leonard cohen, Bob Dillan came blasting out of my radios. (4), with the Rolling Stone song. It's still playing... oops. it's changing to Neil Young, "Only Love Can break Your Heart."

Without being the same, there is a bit of similarity between Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, don't you think?

Well, this was my moment of being in music heaven.

I'm glad for you you had the big experience of seeing Leonard in the square peg in the Centre of the Hole.

Anonymous said...

Leonard Cohen has become Buddhist too, right?

Larry Keiler said...

Cohen was a Zen practitioner, but I believe he's now a follower of doo-dum-dum-dum-dee-doo-dum-dum.

Larry Keiler said...

Hey, WT, notice that two of those guys you mentioned are Canajuns. Well...I think Neil Young's still Canajun.

Some similarities between Dylan and Cohen. Both Jewish! Both potes. Neither one of them a great singer, as the common wisdom goes, but both with enough voice going for them to put across their songs the way they're meant to be.

Anonymous said...

"Since departing the scene in the early 1990s, Cohen has lived ascetically at a monastery in Mount Baldy in California, where he was ordained a Rinzai Zen Buddhist monk and took the name Jikhan, meaning "silence."

That's what I found on the net. Zen is a form of Buddhism, right? Do the different sects not accept each other as such?

Some mind twist made me think that Dylan was Canadian too. Didn't realy think about it. Ah, one can try. Lots of Candian talent. One gets greedy to have more.

I really like Neil Young. Nigel and I went to see the movie "Heart of Gold." Took me a bit to see in that man on the screen, as he is now' the young man all wacky on drugs, like in... oh man, now I can't think of the name of that movie where more rock artists were featured. Probably will pop in some time during the day.

He was weird then, settled now. His music still great.

Anonymous said...

Ha,it did pop in, "The Band."

Anonymous said...

I read up a bit on the web about the difference between Buddhism and Zen Buddhism. Apparently there is no regular Buddhism. There are countless ways to practice it.

Seems to me it is like fairy, folk tales and myths. The same truth is brought forth in different attires, depending on place, geography, culture, etc.

One answer to a question intrigued me:

Q. Do you believe someone can follow the practices of Christianity and Zen Buddhism at the same time. Why or why not?

A. Yes. A catholic nun, now in her 8os and still practicing Zen meditation under my Zen Master, delightedly told me that the Feast of the Immaculate conception IS the Day of Buddha's Enlightening. That's why.

I am also reminded of Jewish practices. There are so many different sects. And they renounce each other. Creating war like states among fathers, sons, friends etc.

Maybe Buddhism doesn't do that? More accepting of different ways?

I did get the impression, Larry that you thought less of Cohen's Zen Buddhism. Do I misinterpret that? Or do you think he got away from it?

Larry Keiler said...

One of the primary goals of all Buddhist practice is to train the mind to see through illusion to reality. They say the Buddha gave 84 thousand teachings, all with this goal in mind. This is why a Christian nun, or a monk like Thomas Merton, can practise Zen, because in a way, it's not a belief system, but a method for training the mind.

I certainly don't discount Zen. My first introduction to Buddhism was Zen. One of the most profound Buddhist teachers I know of is Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Zen monk. His teachings on emptiness, a central idea of all Budhhism, are virtually unmatched by anyone. The main reason I now practise in the Tibetan tradition is because my first real teacher was a Tibetan Buddhist nun (from Hollywood).

All the Buddhist teachings agree on the essential points. But there are 84,000 paths. And every part of the world that has absorbed Buddhism has also incorporated its cultural attributes into the practice of Buddhism. So in Japan, Buddhism was translated from Chinese Chan to Japanese Zen and became austere and formal. Tibet inherited the vibrancy of Hinduism and amalgamated that with an earlier Tibetan religion, Bön, which had elements of Shamanism. So the Tibetan version is colour and pageantry and myriads of strange deities.

Zen has riddles called koans which are designed to help you break through conceptualization. In Tibet, the visualization of outlandish deities helps perform the same function. Same goal, different path.

I think Cohen continues his practice, but there is a famous Zen saying: When you begin Zen practice, the mountains are just mountains. Later on, the mountains are no longer mountains. But when you achieve enlightenment, the mountains are just mountains again.

Anonymous said...

Does that then mean that enlightement is also a temporary stage? A platform you reach of more insight. Then the way goes down a bit again, and there are more mountains to climb?

Somtimes in life when you roll from depression into depression, when there seems to be no way out, you hit upon an insight that lifts all the weight off your shoulders. Nothing changed, only you. The way you see things. And you laugh out loud about how troubled you were, and how simple life really is. But that doesn't mean that you will never depressed again, and that life is easy from now on.

