Discover more from untidy thoughts
currently spinning: songs of leonard cohen.
the soundtracks to our personal ghost stories.
All I need are those first strums.
The A to the B minor of ‘So Long, Marianne’ to make me feel twenty-one years old again, standing in my first apartment not yet filled with my life and in a new city not yet haunted with ghosts.
My ghosts, anyway.
We move. We move again. And probably a few more times after.
But it was my move into my very first apartment in Los Angeles that I remember like it wasn’t over twenty years ago. Wearing my lime green plastic mesh slip-ons (the ones with the beaded flowers), my eyes scanned the sun-soaked hardwood floors. They then moved over to the few pieces of furniture I was proud to have already collected. A dresser found at Out of the Closet charity thrift store on Sunset. A new bed with box spring I splurged for in the Valley. I wondered who would sit on it. Who would sleep in it with me. On the padded card table in the kitchen, I imagined the many scrambled egg dinners. I counted days until my next rent check was due. And I crossed my fingers that I’d make enough money to own the place for another thirty days.
In the corner of all of this crowded thinking was a cardboard Evian box and on the top was Songs of Leonard Cohen.
I bought it (along with Blonde on Blonde and Make Way for Dionne Warwick) as a housewarming gift to myself. I didn’t know much about the songwriter at the time except that Kurt Cobain wanted to live in his afterworld and that it felt like a natural progression from my Joni Mitchell appreciation, not at all knowing the record would be the soundtrack to my ghost stories.
Beautiful yet forlorn in its simplicity, it’s an album about relationships. The ones that had run their course, the ones that could have been, and the ones to laugh and cry and laugh about it all again. It felt sophisticated to my limited frame of reference since I was just establishing my own relationships.
But it played. And played.
It played during fleeting yet fun friendships with all the emptied bottles of two-buck Chuck and polaroid pictures. Hangovers that were gone by noon with my cat Charlie nestled between my ankles. It played on when I cried over the silly guy who pretended to be allergic to my cat so he wouldn’t have to stay over. It played when the guy who really was allergic to my cat stayed over, Kleenex and all. It played when I wished it were raining. When I got ready for my 6am pancake shift at the diner. It was there during quiet moments and meals alone. Reading, writing and wondering what it all meant.
Everything and nothing.
Now when I listen to it, I’m protective over these memories and look back hoping the long, lost friends are doing well wherever they are. I smile at the old jokes. I remember the bad first dates. The romantic relationships that are now friendships. The short stories I didn’t believe in. The bangs that wouldn’t behave. The pets no longer with us. The shops that no longer exist. The restaurants that have shut down. Bands that have since broken up. The cost of gas. The cost of smokes. 99 Cent Store skin care. Burnt-out clutches. Low-rise jeans. Friendster. Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. The 101 Freeway.
This was the album that I became an adult with, which sort of happened without me looking.
Now I write from an old house in France with chipped painted red shutters that I close every night. I’ve traded the Hollywood sun for cloudy days. Palm trees for thick Evergreens. My cheap wine for herbal tea. But the record lives on with Songs of Leonard Cohen crackling on in this drafty old house where it’s traveled with me wherever I go.
Along with the cardboard Evian box.
Now, your turn.
Which album did you become an adult to? (Extra points and gold stars for embarrassing answers.)
As always, thanks for reading.
See you soon,
In the next newsletter, I talk about giving birth to books which you can find here.
In loving memory of Charlie Xavier.