It wasn’t my first summer job, but it was the first to give me independence. With some spare cash in my pocket, not needed for rent, bills or food, I made my way down Grafton street, heading to lesser known parts of Dublin to buy myself a cassette player. Until now, my access to music had been parentally determined. I grew up with Nat King Cole, Shirley Bassey, Johnny Cash, Demis Roussos, Tchaikovsky and Top of the Pops. An eclectic diet for a wannabe singer/songwriter. Ok, I couldn’t sing, but there was one guy who fell in love with my songs, so much so, he came a calling with a dozen roses in hand, only later to write a plaintive letter to “La Belle Dame sans Merci” after learning I wasn’t really interested. Teenage angst in minor chords at a dying party triggered a broken heart I didn’t intend. Sorry.
I was in search of poetry. I returned to my live in job armed with cassette player and an album, by Leonard Cohen. I was so in love that everyone else had to hear him too, and as silence was the operative word in the care home that gave me a modest income, I took my new acquisitions off to Stephen’s Green.
There was a little known place hidden from the paths and lawns in the centre of the Green. It was a place you could sit and listen to music without being disturbed. But I met some interesting people there. On various occasions I was offered a delectable palate of colourful weeds and pills, herbal teas and friendship. La Belle Dame sans Merci found a new heart in a Cohen-loving punk rocker. We found privacy behind the rhododendrons, and I learned the difference between punks and hippies. I decided then I didn’t want to be put in a box with a label, so I left the rhododendrons to enter my “be different” period, where I hung out with a “be different” group of art students and industrial designers who didn’t make art college. The Outcast, whose ear was attached to his nose with a chain, traded a haircut for my newly discovered soldering skills, and my hippie locks became asymmetric and colourful. He also confessed to a broken heart. Sorry.
I never learned what happened to the punk.
Despite later loves and losses guiding the course of my musical education, Cohen stayed with me. I learned his words off by heart. Someone would always sing one of their songs at parties, and I’d join in the chorus. It was never in a key I could cope with. But then again, a guitarist once complained when I tried to sing a song in E flat minor, so I guess there isn’t any key my voice could cope with. I’ve managed to make his songs difficult to listen to. Sorry.
In memory of Leonard Cohen, a formative influence in my youth.
Highlight of the concert when I finally got to see him
Featured Image: By Michal Osmenda from Brussels, Belgium (Green in St. Stephen’s Green) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons