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Monday, 17 September 2012

Not OUR Leonard...?

Over the years, I had become adept at picking up Leonard's subtle signals. He would invite me over for tea and while we sat in near-silence, he would pull out a drawing to show me, or play me part of a new song.  His sense of humour, timing, and ceremony, made even fleeting gestures and remarks seem weighty and significant. He would tell a joke, or switch on the TV -- with hypnotic effect. The flow of time would appear to stop for a moment or two, long enough to slip into a semi-trance. These little tricks had once fascinated me, but now they were getting threadbare.

Behind the show lurked a strange agenda that seemed to involve mass murder in the name of religion.

I saw him less and less often, and almost always in private.These little audiences isolated me from his entourage, who at times behaved like a corps of palace bodyguards with orders to keep me away from the great man. Sometimes I picked up the impression that they had been told I was seriously unbalanced but when I asked him why this was, Leonard hinted that they all were just "jealous."


The spaghetti Bolognese dinner left a long aftertaste that lasted for days, weeks, months. It harkened back to the period, a decade earlier, when Leonard had been in the habit of hinting that we were getting married, whenever we were alone together. He never had actually stated it outright, leaving himself plenty of leverage for plausible deniability. "I hardly know that woman. I never asked her to marry me. She imagined we have some kind of relationship." Women were lined up around the block, ready to believe anything Leonard said.

I figured these games were part of the life of a pop star, an unstable occupation at best. And if Leonard had decided that the best management policy was to lie to everyone, in varying degrees, it was all the more reason to distance myself from him. However, I was still next door, occupying the cheapest apartment in the whole Plateau Mont Royal, with my own garden, and many other benefits. Why move away? I could just "separate, without separating" -- as the Roshi had suggested.

It had been one thing to recover from the realization that Leonard frequently lied to women, almost as if it was his mission in life to leave a trail of bodies in his romantic wake. So much the worse, I thought, for the ones who were stupid enough to fall for it and never got up again. But this latest "proposal" seemed reserved for hardy survivors like me, women who hung around the neighbourhood past their due date, pursuing badly-defined career objectives such as "writing" which I was what I was doing for a living. By writing fiction, I was unravelling the puzzle of my life, despite the fact that most of the essential pieces were missing. Leonard was aware of the chapter of my history that involved the Allan Memorial Institute and secret LSD experiments on children, but he chose to keep that knowledge to himself. As with so much else at the time,  secrecy denied us all access to information that could have freed many.

There was a way to cure the suffering , but it involved taking the red pill and telling the truth. Instead, Leonard preferred to play the role of a cultural Godfather to a generation of damaged children who were slowly growing into confused adults. His core beliefs, however, were very friendly to the powerful people who had done most of the damage. He feared and respected power above everything.

Now he was proposing something new: possible entry into the secretive world where global plans are hatched and put into action. If he was joking, it wasn't funny. For years he had been dropping hints about the people who stood behind him, painting them in a brighter light than they deserved, and allowing me to think they were like the sincere young people who studied with the Roshi when in fact they were from a different world altogether -- the world Leonard had once tried to escape in the early 70s when he landed at Mount Baldy and met the Roshi -- the world of shadow government and its various secretive projects, in which nothing is what it seems, and where agendas remain hidden until they spill out into the open.

He had lifted a corner of the curtain that evening in the restaurant. If you were quick enough to catch a glimpse, it was clear he was not talking Love and light. He was speaking from a long-term commitment to the narrow, sectarian goal of domination through deception. He was referring to what at the time seemed like an insane, surrealistic plan to kill off most of humanity in supposed revenge for the holocaust.

Over the years I had known Leonard, I had grown accustomed to his peculiar views on things. I'd mistakenly believed they were personal, eccentric, and possibly intended to be taken ironically. But now I began to think they indicated membership in some lunatic fringe group with big ambitions. Who were they?

My first thought was they might be descended from the followers of 17th century false messiah Sabbatai Zvi. Whoever they were, it didn't seem likely that they could ever occupy a mainstream position in politics or society.  I certainly would never have climbed on a bandwagon under the banner of war and depopulation. But then, I also failed to realize Leonard's career was about to take off as never before. Of course, his new repertoire had something to do with that -- he was now writing songs that spoke in undertones to people in high places who were looking for music to accompany their secret orchestrations.

A lot has changed in the last twenty years, and much of it involves the mainstreaming of hidden doctrines and agendas.  Along with the rise of neo-conservatives in North America, we have witnessed the rise to fame and fortune of Montreal singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen,

Saturday, 1 September 2012

When Annie Met Lenny

I was not always the wise older woman I am today. In my mid-twenties, I was smart but naive. How could it have been otherwise? At 26, I had been in and out of several relationships with men my age. "Men are so disappointing," I opined, on the evening I had my first face-to-face talk over Leonard's kitchen table. I was drinking tea with the celebrated "grocer of despair," who had recently turned 43 and looked as disillusioned as I must have sounded.

His response caught me by surprise, and tweaked my vanity. "You're a very sensitive instrument," said the poet, who by then had known me for no more than twenty minutes. "You're like one of those old gadgets the navigators used to steer their course by the heavens."

"You mean, an astrolabe?" I asked. A nicer word than quadrant, and it showed I'd read my 16th century history.

"Yes, exactly. An astrolabe."It rolled off his tongue like a starry promise.

As I pondered the sensual undercurrents, Leonard continued: "Your problem is you keep spinning. You have no centre, no real focus. You need someone who can guide you."

Was he offering to be my pilot through the rapids of life? A thrilling thought which later proved naive in the extreme. Leonard was not fit to be captain of anything, much less of my multi-channeled voyage. But for a while, I fell under his hypnotic spell.

He came to visit me where I lived: a bare little room on the second floor of an old, stone building that bore the magic number 4900. I had moved into it two months earlier, in September 1977. Seven x seven = forty-nine. I felt I had landed in a place of transformation and promise. I had solitude, a table for writing. I was going to be a writer. All I needed was something to focus on.

On the day Leonard visited, he was dressed casually in an old suit jacket and trademark fedora. I opened the door and there he was, grinning in the hallway. I happened to be holding a pair of L-shaped dowsing rods I had brought back from a dowsing convention in Vermont. El-rods, you might call them -- which happened to be his wife's family name. But Susanne Elrod and he were estranged at the time, and he had just released a new album, with a promising title: Death of a Ladies' Man. He seemed ready for a change, otherwise we would not have been meeting like this. I was not so naive as to carry on with a married man.

As he stepped across the threshold, I pointed my dowsing rods at his head. They separated, perhaps expanding to take in the boundaries of his aura. A thought, out of nowhere, made me blurt out: "I see there are two of you. You're the one I like. But then there's that other guy, Leonard Cohen. I'm not sure about him."

He seemed taken aback by this statement from a woman he had recently compared to an astrolabe.It would turn out to be one of those flashes of insight that would resurface, over and over, as I came to know the complex entity known as Leonard Cohen, who was now examining my walls and ceiling, and admiring the view from my curtainless window which faced northeast on a row of three-storey buildings not unlike the one he owned and inhabited on Rue Vallieres.

The third time we met was a week or two later. Inspired in part by his example, I had taken up meditating in the evenings. I was sitting in lotus position, staring at the floor, when the phone rang. A low-pitched gravelly voice inquired, "Were you meditating just now?"

