Author Archive | Mark A. Rayner

He’s My Man: Leonard Cohen

leonard cohen (black and white photo)

I’m sure most people are still trying to understand Trump’s win, but seriously, they’re missing the meaning of Cohen’s loss.

He made the personal epic, but in the right way.

Leonard Cohen will be lauded as a songwriter, and a poet, but for me, he was always a consummate storyteller. The kind of storyteller I will always try to emulate. I’m feeling the same kind of grief I did when Kurt Vonnegut died. One of my narrative lodestones is gone. They’re not showing me the way anymore. I’ll have to take their examples, and do it on my own.

But what examples!

Not too long ago, I spent an evening listening to “Alexandra Leaving”, a song that was part of his 2001 album, 10 New Songs.

Over and over and over and over. (There may have been some wine involved.)

It is just an example of his genius. He took a poem written by the Greek poet, Constantine P. Cavafy, which Cavafy had based on just a few lines Plutarch had written about how Mark Anthony must have felt, the night before his death, and turned it into an insightful, beautiful, heart-rending evaluation of how relationships change, end, and how to face that inevitability. (Gotta say here, because of journalism, co-written by Sharon Robinson — ah, you’ve stopped reading at this point.) Anyway, I’d encourage you to read the source material: Plutarch, Cavafy and what Cohen does with it. He takes the idea, the kernel of despair that is a man who has lost an empire, and makes it personal.

Unlike Anthony, who gambled and lost on an empire, the story is now about a man who has lost his woman. Cohen takes an ordinary — but excruciating — thing, and makes it epic. Alexandra isn’t just leaving. She’s leaving with a God. And the song, like the poem, encourages the lover to take it all. To appreciate her love, right up to the point it is gone. To love her, even when it is over.

I dunno. That’s one song, it’s off the top of my head, and that’s what, two long paragraphs? Every time I pick up the guitar I end up playing at least one of his songs. I nearly cry every time I venture into “Famous Blue Raincoat” territory. It’s wholly inappropriate, but I still love the combined affection and megalomania of “Chelsea Hotel.”

Cohen foresaw many of the ills of our current era in two albums, I’m Your Man (1988) and The Future (1992). In fact, I’m sure that distant historians will look at the lyrics of “The Future” and say things like: “See, they weren’t all idiots. Some of them understood what was happening.”

But more than that, Cohen loved. It was the central idea in his poetry, his writing, his music. It was, for him, the one thing that made us redeemable as a species. And I agree with him, though the world seems bent on proving it otherwise.

Like Cohen, I’ll endure — as long as I can — and like him, I’ll find the cracks that let the light get in.

Lucidiva™ — Side effects

close up of big bird -- freakyCommon side effects include heavy breathing, panting, hyperventilation, lack of peripheral vision, excessive screaming, painful hearing and nasal discharge that may look like rice pudding. Sorry, but it happens.

You should probably enjoy flatulence if you want to take this drug, unless you live at an even-numbered address, in which case, expect projectile vomiting on an hourly basis. Married men can expect long periods of impotence, though we have not conclusively proved this is because of the drug.

Single men in the company of nuns should be ready for painful, humiliating bouts of extreme priapism. Women will want to have a razor handy. (For the excessive hair growth, not for dealing with priapism.)

If you’re thinking about taking this drug while driving, just stop right there. Also, most people taking this drug find themselves incapable of walking, crawling or singing the works of Cole Porter. Gershwin is ok.

Rare side effects include basket weaving, syncopated urination, frequent urination, explosive urination and occasionally, urination. We recommend you set up an IV of saline solution BEFORE you take your first dose.

Speaking of your first dose, when you begin taking Lucidiva™, you will experience a clarity of thought and eloquence of speech that makes President Obama look like his Donald Trump. We apologize to everyone trying to take an MBA, but clearly Lucidiva™ is not for you.

If your skin begins to strobe, consult your physician. If you fingernails burst into flame, put them out, but not with water. That will not work. Trust us on this. Use baking powder, or some kind of halon system. Just hold your breath. If you happen to inhale halon while taking Lucidiva™ we cannot be held responsible. Just make sure your will is up to date.

Very rarely, patients experience visions of aliens, talking monkeys and sometimes, angels. If the latter, it is acceptable to consult a priest.

Finally, if you see the bird, don’t try to talk to it. Don’t even look —

Alltop has heard the bird is the word.

Originally appeared on Grasping for the Wind on October 8, 2010.

Excruciating Album Cover Art — Mr. Bat Sings

Mr. Bat Sings

“Can’t sleep, clown will eat me.”
–Bart Simpson

I always used to think one of the silliest phobias was coulrophobia — the fear of clowns — until I saw this album cover.

This thing is terrifying. I mean, it just reeks of menace! Mr. Bat is wearing some kind of traditional Pagliacci-type of outfit, and though I do find the color scheme kind of foreboding, it’s not so bad. And he has your usual whiteface on, but instead of a nice happy red smile, he has a black frown painted over his mouth. And a tiny red soul patch underneath. (Or is that just a glob of human flesh?)

Then there are the glasses. I know Mr. Bat can’t help it if he’s short-sighted, but he might want to invest in some contacts for his clowning around. Wait a minute. . . wait . . . is that Dick Cheney?

That would explain why he’s holding up his left hand as though he was going to pummel us with his meaty Vice-Presidential fists of anguish. Maybe he’s called Mr. Bat because that’s what beats the children with. Then again, if Mr. Bat is Dick Cheney’s alter-ego, then he probably wasn’t ever holding a bat in that fist — it was probably a shotgun and they decided later to airbrush it out. (An easy enough feat, given the brooding black background — the pitch of evil that spawns malevolent Mr. Bat.)

“Hey kids, I’ve booked Mr. Bat to come and sing at your birthday party!”

“Aiiiiii!”

No, the kiddies wouldn’t scream and run. They’d be too paralyzed by their dread to run. And certainly not scream.

First a whimper, and then the awful wet sound of Mr. Bat “singing”.

#

cover for Clown Apocalypse

If this isn’t enough nightmare fuel, then I suggest you join my mailing list and get a free, exclusive copy of Clown Apocalypse and Other Calamities.



Alltop once ate a clown, and thought it tasted funny. Wikipedia entry on coulrophobia, and if that doesn’t help, here is a collection of evil clown pictures. Originally published, oh, eons ago, in 2007, well before the ClownScare of 2016.