[To read excerpts of Home Free: Adventures of a Child of the Sixties, see posts numbered 1 through 7, archived below, starting November, 2015. Home Free will be published on May 16th.]
The New York Times Magazine had a short piece about Leonard Cohen this week, with a wonderful black-and-white picture of him.
It reminded me (as of course, I’d remembered when I heard about his recent death) of the time I met Leonard Cohen. It must’ve been 1968 or so, at a party at Judy Collins’s apartment on West 79th St. I was there because my boyfriend at the time, Jim Friedman, was a friend of Judy’s. (She’d recorded a couple of Jim’s songs.) I was only twenty-two, and a bit overawed by Judy’s celebrity, though she was always warm and welcoming to me.
There were perhaps thirty-five people at this party and (if memory serves) Judy had herself cooked the Beef Stroganoff. I was thrilled to be among the musicians and music industry bigwigs, though, as always, I tried to act cool. I may have smoked some grass, which helped me maintain a slightly detached point view as I observed the scene with pleasure.
Jim was off talking with others when I filled my plate at the buffet table and started eating, leaning against a sideboard on the other side of the dining room. Thomas Hoving, the handsome Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was standing near the kitchen, as I recall, wearing a radiant smile and a three-piece suit. The beef was rich and creamy, just the right amount of tang from the sour cream, complemented by buttery noodles. Leonard Cohen was standing next to me, enjoying his own food. I don’t think he was a performer yet, but I knew who he was from his song Suzanne, which was on Judy’s album In My Life, and his novel Beautiful Losers, which had captivated me the year before.
We stood close in the crowded room, neither of us speaking a word as conversation buzzed around us. Companionably, we ate our Stroganoff, side by side, for perhaps seven or eight minutes. I distinctly felt that we were sharing this quiet space together. I don’t remember which of us finished first and walked away.
I’m quite fond of this memory.
One of my epigraphs in Home Free is from Beautiful Losers: “God is alive, Magic is afoot. “
Rest in peace, Leonard Cohen.