Although normally I would have laughed and confessed, thrilled and impressed by this demonstration of ESP -- for some reason I decided to lie. "No, I was reading."

There was a pause at the other end. "Are you sure  you were reading, and not meditating?"

I hesitated. It wasn't like me not to blurt out the truth, but I felt irritated by this intrusion into my privacy. 'No, I was reading." I could tell he didn't believe me. "Where are you?" I asked, changing the subject, because I felt guilty for lying to my new friend.

"I'm at a phone booth on the Main, outside Schwartzes --" He let out a shout, followed by the clatter of a dropped receiver. After some incomprehensible yelling, Leonard came back on the line. "You won't believe what just happened," he said. "My car was just stolen from the street where I parked it. A brand new rental car. I must have left the keys in it."

I felt his bad luck might have been caused by my little white lie of a moment ago, opening a hairline crack in the universe through which small demons were able to enter his car, grab the keys, and whisk it away to some garage in Pointe-aux-Trembles where it would be painted and remodelled by morning. I offered to run right over and help, in whatever way I could.

When I arrived at the scene of the car-jacking, Leonard was talking to two French-speaking cops, holding notebooks and portable phones. As he described the car and the thieves, he seemed intimidated by the policemen. He seemed fearful of these figures of authority, whom he repeatedly addressed as "Officer" as he blamed himself for the incident. I felt uncomfortable and embarrassed. There was no need to bow and scrape. They were only doing their job, after all, and didn't hold out much hope for recovering the car.

Leonard seemed resigned. We went back to his place, where he took off his coat and kicked off his shoes. "I am now going to go into a deep meditation," he said. "You can sit in that chair there. I'll be about twenty minutes."

I watched as he closed his eyes, started breathing deeply, and seemed to slip into a trance that lasted for what seemed like an hour. This was not how I had learned to meditate. I had been taught to remain wakeful, watch my breath, and expect to be bored most of the time. Leonard, on the other hand, seemed to depart for some other universe. When he returned, he appeared calm, like someone whose questions have received satisfactory answers.

He said the theft of the car was only one of the strange events of that evening. I thought of the phone call, his ESP, and my denial - but he showed me the Indian bracelet he wore around his wrist -- the clasp had broken, for no reason, and he was convinced there was a meaning behind that, too.

He never told me what he had seen and learned during his deep meditation, but he did make it clear that I had been in the picture somewhere.

"I think the universe is telling you to make up your mind, Leonard," I said, drawing on my recent initiation into the art of divination. Anyone can be an oracle if they put their mind to it.

I could tell I had tickled a sore spot. He seemed to take real offense at that suggestion, for some reason.Over the months and years ahead, I would learn there were not just two Leonard Cohen's, but many who came and went. Some were fearful and obedient, others confident and commanding. Some were cruel and secretive, while others were kind and generous. They seemed unaware of one another's existence.

Knowing Leonard was a little like entering a labyrinth without an exit.


Over the years, Leonard would sometimes make oblique references to the people who controlled his career. The way he put it, they were not all in the music business, but occupied a shadow world, from which they doled out rewards and punishment. Once he cryptically remarked, "There are a lot of punishments in this business, if you rebel. And the punishments get worse over time."

Though he never identified his personal Men in Black, he implied they had been around since his early beginnings. There was no question of his walking away. He would introduce them into the conversation, then quickly change the subject.

I found it odd that a man of his age and stature lived in fear of mysterious handlers. Who were they? What kind of power could they hold over him? He was loathe to answer that obvious question.

He also told me about another group that he owed allegiance to -- or maybe they were the same group, viewed in a more positive light. These he described as his co-religionists, men of great accomplishment and spiritual power who also remained nameless. He hinted at a dynamic cabal which acted mainly in secret to change the course of history, and was poised to play a dominant and decisive role in world affairs. Who could they be? What were their goals? He assured me there was a place for me, somewhere, in their plan -- I just had to be patient and loyal. Leonard valued loyalty in his friends, and cultivated a little circle of hangers-on, some of the most confused people I knew, ready to do anything to remain in their hero's good books. It seemed out of character for a semi-reclusive sage not only to tolerate sycophantic slaves but actually encourage them, as he did.

One evening in 1990, Leonard invited me out for spaghetti Bolognese at a small Italian restaurant that he frequented because, as he said, he just loved spaghetti Bolognese. The conversation was halting, almost non-existent. He quoted his friend Irving Layton, who said that the human race deserved to go through a massive "holocaust" as retribution for the one that had decimated the Jews in the Second World War.

I don't much like spaghetti Bolognese, but I dutifully ate as I pondered why he would drop a remark like that into our dinner table conversation. He kept on eating, waiting for me to agree or disagree. To me it felt as if our relationship hung in the balance. It was an "are you with us, or against us?" moment which I would have preferred to ignore. Was he serious? Something dangerous hovered over the checkered tablecloth, and our dismal plates of cold pasta.

"So, am I correct in saying you no longer feel anything for me?" he inquired, after another long silence.

I chewed that over, too, and decided he was right: I felt nothing. Nothing I could put a name on, or put into words. Disappointment, maybe, mixed with shock and dissociation, to be sitting across from a man who might or might not be the "real Leonard Cohen," in a mental and emotional void that seemed to stretch from here to Armageddon.

It was a frigid night in January, and Leonard had a flight to catch. We walked back to his house, where he asked me to help him scrape the ice from his windshield, before he drove himself to the airport. After he had gone, I went around the corner to my flat and lay awake for a while, wondering if he was serious about welcoming another "holocaust" -- and what it all meant.

Maybe it meant nothing. In that case, why say it? In the past he had sprinkled small, dark secrets into our conversations, and when he did this, I always felt it was to test my complicity. In the past, too, he had used the word "geopolitical" when referring to the movement of history, making it clear he didn't much subscribe to my generation's naive agendas.

Here he seemed to be referring to some destructive plan that he implicitly supported. That was the message that lodged in my gut, that night. He believed it would happen. He wanted it to happen. He wanted me to choose. He was giving me a chance to join the winning side in some future war that he knew was coming. Could I keep a secret? Did I have the stamina to carve myself a slice of the Future?

That night when I turned out the light, I also turned the page on Leonard Cohen. It was time to put him and his deepening insanity, behind me.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Kris Kristofferson, LAX, 1987

In June of 1987, as I was coming down from a Zen retreat on Mount Baldy, I decided to take a two-week trip to Mexico. I booked a flight on Aero Mexico, and was sitting in the Departures Hall waiting to board when two men carrying shoulder bags, both dressed in khaki-coloured outfits, came and sat down in the empty seats on my right.

The first man, taller, heavier, bore an uncanny resemblance to Kris Kristofferson. His friend could have been anybody, but from the casual way they chatted back and forth, they seemed to know each other well. The man who looked like Kris Kristofferson was sitting right next to me, and seemed to be checking me out. I could hear every word he exchanged with his buddy, as I noted that he also sounded just like the singer we all knew from TV and radio. It flashed through my mind that there were many women who would be thrilled to be sitting this close to the singer-composer of the sixties' hit, Bobby McGee. But somehow, I wasn't. If anything, I felt turned off by his hulking presence and air of arrogance, so I shifted my position away from him, and listened to the flight attendants' announcement that our flight to Guadalajara, via Mazatlan, was delayed due to mechanical problems.

At this news, the man next to me let out a groan, reached into his shoulder bag, pulled out a copy of Soldier of Fortune magazine and began thumbing through it casually. Sitting on his left, I had a clear view of the full-page ads for weapons and gear, as well as the classifieds that he was perusing as he chatted on about his itinerary to his friend. First, he was headed to Mazatlan, where he said he had "a girl" -- he'd bought her perfume in the Duty Free. His friend, who presumably was going with him, listened and made approving comments. After that, he would travel to Managua where there was another woman waiting for him.

Just around then, I began to find their conversation disturbing. I no longer believed this creep was Kristofferson, however much he might resemble him. From the way he talked about Nicaragua and the women and his many visits down there, I decided he was an American mercenary, probably a Contra or CIA agent, off to murder for his country and Ronald Reagan. I had been following the war on and off, in the pages of the LA Times, and the little I knew about it was enough to trigger a wave of nausea and disgust so intense that I actually stood up and dragged my carry-on bag to the opposite side of the waiting room.

In my high-minded way, I wanted to send a message to this lowlife criminal that not everyone in Amerika was brain-dead, and he should be more careful what he said in public. His eyes followed me as I crossed the hall and found another seat. I saw him say something to his friend, as he nodded in my direction.

Our flight to Mazatlan-Guadalajara never took off, however. Half an hour later, it was cancelled, and I was put on a direct flight to Guadalajara the next day.

The following year, Kris Kristofferson put out an album called Nicaragua. It was sympathetic to the Sandinistas and got him boo-ed offstage by American rednecks at a couple of concerts. These facts seem to both confirm and contradict my impressions of that day in June, 1987.

Like my former next door neighbour, Leonard Cohen, Kristofferson is a recording artist with a deep cover and connection to the military. According to Dave McGowan, he is the son of an Air Force intelligence officer and grew up on bases around the US and Europe -- as did Jim Morrison and almost every other rock and roll icon whose voice filled our airwaves during the good old days of the hippie movement.

Now I'm sorry I didn't ask him for his autograph.

Kristofferson seems to play both sides of the Left-Right dichotomy. Seen by some as a crusader for human rights in Latin America, he has also been linked to USAF Satanist Michael Aquino, who ran a human trafficking operation between Mexico, Central America and California during the heyday of Ronald Reagan's Contras,which was in full swing at the time I sat next to the Kristofferson lookalike at LAX.  David McGowan's The Pedophocracy discusses the sickening background to all this, as do Ivan Fraser and Mark Beeson in The Brotherhood.

It has crossed my mind that my response to the khaki-clad pair in the LA airport may have been an overreaction. In 2005 I also changed seats in the Athens airport to distance myself from an obviously psychotic US soldier who was returning from Iraq -- maybe war just makes me sqeamish. In the case of the Kristofferson encounter, it was the way he talked about those "girls" who awaited their Gringo boyfriend down in Managua and Mazatlan, that set off wild alarms in my mind, supposedly calmed by my recent Zen retreat in the mountains.

What became of Kristofferson's girlfriends? Did they introduce him to more of their young, beautiful friends? It's even possible they ended up in Aquino's unspeakable cross-border network, as smuggled prostitutes or worse, victims of one of the snuff-film producers preying on women and children.

In the mind-controlled world of entertainment, anything is possible.

Epic Irony

L-R Moshe Dayan, Ariel Sharon and unidentified man, 1973.

This photo popped up recently in a blog about secret collusion and double-dealing in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. I just happened to notice the man standing just behind Ariel Sharon bears a strong resemblance to Leonard Cohen, so I reposted it to a discussion at the Leonard Cohen Forum, in which former Israel Defence Force soldiers and fans of Leonard Cohen were reminiscing about that long-ago conflict, when Leonard came to Israel to entertain the troops. Other photos posted at the Forum catch him mainly in the act of entertaining, but this one seems to show the singer accompanying the two commanders on a tour of the battlefield. Those pine trees in the background suggest they may be somewhere other than the Sinai desert, where most of the fighting happened, although the IDF was also deployed to the Golan Heights, on the Syrian border. Wherever it was taken, it shows three smiling men in military outfits -- which suggests it was taken when the Israelis were winning the war against the Egyptians and Syrians.

Reportedly, Leonard likes to talk about the days he spent in a trench with Ariel Sharon. A poem in Death of a Ladies Man describes his feelings when the fighting got a little more intense than he had bargained for. In that poem, he jokes about "testing the sphincters of my courage" as the bombs flew overhead.

Biographer Ira Nadel states that Leonard arrived in Israel a few days ahead of the actual war, just as he was in Havana two weeks before the Bay of Pigs. It's possible he had advance warning (on both occasions) that a "surprise attack" was coming.

Israeli writer Israel Shamir has suggested the Yom Kippur War was actually a false flag attack, arranged between Washington, Tel Aviv and Cairo to provide Henry Kissinger and the Americans with a pretext for brokering the Camp David accords, which allowed them subsequently to strengthen their foothold in the Middle East.

It's also interesting to note that Henry Kissinger, Ariel Sharon, Moshe Dayan (and even then-Prime Minister Golda Meir) have all been linked to the cult of Sabbatai Zvi.

Henry Kissinger, of course, is connected to all kinds of things, including MKULTRA mind control and Operation Paperclip. But when I think about my former next-door neighbour Leonard Cohen travelling to Israel to support the troops and build up their morale in a phony war which ended up killing thousands, I'm mainly overwhelmed by a sense of "epic irony."

I can't help thinking, what a waste of human energy, not to mention (of course) human blood. An IDF soldier at the Leonard Cohen Forum speaks of the guilt he feels (and will carry with him to the grave) for having killed so many people during a war which he nevertheless believes had to be fought to save Israel.To him, Israel's victory against "overwhelming odds" in the Yom Kippur War is an invincible argument against those anti-war types, you know, the John Lennons of this world (many of whom are no longer with us).

Epic irony.

Sunday, 22 July 2012


Everything I know about the Illuminati, 
I learned from Leonard Cohen.

The first, but not the only, person who ever told me he had been in a flotation tank on LSD, was Leonard Cohen, back in the late 1970s. He dropped the subject casually into a conversation we were having. I had heard about sensory isolation at university when I took Sociology 101. Our professor, Pat Pajonas, told us about Dr. D.O. Hebb's famous experiments involving rats and I.Q.  Rats kept in environments with very low levels of sensory stimulation scored lower on intelligence tests than other rats.

Leonard told me he had very much enjoyed his experiences, and then asked if I had ever been in a flotation tank. I just stared at him blankly. To my knowledge at the time, I had not. But given what I now know about McGill's classified experiments on children, carried on by Dr. Ewen Cameron with the assistance of Dr. Nolan D.C. Lewis of Columbia University's Institute of Psychiatry, I think I may have been mistaken.

1951: McGill sensory isolation experiment

A few years ago, a filmmaker friend unwittingly emailed me this 1951 photo of one of the student volunteers in Hebb's experiments. I immediately recognized the blind-folded, immobilized student as Leonard Cohen. His facial features are easily distinguishable, despite the mask, and the preppy tie is another dead giveaway. And of course, I clearly recall him telling me about those experiments.

He also appears in this scene from The Ernie Game entertaining a group of hypnotized-looking people at a party. Trance-formation of a generation? Young Ernie, the protagonist of this 1967 NFB feature, was a mental patient, likely modelled on one of Dr. Cameron's mind control victims. Ernie eventually commits suicide, and the film ends on a disturbing note, while keeping the secrets of MKULTRA safely hidden from the public. After all, Canada's National Film Board was founded as an arm of military propaganda and the military were still funding Dr. Cameron's successors.

Leonard also appears to have received training in Ericksonian hypnosis, probably during his mysterious student days at Columbia, when he drifted through the same halls as Henry Kissinger, Zbiegniev Brezhinsky and (later) Barack Obama.


I don't laugh when people debunk David Icke's "absurd" theories on fourth-dimensional reptoid alien shapeshifters taking over the minds and bodies of many world leaders and celebrities. I owe my open-mindedness on this topic to memorable experiences I had had over the years with Leonard Cohen.

The most dramatic of these occurred in the Dublin Airport in December 1979, near the end of his UK tour. I had joined the tour in Manchester, and Leonard had generously invited me to follow him and his band, Passenger, through concerts in Scotland and Ireland. As we waited to board our flight, I wandered into the souvenir shop where I began browsing books and objects related to Celtic religions. Leonard was several meters away, talking to Jennifer Warnes, and then something seemed to attract his attention and he began walking toward me. When he was a few feet away, however, he came to a sudden halt, and his body and face became strangely distorted. He stared at me from an of angle, wriggling his fingers in the air like tentacles. He looked like some lizard contemplating a tasty-looking fly, or frog.

Of course, I thought he was joking. I waited for him to drop his little act, but he seemed frozen in this strange pose. His tongue flicked in and out of his mouth while his fingers continued their strange motion. Seconds passed, and to break the silence, I let out a nervous laugh. This seemed to jolt him out of his trance, but instead of acknowledging the joke, he hurried away as if shaken and disoriented. Maybe "scuttled" describes it better. He seemed not to know who I was or how he came to be standing next to me. I put it down to tour fatigue. He never explained, and I never asked.

On two other occasions, while sitting in his kitchen, once in Montreal, and another time on Hydra, I saw him "shift." His appearance didn't change, but he suddenly seemed to step out of this dimension and into another. I don't quite know how to describe this, but both times it happened, he grinned as if to say, "Did you see that?" For these and other reasons, I always found Leonard fun to hang out with -- at least in the beginning. He was witty, kind, and generous, and seemed to take a sincere interest in me. I couldn't imagine why at the time, but I thought it might have to do with my ability to perceive certain unusual traits and abilities that others overlooked.

Neuro-scientist John Lilly, who worked on sensory isolation with D.O. Hebb at McGill in the mid-1950s, wrote about his out-of-body experiences while floating in a tank on Ketamine and LSD, including numerous encounters with highly intelligent non-human entities who warned him of dire threats to life on earth. Sometimes I have wondered if any of these entities got hold of our Leonard.

Over the winter of 1980-81, on the island of Hydra, Leonard seemed to go through a religious conversion. He began expressing many right-wing political views and fundamentalist religious beliefs. In the three years since I had known him, he had struck me as mainly "apolitical and spiritual", but now he seemed obsessed with supporting Ronald Reagan's plans for a new America. He often came across as a totally different personality and I thought he might be having some sort of mental breakdown. He was spending much of his time drinking with a group of alcoholic millionaires and their hangers-on, including a former Swiss mercenary who had been in the Belgian Congo, and a Dominican woman who went by the nickname "Black Maggie."

I began realizing that the image I had of Leonard as a kind of older brother to the hippie generation, was highly inaccurate. He had even started combing his hair straight back in Reagan-esque fashion, and was spouting a new ideology that shocked me at the time. Later I would hear the same ideas from the mouths of high-profile neo-conservatives like Irving Krystol, William F. Buckley, and the Bushes -- but in 1980, it sounded like something out of a 1950s brainwashing manual. On one occasion, he told me that the world had been created 6,000 years ago by the collision of "black fire" with "white fire." I asked him, if that was so, how he accounted for dinosaurs and their relics. He said the dinosaurs were a hoax.I worried about his mental health.

He began expounding on the need for me to convert to Judaism. I was making my way through a book on the Kabbala, and was open to the idea of conversion. Judaism and Kabbala are not the same thing, however, and I abandoned my plan to convert after speaking to a rabbi.

LIFE Magazine : Hydra hootenanny
(note the tie, again)
October, 1960

Meanwhile, along with changes in personal style, Leonard had embraced drastic views about Armageddon and the ultimate destiny of Israel as a Light Unto the Nations. He made it seem that converting to Judaism would be a necessary life-raft in the End Times, which were already upon us. He seemed to be handing me an ultimatum: "You're either with us, or you're against us." I pondered his kind offer of marriage, although what he had in mind seemed to be some kind of collective wedding with himself as the Messiah, surrounded by an army of handmaidens.

Divine retribution, disaster, all-out war -- these were his themes. It was not my kind of scene, and neither was Hydra, where Leonard had got his start as a cult figure, even appearing in LIFE Magazine in 1960, several years before he had released any of his later-to-be famous songs. His lady friend, Marianne Jensen, appears in some of these photos, along with her estranged husband Axel Jensen and son Axel Jr., who as a child was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Ira Nadel's biography states that Leonard first went to Hydra in March of 1960 on the recommendation of Jacob Rothschild, whom he met in London. Baron de Rothschild's mother was involved with the Greek painter Nikos Ghikas, whose hillside mansion burned down soon after Leonard dropped by to visit. The story goes that he was refused entry to the Ghikas home and as he turned away he shouted "Curse this house!" -- only to see his wish come true in spectacular fashion. I find that Hydra legend a bit farfetched. It's  more interesting to explore the family and business connections that brought Leonard into the Rothschild sphere at the beginning of his career. The names "Henry Kissinger" and "Ronald Reagan" leap from the page at Wikipedia, not to mention that of newspaper magnate Max Aitken (Lord Beaverbrook), who had been a close family friend of Rothschild's second wife, Serena Mary Dunn. In fact, Beaverbrook even married her sister, Marcia Dunn -- I'm digressing just to give a sense of the incestuous elite world that Leonard entered in his rise to fame and fortune.Hydra has long been an island with strong links to British intelligence -- and a number of former operatives still had houses there in the 1980s and later. I met a few of them.

In case people ever got the impression that Leonard moved to Hydra on the recommendation of the Rothschilds and a secretive gang of international financiers, media moguls, arms dealers and eugenicists, Leonard came up with an innocuous-sounding explanation, worthy of the fancy-free poet and budding novelist:

On a dismal rainy afternoon in April 1960, after spending three months in a boarding house on Hampstead High Street completing a manuscript, the 25-year-old “grocer of despair” found himself wandering bleakly around London’s East End, his spirits further depleted by raging toothache.
Then he spotted a Bank of Greece sign on Bank Street, entered the bank and saw a cheery clerk sporting a deep suntan and a defiant pair of shades. Cohen asked what the weather was like in Greece and was assured it was already springtime. On the spot, he decided to pack his bags.
Arriving in Athens on 13 April 1960, Cohen took a steamer to Hydra, a five-hour journey in those days. The destination wasn’t random, he’d heard from friends that there was a flourishing group of expat artists and writers on the island.

So, did he just accidentally stumble onto Hydra because he hated the English climate, as this tale implies, or was he sent? I guess the "friends" who had tipped him off to the artists and writers colony, would be Jacob Rothschild and Serena Dunn, who were also art collectors. Maybe Hydra proved too Bohemian for the boy from a family of haberdashers. Also, Greek winters can be disappointing, rainy and cold. Maybe those photos in LIFE Magazine spurred his career.


It's doubtful Fidel Castro sent out a call, a few weeks ahead of the US invasion, for the folksingers of the world to come to the aid of the Cuban people. Nevertheless, in the spring of 1961, Leonard flew to Havana, scene of a communist revolution that the CIA's Allen Dulles was intent on putting down with the aid of a couple of brigades composed of anti-Castro fighters and assassins. The leader of one of these brigades was Joachim Sanjenis Perdomo, who would pop up years later as the doorman at the Dakota Hotel on the night John Lennon was shot.

In one of his more confessional songs, written a decade later, Cohen would confide a few details to his audience, most of whom would think he was just kidding about being a spy:

Field Commander Cohen was our most important spy
Parachuting acid into diplomatic cocktail parties
Urging Fidel Castro to abandon fields and castles
And, like a man, come back to poetry...

After all, he's a singer, right? Musicians don't lead double lives as intelligence operatives, do they?

Later, in letters to his Miami brother-in-law, Edgar, the globetrotting poet/singer would vociferously declare his deep commitment to anti-communism. Given his past connections with Allen Dulles' MKULTRA brainwashing program at McGill and Columbia, it's just possible that Leonard was on a list of bright young men chosen for assignments like hanging out in the lobby of the Havana hotel where Castro had set up his revolutionary headquarters. It's possible he even arrived with a few blotters of LSD, from the CIA's own laboratory, stashed in his pocket. He claims he was there on vacation, but this photo shows him with a beard and military-style outfit, hobnobbing with men who appear to belong to one of the local militias. No tie, though. Too hot, I guess.

Havana, 1961. Leonard, the tourist.

Is it possible during his short stay, in which he was apprehended, questioned and nearly detained as an American agent, that he also ran into the beautiful, 19 year old Marita Lorenz, who was sharing Castro's bed at the Havana Hilton? The daughter of a CIA agent, Marita's life is the stuff of legend, and her book Dear Fidel is a rivetting read. Also, Marita is not a very common name in Canada: could she be the very same "Marita" who appears in the famous 1963 poem which Cohen would scrawl on the wall during a trip to the men's room at Le Bistro a Jojo , a well-known Montreal watering-hole for journalists, artists and other operatives?


Oh, and one final knot: there's a nice video about Leonard's early years growing up in Montreal, with photos and 8mm film footage of him as a child. It seems he wore a tie even when riding his wee tricycle. Oddly, it is reported that a few weeks after his father died the 9-year-old Leonard buried one of his dad's bowties, wrapped in paper on which he had written some verses.The sound track to this video features an interview, interspersed with a live performance of Passing Through, the lyrics of which are worth another look as they echo, in certain ways, the point of view of the singer/narrator in The Rolling Stones' Sympathy for the Devil

"I was at Franklin Roosevelt's side
on the night before he died
He said 'One World must come out
of World War Two --'(Ah the fool)"

Did Roosevelt really say that? And who was with him on the night before he died? My research says it was OSS mastermind Allen Dulles, who signed the treaty with the SS that wrapped up the war the following day, against Roosevelt's orders, opening the door to Operation Paperclip, Nazi rat-lines and the future One World Government aka The New World Order.

We have to thank Leonard for passing on inside information, while never making his position clear. But then, that's another trait the Illuminati are known for.

One tie at a time.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The Unholy Messiah

September 21, 1980. I had decided to come back to Hydra and save Leonard. It's difficult to look back at the silly young woman who did all this mainly because she was in love at the time. Also, I had just come into some money, i.e. a Canada Council grant to write a novel. The first thing I did with it was buy a ticket to Greece. A few months earlier my mother had died, of complications from a 15-year battle with arthritis. My father had died of a heart attack six years earlier. I was 29, remarkably naive but also fairly sensitive, and heading into my first Saturn return.

Not that these are exactly excuses, but they help me to distance myself from my reckless self of thirty years ago. I was very prone to dreams, back then, and some of my dreams were precognitive. Or rather, I would receive information in them that would later prove accurate. I was also eccentric enough to base some of my decisions and actions on such dreams, just to see what would happen. Often the results were beyond my imaginings.

Over the summer of 1980, while I worked at temporary office jobs, I had received a number of these dream messages concerning Leonard. The gist was, he was back on drugs and his Roshi in California was very worried and disappointed. I had never met the Roshi, but in dreams he appeared as a small, big-hearted, round-faced man who spoke halting Japanese-accented English. This hunch, and the $9,000 cheque from the Canada Council were all it took: I was on a mission: I would go to Hydra, see Leonard, pick up where we had left off several months ago... Which was where? Well, limbo actually, but I was feeling adventurous. I would use all my persuasive powers to woo him over to "my" side: the side of light and love, or so I thought.

My plan went into motion, except that I dillydallied a bit, flying to London then boarding a train that took me to Italy, then the ferry to Patras. At the sight of the Greek coastline, I burst into tears. It was like a homecoming. The bus to Athens took several hours, and finally I caught the ferry to Hydra, arriving in the afternoon of Leonard's 46th birthday. An auspicious coincidence, I thought, until I knocked on his door and was met by Birgit, who told me Leonard had departed with his children and Australian nanny for New York that very morning, leaving her in charge of closing up his house. In her prim, rather Prussian manner she informed me that Leonard was about to begin his second European tour in two years, revisiting a number of cities where he'd given concerts the year before.

Leaving my luggage on the terrace, I stumbled down to the rocks and threw myself into the lukewarm sea. While swimming back and forth, I calmed down enough to concoct a plan. I would go back to Leonard's and beg Birgit to spend a night or two in the extra room. At first she refused, but eventually she gave in, before catching her own flight back to Germany. So for two days and nights, I had the run of Leonard's house. Just so you know: this was not like me, but at the time I was slightly possessed. In fact, I spent a few years living down the shame of the rash actions of that autumn. On the other hand, I learned plenty -- much more than I could process at the time, but much of it lodged in my mind because it seemed to shed light on some very dark places that I would soon be entering.

Most of the time, over those two days, I sat in the library, a small room just off The kitchen, where intuition guided me to a 1974 hardcover edition of  a book on Kabala by Gershom Scholem.  It was quite worn and opened by itself to a much read chapter on Sabbatai Zvi, the "false messiah of Smyrna." I read that chapter and most of the book that day and night. It was not my first encounter with Zvi. The previous December on a trip to London, I had spent the better part of a week at the British Museum, perusing the exhibits. In a display case I had come across an 18th century woodcut depicting Zvi as the Great Dragon, or some sort of anti-Christ. Now, what struck me between the eyes were the numerous ways he resembled Leonard. Zvi loved to sing and compose songs, he was prone to manic-depressive episodes, he had a charismatic personality and an odd, almost surrealistic, streak of humour. I read the chapter with the sense that I was making some earth-shattering, secret discovery: Leonard Cohen was the reincarnation of this 17th century holy madman who had unleashed a messianic fervour that ended in thousands of deaths and untold losses for the Jews of eastern Europe, who joined his movement in droves, sold off their property, and followed his teachings, including the antinomian dictum: Blessed is he who breaks the Commandments.

