I had the pleasure of living in Montreal for one year, way back in 1996. Ok, well, to be honest, my husband and I couldn't endure the bitter cold days of a Montreal winter, so we REALLY only lasted 10 months.
Whenever I think back to those days, I am filled with a mixture of loneliness, but also a longing to live there again. I enjoyed the French influence, and the Bohemian feel of the city. I felt like I was living in Europe - I would shop at the markets every day (positively Euro,indeed), and I got to know some of the shop keepers. I was a regular at a Middle Eastern market, and the owner, this sweet old man with a cute wrinkled face, had these brilliant baby blue eyes that used to light up at the sight of me! "Ah!" He would sigh, and smile. "So beautiful, you are. So beautiful!" Ok, I am a sucker for ANY man who adores me, but, he really used to make my day. He was forever telling me that he had a delivery service, and could he please deliver my groceries? Please? Ah,no. Sorry. You can idolize me in your store, but it stops THERE!
I used to spend hours perusing through old books, cds and albums at the many used book shops on St. Catherine Street, near our house. I made a good friend in one owner. We both agreed that all we really needed in life were cds and books (oh, and a few loved ones), but, as far as material needs...little else mattered. He was sad to see me go, and I still remember saying goodbye to him. My best find in his store was an original book of poetry by Leondard Cohen's favorite poet,Garcia Lorca. I still read it, in both Spanish and English. It was a truly special find. I especially love:
Green, how much I want you green.
Green wind. Green branches.
The ship upon the sea
and the horse in the mountain.
With the shadow of her waist
she dreams on her balcony,
green flesh, hair of green,
and eyes of cold silver.
Green, how much I want you green.
Beneath the gypsy moon,
all things look at her
but she cannot see them.
I dubbed 1996 in Montreal my "Leonard Cohen Year." My husband and I were exposed to hours on end of Cohen's music for a year in Dallas, where we lived prior to moving to the great northern tundra.
I was enraptured by Cohen's music. Some find him depressing, but I find his music mesmerizing.
Leonard was born in Montreal in 1934. I know this, because I picked up a wonderful Cohen biography shortly after moving to this fair city. I actually lived on the edge of Westmount, the upper class ritzy neighborhood where Mr. Cohen grew up.
Since I could not work in Montreal, I volunteered for two organizations. One was called Compeer Montreal, where I befriended an older woman who suffered from bi-polar depression. The other organization was Meals on Wheels, where I would prep food for meals for shut-in elderly people once a week. The synagogue where I volunteered once a week (in Westmount) was actually built by Leonard Cohen's grandfather. I used to walk by the large park which he described in detail in his book, The Favorite Game. In the book, he mentioned that he lived next to the park, so I was always curious about exactly which house was his.
One day, a driver for Meals on Wheels popped into the kitchen and asked if someone could please help her deliver meals, as her partner was sick. So, I volunteered, and a woman named Margo took me up the mountain to Outremont, and as we were driving, she popped Leonard Cohen's Greatest Hits cassette into the car's player!
"I LOVE LEONARD COHEN!!" I gushed. "Oh, you do, do you?" was her response. "Well, I will have you know that I used to go out with his best friend, Morty Rosengarten (who was portrayed in Cohen's The Favorite Game, as his best friend)". I must have squealed. "WHOA! That is just too cool." So, of course, I pumped her for every single "Leonard" story she could share, not that she seemed to mind. The bottom line, Leonard Cohen can be summed up into one word: "beautiful." Yes, I can still hear Margo saying that he truly is "a beautiful man." Margo's best friend ran Leonard's Buddhist Center in Montreal, and whenever Margo saw him, he always had some "pretty, young thing" on his arm! It's refreshing to know that he really is a ladies' man!
The volunteers at Meals On Wheels all had their Leonard Cohen stories, too. "Oh, Lenny???? My cousin used to go out with him in high school! Such a sweet man, he was." I heard nothing but positive things about "Lenny!"
So, that was fun....saturating myself in Leonardness....
The year we spent there, I listened to nothing but Tori Amos and Leonard Cohen. I was on a HUGE Tori kick.
Being in such an art-infused city, I started to write a bit, and wrote a song, which was a "calling" of sorts. I was really intrigued by Cohen's comments on one of his better known compositions, "Suzanne." He said that he wrote that about a friend's wife- she was very eccentric, but lots of fun. She was not, a lover, however.
Several years later, he DID meet the love of his life, the mother of his two children, and HER name was ALSO, Suzanne. So, he described the song he wrote as a "calling" for his soulmate.
My husband and I had been trying to have a child, but, thanks to our partying lifestyle, it was no surprise that we were not having any luck in that department.
When we moved to Montreal, I started to take better care of myself and I worked out at the YMCA and walked for MILES and MILES every day in this beautiful city, a city meant for walking.
Whilst walking one day, a song came to me. A calling...I had a gut feeling that I would one day have a girl, and she would be quite musical.
I STILL haven't finished the song (I do have a melody)...so, I guess it's a work in progress.
(no title, yet!)
Hey little one with the angels in your eyes (heaven is in your eyes)
Hey little one, well, how 'bout a nice surprise?
'cuz I've been living here on this lonely earthly plane
and I've been missing Nirvana- have you seen Kurt Cobain?
(it needs another verse here)
So come on in
The water's fine
Come on in
The water's mine
You can bring your Gibson, and your Fender in to play
"Let me entertain you," she said
"Just show me the way.
Show me the way."
Well, I have to say that my "gut" was pretty much spot on target.
On March 8, 1998, I gave birth to a gorgeous baby, a little rocker we named Anjoli Simone Guha.