Thursday, July 16, 2009

Leonard Cohen visits a friend in Verdun

This is a story told by Montreal poet Leonard Cohen sometime in the early 1960s. I heard it while listening to the NFB documentary on Leonard Cohen called Ladies and Gentlemen... Mr. Leonard Cohen.

I realize that posting this story may bend the original focus of this storyblog (I was supposed to be posting stories told by me, myself, and I), but I do think it stays in line with its spirit: celebrating good stories in all their forms.

If you want to hear the story, I may post it later at the end of this post. Enjoy!

The other time I was in quarters such as these was when I visited the Verdun Mental Hospital in Montreal. I was visiting a friend. He was on a top floor and I asked him, while he was still lucid, where I could get a coffee. He said downstairs, which was one of those famous last words.

I commenced the decent of several similar stone corridors and I found myself in a kind of arena, which was surrounded by closed doors. It had been a hot afternoon and I removed my jacket as I have been moved to do. I left it with my friend who, though mentally ill, was no thief. I suspect he wasn't even mentally ill: he was doing this instead of college.

I stood watching the four or five doors, wondering about all the possibilities except for the one that occurred.

A door opened and two large men in white uniforms walked out. And they said "Where are you supposed to be now?"

I said, "In the cafeteria."

They nodded to each other. "WHERE are you supposed to be now?"


Well, as their questions continued, my answers continued. And although they started out innocently enough, now began to sound as though I were protesting too much. In fact, after being interrogated three or four more times, I was shouting and pushing them aside, causing them to run after me down the corridor.

It was only after a guard identified me that I was able to go back to the room of my friend, who had eaten my jacket.

-- Leonard Cohen
Ladies and Gentlemen... Mr. Leonard Cohen
National Film Board


Copyright© 2010 John David Hickey