The Agony And The Ambivalence Of The Leonard Cohen Admirer

I have often walked down this street before;
But the pavement always stayed beneath my feet before.
All at once am I
Several stories high,

Knowing I’m on the street where you live.

From “On The Street Where You Live” by Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner, written for My Fair Lady (1956)

We’d All Love To Speak With Leonard

In I’d Love to Speak with Leonard, the March 5, 2012 post on her blog, Cinematherapy, Sharon Moore writes about her semi-serendipitous1 discovery that the shortcut she drives to her office takes her by the home of Leonard Cohen.

Her suspicion that the “man in a suit and hat” she saw “sitting in front of a duplex” who “looked unmistakably like Leonard Cohen” was indeed the Canadian singer-songwriter was confirmed when the cover art on the Old Ideas album portrayed “that chair, that lawn, those stairs.”  She, in fact, took a photo of the lawn that she published on her site and which is seen on the left side of the composite graphic atop this post.

The Dilemma Of The Devoted

All the above, however, is only exposition, setting the stage on which a dramedy, featuring themes, motifs, plots, tropes, props, and stock characters already familiar to many Cohen fans, plays.

Two incidents described in the post can be converted easily enough into scenes:

  1. I went around the block and passed by again.  Leonard looked over at me, and my Prius and I slunk off in embarrassment.
  2. I stopped and, as discreetly and quickly as possible, took the photo [of the lawn]

Yep, I recognize this story. Heck, I’ve been in this story. In my case, the production was a one-night only affair set in the backstage area of the Chicago Rosemont Theater in which my character provided comic relief.2

I’d Love to Speak with Leonard is a character-driven narrative that ends with a psychological cliff-hanger:

I still take that shortcut each morning, imagining what I might do should I see Leonard sitting out there in the morning sun again.  Would I roll my window down and simply blow him a kiss while gliding by?  Dare I stop and approach that sportsman and shepherd living in a suit?   Would the “lazy bastard” offer to show me his place and make me a cup of tea?

 Cohenite Resonance

Sharon Moore’s adventures in ambivalence caught my attention because her emotional equivocation and internal debate are of a sort well known to many of us who count ourselves Leonard Cohen adherents. One could, in fact, classify Cohenites by their behavioral response to finding themselves in Ms Moore’s position.

I can confidently attest that there are, for example, Leonard Cohen fans who would unhesitatingly and unabashedly knock on the door of that duplex in hopes of finding the Poet of Rock and Roll at home, others who would find that approach unbecomingly aggressive but would have no problem with stationing themselves nearby for as long as it took to bump into Cohen when he appeared in view, another group who would not linger in front of his home but would enhance their chances of a meeting by continuing to stroll by his house as long as they had a non-Cohen rationale for taking this route, some who would not by any means intrude on Leonard Cohen but would do whatever might prove necessary to wrangle an invitation to meet him,3 and still others who would deny fulfilling their own desires to share a moment with this icon rather than violate his privacy.4

While similar versions of this approach-avoidance conflict no doubt exist for enthusiasts who follow other celebrities, the knowledgeable Cohen fan encounters a particularly poignant and treacherous psychological battlefield.  On one hand, it is clear that, at least since the onset of the World Tour in 2008, Leonard Cohen’s need for privacy has been made paramount and has been assiduously protected (to the point that an impressive number of political leaders, entertainment stars, and former acquaintances have found themselves barred from backstage visits). On the other hand, Leonard Cohen has continued to exhibit the graciousness for which he has become known, regardless  the recipient of that graciousness is an invited guest, someone whom Cohen meets in a genuinely random manner, a waitress at a cafe where he has a meal,  an unexpected visitor, or even an individual eager to garner a few of his autographs to sell on eBay.

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, when the gods wish to punish us they answer our prayers with potential access to Leonard Cohen.

As the novelists say, no conflict = no story, which is good for novelists but rough on Leonard Cohen fans.


Oh, and by the way, Sharon, blogging about Leonard Cohen – or even maintaining an entire site dedicated to him – does sometimes work, but it’s a long shot.

  1. Friends of hers who once lived nearby had told her that Leonard Cohen resided on that street. []
  2. Although I played my role in what was already a slapstick farce a tad too broadly, I did get a decent review: What Leonard Cohen Told Me Backstage In Chicago. []
  3. Including proffering cash, merchandise, or services for that invitation, hitting up an uncle’s best friend’s daughter who once met Lorca Cohen to help gain admission to the family home, requesting Cohen’s support for one’s music, poetry, novel, painting, …, and, in  the case of the truly desperate, soliciting the assistance of some guy in Durham, NC who writes posts about Leonard Cohen’s Famous Blue Sharpie (my advice is not to waste your time with this last method) []
  4. This final group is not a theoretical construct. There are fans who have found themselves in the proximity of Leonard Cohen who, despite this opportunity and their longing to meet him, have chosen not to interact with him in any way. []

2 responses to “The Agony And The Ambivalence Of The Leonard Cohen Admirer

  1. Marie O'Brien

    Thanks for posting this Dr. H. It really is funny and how lucky is Sharon.

    I think I would borrow/buy a dog and take frequent walks down this street. :-)

  2. Yeah, I too totally get this story. When I had the honor of meeting Leonard [by happenstance], I spoke like a bumbling fool because I couldn’t believe what was actually happening! And even then, he was so calm and respectful toward me.

    Thus, I wouldn’t hesitate to approach him again if I had the chance. Leonard’s kindness just oozes from his being. And Sharon, I’d bet you’d also get dessert with that cup of tea!