Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Chelsea Hotel No.2, by Leonard Cohen

In my book, this is one of the most beautiful songs ever written. The first time I was in NYC I went to the Chelsea Hotel, drunk with the city's sad beauty, and touched its walls. Some passerbys looked fixedly at me, making me feel all self-conscious about what I was doing. There I was, 21 years old, trying to hold an old building in New York.

It was about 7 years later, though, that I would understand what this song means to me. This was the saddest, most honest love letter ever written, ever composed, ever sung. His was the voice of memory and heartbreak, of lost days and cherished dreams. A song about an unlikely encounter between a man and a woman. A song of true love: Leonard Cohen makes us feel, in flesh and blood, what herr doktor expressed as one of his most important intellectual inheritances to the world: we are never so defenseless and prone to suffering than when we love.

But true love is not its signifier (herr doktor's brightest student knew this too): love was not verbalized. Never once heard you say. Neither this nor the opposite. Never once heard you say, he sung, with the presence of a memory, the ghost of an absence, darkening his voice.

"I remember you well", the writer, the singer, the lover, begins. And what follows is the testimony of a miracle. I can't think of a better way to describe it: an honest, wounding way to bear witness of the possible-impossible; the giving-away of two bodies, two names, two souls, a man and a woman, each her own legend, leaving fingerprints of history... of the history of human love and desire and their (im)possibility.

Listening to this song works like the trigger of a loaded shotgun. One cannot simply forget. You cannot simply go on living, como si nada. I listen to it and I remember you well. We were ugly, but we had the music.

But you got away, didn't you babe?

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