Archive for leonard cohen

November, 1969. Songs From a Room

Posted in Art, music, writing with tags , , , , on July 13, 2008 by darcyarts

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When they poured across the border
I was cautioned to surrender,
this I could not do;
I took my gun and vanished.
I have changed my name so often,
I’ve lost my wife and children
but I have many friends,
and some of them are with me.

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Alone in the farm house the words rang like finely tuned wooden bells. Simple, honest, heavy, and the story teller’s voice laced with gravitas seemed to say “Here is some history for you.”

His tone, understated, implied that I could take it or leave it. The pictures filled my head. 

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An old woman gave us shelter,
kept us hidden in the garret,
then the soldiers came;
she died without a whisper.

There were three of us this morning
I’m the only one this evening
but I must go on;
the frontiers are my prison.

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This person is engaged in a struggle. It was clear and the words were so simple. I was taken far off to the place where they huddled in a foggy patch of grass. This was an earnest gift wrapped with a sorrowful ribbon.

The story teller continued:
Oh, the wind, the wind is blowing,
through the graves the wind is blowing,
freedom soon will come;
then we’ll come from the shadows.

Then the mournful French song began:
Les Allemands e’taient chez moi, (The Germans were at my home)
ils me dirent, “Signe toi,” (They said, “Sign yourself,”)
mais je n’ai pas peur; (But I am not afraid)
j’ai repris mon arme. (I have retaken my weapon.)

J’ai change’ cent fois de nom, (I have changed names a hundred times)
j’ai perdu femme et enfants (I have lost wife and children)
mais j’ai tant d’amis; (But I have so many friends)
j’ai la France entie`re. (I have all of France)

Un vieil homme dans un grenier (An old man, in an attic)
pour la nuit nous a cache’, (Hid us for the night)
les Allemands l’ont pris; (The Germans captured him)
il est mort sans surprise. (He died without surprise.)

Oh, the wind, the wind is blowing,
through the graves the wind is blowing,
freedom soon will come;
then we’ll come from the shadows.

Leonard Cohen, “The Partisan” from Songs From a Room

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A page on Resistance Fighters.

If you haven’t yet seen Pan’s Labyrinth.

 

More autobiography tommorrow.

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Getting to Words and Art

Posted in Art, dreams, music, nature, socialization, television with tags , , , , , , , , on July 10, 2008 by darcyarts

It’s 1969. I’m 16 and living on a commune.

One minute history lesson: A collective dream was shared for a very short period in the mid 60s. Then people decided to live what they thought might be a more creative and authentic existence. When political turmoil led to the murder of leaders who called for change and justice, the shock caused some to try to simplify life and get back to the country.

Nostalgia for the mud, Tom Wolfe called it in “Electric Koolaid Acid Test.”

If you have not read his poetic masterpiece of creative nonfiction, get thee to a bookstore!

There must have been hundreds of “farms” all over the country.

On “The Farm” down in the clean-dirt desert we lived very simply. Young men and women gatherd to throw off the rules with which their parents had saddled them. They adopted new, old ways — pooled resources, free love, herbal remedies, gardening, goat’s milk, fresh eggs, home-baked bread and the peppermint cleanse of Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap.

The commune dwellers on “The Farm” where I lived were bright and energetic. They possessed an adventurous, questioning spirit. They were all older than I and they had been to college.

Kathy from Ohio had grandparents who retired to the California desert so it was she who found this particular farm. She and her east coast college friends came west and tried to create an unfettered, free and loving environment.

Back in Orange County, I spent a childhood filling my head with romantic, glamourized visions received from Hollywood films of the 30s and 40s. 

Leaving behind the television and replacing that cultural input with other people and their cool records was very good experience.

I’d been a gifted child but my befuddled grandparents did not know what to make of it.  In our house we had cheap mass-market astrology texts and endless piles of movie magazines. The bookmobile came by each week. I borrowed books written in the 30’s by Helen Dore Boylston, a series about a woman who becomes a nurse.

In those formative years I learned everything from the media — TV, movies and radio– and from the lyrics of songwriters. I guess that explains a few things doesn’ t it?

I was a natural autodidact. I soaked up everything around me and went looking for more, more, more. What I learned in my one year of high school was that smart, creative nonconformists are ostrasized. It is a rude adolescent melting pot, not a place for the sensitive.

I left traditional school behind for the desert, travel and stimulating conversations with interesting people like these:

The young man beside the red van was called, Ed, Red Van.

On the Farm we had descriptive nicknames for people. This prevented confusion and helped everyone easily pinpoint someone being discussed. 

He was a Virgo and had the group’s most commendable work ethic. He organized the men into a work-for-trade unit and took them out into the community to mend fences, build and repair things. He organized the selling or trading of our homemade bread to “straight” people in the community. It was good PR.

There were always lots of visitors or new people joining the group. The descriptive nicknames came in handy and helped avoid conversations like this:

“Ed is going into town,”

“Who’s Ed?”

“Oh you know, that guy with the red van.”

“Oh, yeah.”

Flute John was from Massachusetts. He was an Aries. Young and still growing out of his adolescent clunkiness. He didn’t say much and didn’t stay with us long.

 

 

 

 

 

Jerry, in the red headband, actually lived in Aguanga, the nearest little town to Sage. He was identified by being linked with his sister Sue. 

SuenJerry, or Aguanga SuenJerry.

A very sweet and sensitive Cancerian soul, he was AWOL and hiding out.  He had been drafted and was determined to avoid being sent to Vietnam. He didn’t go to college.

 

 

Alice Marquez (the woman who resembled Paramahansa Yogananda) and Bill Lashbrook in the garden doing the American Gothic pose.

Alice, the Aquarius, was a uniter of all levels, types and classes of people. She was uber friendly, bright and accepting. So, she was just Alice and everyone knew her.

Bill was very shy and had the sweetest dog, a chocolate lab named Cocoa. He and the dog were the mellow squad.

Alice checked out everybody’s action and finally settled into a domestic partnership with Bill. They became, then, AliceandBill.

Alice called me masa harina. In Spanish it is corn flour, the dough that tortillas are made of and sounds like masarina when the vowels are run together.

Alice’s family owned a Mexican bakery in Santa Paula. I don’t know why she called me that but I assumed it was an affectionate nickname. It could have easily been a reference to my soft, bland, innocence. I would change.

Words were magic, charged with romance and a little mystery that enhanced our newbie self-identities.

At this point, I believe Leonard Cohen, was my English teacher.

On quiet days I would sit alone in the white farm house and listen to this record.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taj Mahal taught me about Americana and roots music when I listened to this sublime recording: