My Introduction to Leonard Cohen by Michael Berton

I’m twenty-two, working poverty’s wage, intellectually curious, full of Tex/Mex chicanery, while branching out in the D/FW metroplex Bible Belt watching slam dancers protest with their bodies at the 1984 Republican Convention. I sleep on couches or a bouncy air mattress supplied by the Red Cross. This is after the unforgettable fire burning off those youthful transgressions and immature ejaculations. Hangouts like Skippy’s Mistake, a hippie beer garden for ping-pong and outdoor volleyball in the sand and the Dry Gulch for uncensored sessions with associate professors and the Freedom From Religion crowd spiraling in with undergrads, raconteurs and poets working on their personas talk it up over happy hour pitchers. A creative arc that propels me into Deep Ellum to read my poetry at Café 500 and my coming out with the word. 

On a cassette playing without drag or hiss is where I first heard “Famous Blue Raincoat.” A most singular symbiotic moment. Not quite four in the morning nor the end of December as the spooling wound out on us undergrads talking up late night existentialism, posturing the gaze with red Lambrusco and French Gitanes. Among them were two Grecian women, one my common law wife and student from a misguided involvement in an arranged marriage where I was poorly compensated (she was more of the Apollonian type) and the other her older sister, who was more Dionysian in her morals, evidenced by her work-study job loaning out library books without a due date. They formed a trio with a Cypriot friend who led the chatter on the bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon and how the U.S. deserved this surprise attack. My critical thinking faculties became wired with this puncture on U.S. hegemony. Where the globe of my mind began to spin mantras like ningún tortura es cultura (no torture is culture).

There was no Suzanne, Jane or an esoteric gypsy to put me up on a pedestal and fire up my imagination. A foreboding in my loins shaped my future recklessness in lust where young, flirtatious women held sway over me against those newly formed acquaintances from the local gay bar scene where cheap drinks and food attracted many of us college students on a low-brow budget. An attempt at easy cash while dancing foreplay with women’s purses to check forgery smooth undercover cops court gave me violations while my apartment was being used for card games into the off hours with a couple of yokels who may have been funky on crime sprees around the university. For an unofficial probation I labored away at the D/FW airport screening for weapons and other traveling snafus.     

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