In a desk drawer in the basement of Leonard's house, I found the confirmation I had been looking for: a notebook he had been keeping over the summer. Obviously, he had not found much time to write, since most of the pages were blank except for a few at the beginning. On one he had scrawled what looked like a warning to himself: I GAVE UP DRUGS BECAUSE I WANTED TO LIVE.

A few pages on, he had written down a tentative schedule of concerts for his upcoming tour. There was a list of cities and dates, the last being Tel Aviv on November 24.

I had always wanted to visit Egypt and Israel. Here was my chance. I pocketed Leonard's notebook -- my second "bad deed" -- maybe I was inspired by Sabbatai Zvi, who believed forbidden acts hasten the arrival of the Messiah. The following day, I left for Athens and the island of Patmos where I thought I might get further inspiration and some answers by visiting the cave of another writer I admired: Saint John the Divine, author of the Book of Revelations. I was searching, really, for the history I had glimpsed in the pages of Gershom Scholem. What was the true nature of Light and Dark, and how would it manifest itself in the Middle East, and was Sabbatai Zvi a prophet or criminal, and why was I so drawn to his story and to ancient sites connected to his movement?

From Patmos I took a ferry to the nearby island of Samos where I spent a month with a German windsurfer, and then I flew to Egypt on a crawl through pyramids and temples, all the time recording my impressions in Leonard`s diary. I crossed the Sinai desert in a taxi, disembarked at El Arish where I saw a few abandoned tanks and other scarred relics of the 1973 Yom Kippur War (in which Leonard participated, entertaining the Israeli troops and even spending time in a trench with Ariel Sharon). From there my travelling companion and I took a bus to Gaza, and another taxi to Jerusalem. By then it was mid-November, which left me a week for touring around Israel (Ein Gedi on the Dead Sea, a kibbutz on the Sea of Galilee, Banyas Gorge in the Golan Heights, and so on) before meeting Leonard's plane at Tel Aviv airport on November 23.

Our reunion, such as it was, was fraught with tension. Leonard and the band were tired and demoralized. They had spent the last two months touring Europe for the second time in two years. Audience members in Germany interrupted one of the concerts to complain that they had paid to see the same concert before. Leonard's magic had worked only intermittently this time around, apparently.

I had met the band a year earlier,  when I had joined Leonard's tour of the UK and Ireland. So I wangled a seat on the bus next to guitarist Mitch Watkins, a couple of rows behind Leonard. We disembarked at a hotel on the beach in Tel Aviv. As the equipment was being unloaded, Leonard and I chatted. I remember he talked about the history of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, scene of a notorious bomb attack by the Irgun. I knew  the nothing about that incident, and I remember he told me that certain heroes of the Warsaw ghetto uprising had gone on to fight for Israeli independence, leaving me with the impression that he was a supporter.

Meanwhile, I still had the notebook I had lifted from his desk on Hydra. In it, I had kept a journal of my travels through Greece, Egypt and Israel. My plan had to see where it led me, as I explored museums and ruins from Athens to Cairo to Tel Aviv, and followed my own typically random trail of odd encounters and coincidences on a kind of do-it-yourself Kaballistic quest that had ultimately led me to the door of a girl named "Annie Cohen" who told me I was at the wrong address. That was the final entry I had inscribed in the stolen diary. Since my name was also Annie, in my Jung-soaked mind at the time this meant I had won my gamble, and there was still hope for our relationship. Or "union" -- or whatever. It stuns me, a bit, all these years later, how as a not-so-young woman I could be so blindly focused on a single outcome, but there was a whole history behind that, too, which I can't get into here.

Let's just say that, since I had met Leonard three years earlier, and even before our first meeting, signs and portents had dogged the trail of our encounters. It seemed whenever we were together, the universe went out of its way to mark the occasion. I believe this is what certain people mean when they speak of "karmic" relationships, the kind that get you thinking you have known the other person for centuries or milennia, and have "unfinished business" to complete. Quite literally, you can feel you are being flooded with ancient information from unknown sources, all compelling you to solve the mystery that has brought you together. Whatever. Some such thing was going on at the time between me and Leonard, although I had the sense that he was already more tired of it than I was.

All that would change, I thought, when I handed him back his notebook. Which I did, the following evening, after I managed to get ten minutes alone with him after the concert. Everyone was trying to see him that night but I slipped through the door just ahead of backup singer Sharon Robinson. Leonard was recovering from the concert, and the usual half-bottle of Vodka he consumed to loosen up on stage. Coming to the point, I pulled out the diary. He recognized it instantly. "Where did you get that?" His face changed as he realized I'd been in his study on Hydra, rifling his drawers. He lunged for the book, flipped through it, reached in his pocket for an exact-o knife -- who would think he carried one? He slit a few pages, the ones in his own handwriting, tore them out, and handed me the rest.

I`d wanted him to read my travel journal, with its revelations and clues regarding the future of the planet which was deeply connected to the outcome of our relationship, but now I saw the absurdity of all that. I sat frozen, dying of embarrassment, while he told me he would read it, but "it needs to be typed."

The following day was a blur, as I hung out with the band, who were drinking heavily and fighting with Leonard over money. They demanded equal billing on all future tours, i.e. it would be `Leonard Cohen and Passenger" but Leonard was telling them he didn't need their services after all and would hire some $300-a-week Armenian musicians the next time he went on tour. Their happy family was disintegrating.  I took refuge for several hours at Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum for the day, thinking to regain my self-respect by reading about the murdered Jews of Salonica, the northern Greek city which happened to harbour thousands of secret followers of Sabbatai Zvi.

But also, all that day, there were visits from Israeli dignitaries, including a well-known poet whose name I didn't quite catch, and the usual string of press interviews. Overall, the atmosphere was grave and secretive, nowhere near as festive as it had been the year before. It was the last day of Leonard`s tour, after all, and everyone seemed a little devastated.

Someone --possibly Leonard himself -- told me he was headed for Hydra. I didn`t have the guts to say that was where I was headed, too, but I had a pre-existing plan to spend the winter there on Canada Council money, writing my novel.

Please excuse this travelogue. It`s just a prelude to more interesting things still to come...

Friday, 13 July 2012

Neighbour of the Beast

How did I end up living next door to Leonard Cohen, whose many female fans rarely get close and when they do, can’t stop gushing about their incredible luck at having spent an evening with him, eating spaghetti Bolognese?

I still sometimes puzzle over the strange twist of fate which positioned me around the corner and within gawking distance of his house at 30 Vallieres, six years after our first meeting in 1977 and long after the romance had flickered out.

At the time, my life still seemed to revolve around the man, although the parabola of my orbit fluctuated wildly, like that of some rogue planet that had wandered into his solar system and couldn’t quite escape the suction at the centre. I wouldn’t exactly call Leonard a “sun” – although “black hole” or “brown dwarf” don’t really encapsulate him, either. As relationships go, ours ranged from dangerously close to extremely distant.

He exercised a lot of magnetism over the people in his world, some of it pleasant and positive. Leonard’s greatest achievement, apart from his “life in art”, is his ability to compartmentalize various aspects of himself so that what first-time visitors and new acquaintances see is often a dazzling fragment of a man whose dark side would shock them. And that is an understatement.