I think about Kabballah philosophers. They meditate to new hights. The more they are instructed, the more qualified, the higher they can reach.

One of the highest levesl is Ofanim, (Angelic Host):

"Open another gate and enter the world of disembodied sound where soft beating of wings announces that you reached the realm of Ofanim, angelic beings in the shape of wheels."

Aparently it is "dangerous" to go there. If you are not highly trained, it is the way of no return.

Some rabbis that have mastered that level are said to glow. Is that the highest level of enlightement?

Can they go back and forth, at will, and like Jonathan Livington Seagul, will always be back to help other seekers?

When I read about Ofanim, I wrote this poem:

on the moonside of life
where poets drink from
a source of no return
angelic wheels illuminate
the dark side of souls

Ofanim o Ofanim
open your gate and
let us in
growing wings we
help you sing the
song of sacred

Larry Keiler said...

WT, that is a lovely poem.

In Buddhism, there is indeed a category of "enlightening being" called No-Returner. This is one who as achieved the level of control over the cycle of birth and death, such that he/she does not have to return to the "world" in any form unless he/she chooses to do so. We think of ourselves as being caught in a cycle over which we have no control. We are endlessly reborn and buzz around worldly existence like a fly around a closed window. The fly goes higher, the fly goes lower, it moves from side to side, but it's still always stuck at that window. The No-Returner is no longer stuck because it sees the window for what it is.

This is not a dangerous state. Buddhism describes it as bliss. And it's not a state you fall back from. Once you have it, you have it. And you don't get depressed, because one of the qualities is supreme equanimity.

And you are right. Nothing changes, only you. Except that when you change, everything else changes too. That is how inter-related we are. That is how the mountains become mountains again.

Anonymous said...

's Funny. Yesterday Nigel & I had supper on the patio at the round pic-nic table, under the yellow umbrella. The material of the umbrella is not solid, there are small open spaces. Not big enough to let even a fruitfly through, but lots of light. It sifts the sunlight rather than keep it out.

Nigel noticed how flying creatures like flies, bees, and smaller ones, get under there and want to go up. They keep on trying, getting nowhere. They never seem to figure out they can fly down and side ways, and escape away from under that dome.

I wonder if there are enlightened flies?

People that think that man is the top of the tower of living will say, "No chance."

They'd cringe to think that a fly may just as important and useful as they are. Intelligent even.

I read somewhere that if ants die out, it means the end of the world as we know it. If people die out, the world will go on as is. We seem to be quite disposible, according to pure science.

Lately I am going through my older poems. Fitting to this discussion is the one I wrote for Hans, according to the way he believed:

Keeper of the door.

The last door to open in
this life
will lead me to where I
cannot now see:
Space beyond perception.

There is a keeper at
the door who
will measure what I
have learned
will measure with
standards not mine.

He is a tall Indian Brave,
controller of energy
appointed to test me
and he may not
pass me may not
pass me but
send me in quest of what I failed to learn.

That was before I did away with capitals & reading signs.

I think the "place of no return" is only dangerous for pupils that get there before they are ready. Sort of like the Sorcerer's Apprentice. Play with magic before you are ready.

Isn't that where the danger of messing with alternative drugs lies?

Anonymous said...

Bobby Bacon and I travelled to Hamilton to see/listen to Leonard Cohen last Wednesday. It was such a "high." And yes, I kept thinking "poet" throughout the whole thing - his songs engage the listener on so many levels. And you know, I think he enjoyed the whole thing - in spite of the reason behind the touring. The artist in him must have loved the creativity of putting the show together - and the band and Leonard worked so well together - so beautifully smooth and seamless, and with such love and mutual respect.

Anonymous said...

He's really a genius, isn't he?

I've been in so many different groups of people. Always when Leonard Cohen comes in the conversation, everyone seem to like him a lot and for their own special reasons. Sometimes the appreciation comes from where I didn't expect it.

Larry Keiler said...

Now, if only he had written the Hockey Night in Canada theme. Then we could say, "This man is truly enlightened." And Canajun too, eh?

Anonymous said...

You said it, dude!

Anonymous said...

That is so funny, Larry - a Leonard Cohen song becoming the Hockey Night in Canada theme song. But which one???? "I'm Your Man"?

Hey, maybe with a LC theme song, we could say CAJUN is enlightened...

Of hell, let's go for the national anthem. Hallejuah!

Help! I've written and I can't get up!