Happily, I managed to see Leonard Cohen twice (at the beginning, and near the end) of his last extended tour. Once was in the intimate venue of a few hundred folk in a small theatre. The other was in a civic stadium holding thousands. He was exquisite in both.
In my novel, Fame’s Victim, my famous protagonist, ST (famous for his discoveries of Space/Time) and Leonard Cohen, dine out in Montréal after attending the funeral of yet someone else famous, Pierre Elliott Trudeau.
The following is part of their day.
From Fame’s Victim:
At the table ST begins to pull out a chair which will put his back to the street, but Cohen clicks his tongue and moves the chair until it is nearly beside the other.
“We’ll sit together. We’ll twin their delight.”
“If they approach . . . “
Cohen winks. “You won’t have to sing a note.”
ST settles beside the poet and gives himself up to the street scene. Regardless of the chill in the air most of this early afternoon crowd have made little concession to the time of year. The women especially seem as fashionably and attractively attired as any he has seen in any public place.
“The ladies are alluring.” ST smiles.
“Antidote to the black of funeral garb.”
ST notes the usual ‘double take’ of those pedestrians who happen to look their way. Barely is eye contact made however before it is quickly removed. Couples immediately chat together, but there is not one finger pointed in their direction.
“What would you like to drink?”
ST looks away from the street and smiles as an unexpected thought takes him.
“Champagne. Will they have something decent here?”
“They will offer a selection.”
With a half-raised arm and the gesture of a finger, the waitress is summoned. Upon hearing the request she lists a half dozen champagnes. ST chooses one he knows will be as crisp as the day.
“Dear God – yes.” ST smiles at the waitress then glances at the other man. “Any suggestions?”
“They stuff a chicken breast here with portebello mushrooms, feta and wild rice.” He touches his lips. “With a Greek salad it is a meal to embrace.”
“That sounds fine.” ST looks back to the waitress. “But bring the champagne now.”
“Are we to toast?” Cohen watches the waitress walk away as he speaks. “Or are we to mourn?”
“I less and less mourn the dead.” ST also watches the waitress leave. “They are lost to us but they are not lost to time.”
“Then we acknowledge?”
“Yes.” ST turns to the street. “The only time I met the Prime Minister – mere months ago – he desired we have champagne. It is a memory to share.”
“Memory – the ghost at every table.”
The noontime crowd has run its course and, just as with the café clientele, the number of people on the street become fewer. However word-of-mouth has spread and everyone makes a pass of the café. Other than being the object of glances and smiles, the two men are not interrupted. Pedestrian traffic does slow however when the bottle of champagne arrives.
“They want a show.” Cohen runs a finger over the cold bottle.
“There’s a proper way.” The waitress is winding a white napkin around the bottle.
“In tandem, don’t you think?” The poet glances at ST.
“That will make the news of the world.” ST indicates the number of cameras and video recorders among the crowd.
“It should be the news of the world.”
The waitress is not certain of his intent, but when Cohen stands beside her with a generous smile she hands him the bottle. He lets the napkin fall to the table and holds the champagne – label out – toward the street. ST gets to his feet amid the click-click-click of cameras and begins to remove the wire basket.
“You can not share my déjà vu but, trust me, Time is doubling over with laughter.”
ST begins to twist the cork, his other hand around the bottle’s neck even though Cohen holds the base. When he feels the cork start to give, he puts both thumbs against it and shoves. As it explodes into the Montreal sky the waitress holds the two glasses and, amid the welling applause from the street, ST pours the champagne.
“We begin to set the clocks at normal.” The poet takes both glasses and the flustered waitress flees.
“By drinking champagne at noon?” ST reaches for the offered glass.
“By showing we no longer need to mourn.” Cohen’s smile contains wry triumph. “Time is pulling out of the station and now we need to jump on board.”
“With a sip of champagne?” ST brings his glass to his lips.
Cohen gives a slight bow to the street. “The most effective slight-of-hand is the trick that’s seen by all.”
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