Over the winter of 1980-81, I had seen several women fall in love with him and be drawn into the masochistic three-ring circus that was life on Hydra. I had concluded that something was wrong with the ringmaster at the centre of all this, but was unable to pull away. In a way, I felt a responsibility (to myself, but also to the others) to make sense of the puzzle of contradictions that threatened to absorb more and more of my life.

Unable to unravel the mystery of his hold over people, which at times appeared almost magical, I eventually decided, at Leonard’s suggestion, to go to Mount Baldy and see the Roshi. After divining that Cohen and I knew each other, the Roshi had suggested we get married. “You make Rennard Cohen good wife!” he enthused. A few days later, Leonard took up with a blonde from Minneapolis, and (in tears) Roshi apologized for his mistake: “Rennard Cohen crazy. You not need.”

Two weeks later, after arranging for Cohen to fund my Zen practice for a year, the Roshi confided that , being a man, he, too, had an ego and could make mistakes. “But Rennard Cohen good friend to you,” he concluded, with a pause implying a need for confirmation.

I didn't know what to make of it all. No one had bothered to ask for my input on the question of my future. It seemed to have been arranged in my best interests, between Leonard and the Roshi, during one of their sake-soaked evenings. The “scholarship” was handed to me like a birthday present which, once unwrapped, at first appears perfectly timed but on second glance turns out to be heavy with consequences. I was a newcomer who adapted well to Zen practice and even seemed to be good at it. I liked what I had seen so far, but did I really want to spend the next several years in some monastery in the desert of New Mexico? It seemed I was about to become a ward of the Roshi, who would train me as a Zen nun in his organization, after which I would just disappear into the Void of spiritual practice.

That’s when the phone call suddenly arrived, out of the blue, from an old friend in Montreal, who had decided to give up his jaw-droppingly cheap apartment in the heart of our beloved Plateau Mont Royal. Did I want it? I gave his offer two second’s careful consideration before saying yes. He didn’t tell me this charming 75$ a month flat shared a back yard (divided by a high fence) with Leonard Cohen.

Some people thought this proved I was still in hot pursuit of Leonard, but they knew little of the complexities. Besides, no matter how many spells you cast, or how many rosaries you thumb, it would be impossible to arrange such a coincidence, which I discovered only after I had flown back to Montreal and picked up the keys from my friend, who had just completed his Masters in Ecology at Penn State University, and also happened to share a birthday (September 21) with Leonard.

The irony was all too blatant: in my decision to evade Leonard’s kind offer, I ended up moving in next door to him. I’ve never particularly wondered what would have happened had I stayed at the monastery. I knew I was not cut out to be a nun, although over the first months back in Montreal,  I wrote a little book called A NUN’S DIARY, a fanciful retelling of my winter on Hydra which began at about the same time John Lennon was shot in New York.

It would be years before I finally understood the hidden truth about why those days on Hydra were the darkest time of my life. Over that winter, I saw Leonard change, and not for the better. I saw apparently trivial incidents unfold that made little sense at the time, but were in fact connected to events happening on the world stage. The island of Hydra miraculously mirrors the constellation of Hydra, which floats in the night sky between Leo and Virgo, the lion and the lady. And Hydra was the miniature chessboard where a secretive master practiced his moves for what was coming next.

Here, hindsight rears up like a dragon and runs away with the narrative. We are nearing a time when many secrets are bursting into the open. Let this be one of those secrets that unleashes a wave of shock, and a tsunami of sudden awakening to the abyss that lies ahead unless we look down into it.

Monday, 9 April 2012


In those long-ago days on the Main in Montreal, we seemed marooned by choice on the dark side of the moon. Ken Hertz was more alien than most. He was a pale-skinned, non-descript, balding fellow with one of those beards that rim the jawline. Wire rimmed glasses with thick bottle lenses. He reminded me of a 50 year old trapped in the body of a much younger man, or vice versa. He was 30 years old on the day I first noticed him on the street, In a world of bums, colourful punks and late-vintage hippies, he looked like a refugee from some scientific laboratory.

Ken was a genius, with a 180 IQ. Perhaps his best days were behind him. A child prodigy, at the age of 8, he had his first poem published in the New Yorker, back in 1953, the year the MKULTRA program began.

Oedipus may think it strange
Or even rather sillical
That my relations with Ma Mere
Have merely been umbilical

- Ken Hertz, age 8
Montreal, Canada

Now he lived in a $75 slum apartment, where he "designed chemistry sets" for a living. Ken was always coming and going via the back entrance he shared my friend Charlotte. Both their apartments overlooked I. M. Liben Monuments, which manufactured and sold tombstones in English and Yiddish.

As a child, he had attended McGill University. So Charlotte said. She believed him when he told her he had been in a special program at McGill. In 1960, at age 15, he had crashed after dozens of out-of-body experiences (OBEs) on LSD and other chemicals. He boasted of spending days and weeks in sensory deprivation, drifting in a flotation tank on drugs. From this special training he emerged with a photographic memory and well-honed psychic abilities. He had confessed all this to Charlotte over dinner.

In the early 60s, Ken had been briefly famous as a poet. He had a poster dated 1961, the year he had headlined a poetry reading at the Seven Steps cafe on Stanley Street. At the bottom of the poster, in smaller type:

And Special guest -- New York folksinger, Bob Dylan.

By 1975, Ken’s main activity seemed to be collecting information on everybody. Once he met you, he took hold of you like a pitbull. First he made you feel important and interesting with his attention. He would stare into your eyes and put you off guard by asking you strings of probing questions about yourself and people you knew.

Not long after I met Leonard Cohen, Ken’s interest in me suddenly grew. He said he also knew Leonard from back in the old days "at the Allan."

"What were you both doing at a mental hospital?" I wondered aloud.

"I can’t tell you.”

I recalled Leonard saying he used to entertain mental patients. “They’re my best audience,” he had quipped in an interview. “Maybe he was there to give a concert?”

Ken shook his head emphatically. “I also visited him at his apartment on Pine Avenue. He would point to things in the apartment, then tell you how much they cost.”

Obviously Ken was jealous. The next time I saw Leonard, I brought up Ken and the Allan Memorial. "Were you ever there?" I thought I detected a flicker, a slight pause before he answered.

“Oh,yeah, a few times, mostly visiting my mother. After she went in with a skin condition and they gave her a drug that made her psychotic. They kept her in there for a few weeks. I had to fight to get her released.”

So Ken was right.

Leonard and I were watching TV. Suddenly he turned and asked me, in a light-hearted way: “Were you ever in a flotation tank, Annie?”

No, I had never been in a flotation tank. I had read about them, though.

“I was in one, once,” said Leonard. “On LSD. It was wonderful. I could have floated out there forever.” The soft dreamy monotone, just shy of a lisp. We turned back to the television drama we had been watching.

There were certainly lots of crazy people in our neighbourhood. I rarely questioned how they got that way. Drugs were the usual answer. And Ken had taken plenty of those - back in his childhood. At McGill.

Come to think of it, I don’t know why I just accepted that absurd story. But who was I to say that during the 1950s, there had not been a special program for gifted children, for which Ken was chosen, or placed by his schizophrenic mother – or had she become schizophrenic only later? Her being schizophrenic would explain Ken. But could it explain all the LSD trips, sensory isolation tanks, OBE’s, and superhuman abilities he claimed to possess, and sometimes actually demonstrated?

