There is a light breeze in an almost cloudless sky. It is not as hot as yesterday, but it is still warm. Today is election day.
I started the morning in physical therapy for my back, which has two herniated discs. The same two discs I had operated on 10 years ago. Luckily they are not out beyond the point of no return, but far enough to be sitting on and pushing on and damaging my S1 nerve. This is the nerve that runs from the back, through the butt and down the length of the leg. So basically, my right leg is useless. My foot and shin are numb… my calf and hamstring feel like they are locked in place, making walking a most slow and painful torture. Every once in a while, the pain is so bad I have to stop. The best way to describe it, is if you have ever had a waking cramp in the middle of the night, where your leg freezes and just locks in the most unbearable, painful stiffness. Imagine that and then add in a hot knife being thrust into your calf and hamstring… burning and pulsing… Yeah, like that.
I had an epidural last week, which left me with a huge bruise on my arm from the botched IV, and about a 50% reduction in pain. But there is still a long way to go.
Do I feel sorry for myself? Yes, a bit. Depressed and sad? Hell yes. Are there people suffering far worse things than I? Heller, yes. (Not Joseph Heller… just my made-up form of hell-more… Never mind…)
I should have stayed home last night. But I had never seen Leonard Cohen live and I needed to be there. Yes, NEEDED! I received tickets from my favorite radio station, The Sound 100.3, whose generosity towards me is unmatched. Thanks, Chris S.!!! The long, slow walk from the parking lot to the Nokia at L.A. Live was brutal, filled with muscle spasms and shooting pain. But I knew that something magical was waiting. The tickets said that the show started PROMPTLY at 8 p.m. Clearly the LA crowd, who are late every night regardless, did not buy it. I assumed it was true because Leonard Cohen is 78. I figured he wanted to start on time so that he could end early.
Yeah… He wanted to start on time so he could play for 3 hours!!! The show started at 8 on the dot… There was a 30-35 minute intermission… and it ended at 11:35 pm!!!
I wish I had a picture of him at the end of the night, holding up the giant clock he had on the floor. It was hysterical. He lifted it up for all to see, as he told us he was pushing the curfew as far as he could!
He felt so bad that people were coming in late, that he actually stopped the show, had them turn on the house lights so folks could find their seats, and then did the last chorus of his second song, “The Future” again! Even more astounding… towards the end of his second set, he actually redid the entire opening song “Dance Me To The End Of Love” for the folks who missed it. Amazing!
To say it was a religious experience might not fully capture what the evening was. It was a spiritual experience, moving and uplifting and powerful. Let me reiterate… the man is 78 years old and played for THREE HOURS! There is another gentleman I know who does something similar, and thus one reason for comparison… Well, one of many.
If you are a regular reader or friend, you know how going to see a Bruce Springsteen show is a religious experience for me. How moving and thrilling and essential his shows are. You leave feeling like you can conquer the world. It is like going into a tent, filled with Rock n’ Roll and Gospel and the most energetic and magnificent Preacher leading the sermon. It is not a circus tent. It is far more focused, far more sacred, far more potent.
Seeing Leonard Cohen was all of that… Just as powerful, but in a far more meditative way. If going to see Bruce is like going to the best Church in the world, seeing Leonard is like going to the greatest Temple, a mix of Jewish and Buddhist philosophies and ideas. Whereas Bruce moves your body and drives you to your feet, Leonard moves your mind and pushes you to look and feel deeply in your soul.
The crowd last night was so diverse and respectful and just a joy to be a part of… Old and young… black and white… male and female… I have never seen a mix like it… a true musical rainbow. A couple in front of me turned around in equally stunned and appreciative agreement when I said I could not believe how long he was playing for… and when I likened him to the “other” Boss. Another behind me laughed as I said I needed to find out what vitamins he was taking. Mind boggling!
In retrospect, it makes perfect sense that the first time I heard Leonard Cohen was as I walked into the house of Rabbi Steven Leder… and that my current Rabbis, Paul Kipnes and Julia Weisz and Cantor Doug Kotner and our amazing Congregation Or Ami use Leonard’s “Who By Fire” in the holiest service of the year. How powerful is that??? Hearing it in shul and then hearing it live, sung by the master himself was… breath-taking and moving and made me so proud.
The song I needed most, however, was one based on the Hebrew prayer for healing, “Mi Shebeirach”… at least I think it’s based on that… For some reason none of the video links are working for this one… but seek it out on the web. You do not have to be Jewish to appreciate it and be utterly and truly moved by it, and hopefully, healed by it. Religion is at its best when it shares its pure and well-intentioned messages. When it opens its doors to all. This is one of those examples… for Jews believe it is our duty and responsibility to heal the world.
Hearing this last night had me so focused… so meditative… and before I knew it, I was leaning forward in my seat with tears running down my cheeks.
So you see, I have found another artist whose live show moves me way beyond the music. When I need to be lifted out of my seat and feel the pure, raw, immediate power of music pulse through me, I will enter the holy tent of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Praise Rock n Roll! And when I need to sit, yet still be moved, and have words and music wash over me like a musical baptism… I will enter the tent of Leonard Cohen. Thank the heavens for both. “Hallelujah”!