At 15, he had written a brilliant book of poetry about a Zen monk in Japan who succumbs to material temptations and is destroyed. How could a 15 year old compose such a convincing tale in blank verse?

I had witnessed him reading minds. I didn’t doubt he was psycho-kinetic. When he boasted he could make people and animals obey him, I shrugged it off as a waste of time.

I tried to imagine a special program that could produce a Kenneth Hertz. It was beyond me. Neither could I see the point of having magical powers, or joining MENSA as a teenager. And? Where had it got him? One look told you he was a nut no woman in her right mind would get involved with. And yet, women did. They fell for him regularly. He had photos of himself, bald, bespectacled, jammed up against a series of beautiful women in photo machines. He had even got me with him into one.

Sometime in 1979, Ken started digging in the files. His own mother had recently died and left him some money. She too had been schizophrenic, he told me, and a patient at the Allan.

Little by little, Ken began telling me the truth.

He started sketching a large, amorphous picture, an unfinished jigsaw that he was still deciphering. The pieces made no sense, because the complete image on the box was missing. There was no label, no user's guide, to tell you what you were looking at.

He began by telling me anecdotes. There was one about Henry Moscovitch, another gifted young poet, more brilliantly talented than Leonard, who after a stay in the Allan began hearing voices telling him to jump off an overpass on the Decarie expressway. So, one night, he went for a walk and jumped to the pavement below. Landing on his head.

He was Ken’s friend. There were others like him. They had all been in the Allan.

It seemed everyone had spent time in the Allan. Except me.

Ken told me about the time he and his friend Bozo took a woman they knew to a cabin in the Laurentians where they tied her up and said they were going to kill her. They kept her there for an entire weekend, terrorizing her with their plan, and then released her, totally traumatized. Later they laughed about it.

I said "Why did you do that?"

He implied that he and Bozo were carrying out someone else’s instructions. That it was an experiment they were required to do, like an initiation rite. A test that would qualify them for some future mission.

I was horrified. It was midnight. I had to work the next day. I told him to leave. That's when he pulled out the Exacto knife. He flicked the blade, making it click several times, in and out. As he did this, he seemed to change into someone else. A dangerous madman.

I said, "Don't try that on me, or you’ll be sorry.”

I said, “I’m calling the police.”

He refused to budge, just sat in the next room, in the dark, clicking the Exacto blade, in and out, over and over, until 1 am when he finally gave up and left.

I debated whether to tell Charlotte. I pondered how a gifted poet could suddenly display these criminal tendencies. Ken did not fit the profile of a criminal. He lived on the edge of poverty but moved in intellectual and artistic circles. He knew professors at McGill. He was friendly with local politicians. His personal phone book was filled with names of important people.

It must have been later, around 1980. Ken showed up at my door, excited and triumphant. He had stumbled on a treasure. Medical files. Psychiatric files. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of files were sitting in the MacIntyre Medical Building at McGill. He’d already been through thousands of pages. He was launching a business as a freelance medical researcher. Behind this scheme lay something more personal. The first file he had searched for and found was his own, dating back to the 1950s.

“I found files on everyone we know. There’s even one on you and your brother.”

“That's ridiculous. My brother and I never went to McGill.”

“No, no. They’re from your childhood. They were experimenting on the two of you while you were still in your mother’s womb.”


“The doctors. The scientists.”

He sat in front of me, grinning. Light glinting off his wire-rimmed glasses. Hands nervously gliding over surfaces, skimming the tabletop.

“The files are there. I can show you if you want. I swear I’m telling the truth.”

Files were not what I wanted to hear about. I was 29 years old, trying to live a normal life in a room, alone, in downtown Montreal. I told him to stop making up malicious, crazy stories, go home, and get a life.

“This is real. I am telling you.”

“Real to you.”

“There is proof. Let me show you.”

I hurled every stinging accusation I could think of to make him go away. Files on all of us, at McGill? Was this Nazi Germany? A Russian Gulag?

The Berlin wall would not fall for another 12 years. Ken would have continued his search for files until the Iron Curtain came down, had he not fallen ill in 1983 with a paralyzing disease that would slowly imprison his body in a vise. There was never a diagnosis for what was killing him. Therefore there could be no cure.

He thought the cause might be a chemical he was exposed to, once, while living in an apartment that was sprayed for bedbugs. He researched relentlessly. Travelled to Mexico for a foetal cell implant that failed. His friends raised thousands of dollars for him. Leonard Cohen made a generous donation. Irving Layton did as well. Ken’s mind remained hyperactive, even after he lost the ability to speak. His desperate struggle made the newspapers. MACLEANS published an article on his fight against a rare, mysterious, Parkinsonian condition. They even printed a photo of his ravaged, twisted face, above a tasteless caption:

“The face of the future?”

His friends looked on, at first in horror, and as time passed, increasing hopelessness. In 1995, he died, strangled by his own, constricted throat. By then, the files were gone. Disappeared or thrown into dumpsters in a frenzy -- as I was told years later, by people who worked for McGill after the revelations began to leak out, just at the time Ken started investigating his childhood at university.

It had taken years to get rid of those records: births, adoptions and abortions dating back to the 1950s. Records of LSD and other classified experiments during the crucial years from 1953-64. And afterwards. All the way up to 1977, when the story first made international headlines.

The name for all this was EUGENICS. The experiments never really stopped. They continue today. You don’t kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Sensory isolation experiment, McGill University, 1951

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Mom and Dad, wedding photos, ca.1943

My parents met in wartime Montreal, fell in love, and got married. These are their wedding photos, taken in 1943.

Now, I'm not saying they have reincarnated and are back together again in L.A., but when I saw some recent photos of A.J. McLean and his new bride, Rochelle DeAnna Karidis, I was a bit mystified.

First, because they look so happy together and second, because Rochelle really does remind me of my mother, Therese Bouthillier, pictured above. Features, colouring, height (my mother was 5'10" tall), and then there's the bright red lipstick. I realize this is not proof, but it's enough to give one pause...

Today I found some more photos which were taken of the couple during a recent visit to Disneyland. If I were looking to develop a theory that my reincarnated dad, who now bears my birth name (A.J. McLean), has become a Disney mind controlled celebrity (like Britney Spears), I might look no farther that this:

It gives me the creeps (a little) but then, things are not always what they seem... even in Lalaland. Perhaps they're being together will help them dispel their programming. In the meantime, I'll be writing more about all this...

Saturday, 7 January 2012



I was headed downtown one morning on one of those brilliant winter days when the city was like a polished gem. It was mid-January and we were rebounding from a thaw. Only yesterday the streets and sidewalks had been overflowing with slush but overnight an Arctic front had moved in on the heels of a snowstorm that left the city glittering under a thin layer of snow. Underneath here and there, lurked treacherous patches of ice.

I was well bundled up against the brain-buckling, nostril-pinching cold. Tiny icicles had formed on my nose hairs and the few tendrils poking out of my woolen hat. I had just turned onto Milton Street at the corner of Park Avenue, in the neighbourhood known as the McGill Ghetto. It was my usual route downtown, but due to the sub-zero temperature, very few people seemed to be out walking it with me. Only a lone, speed-walking Chinese man in a short red jacket overtook me at the corner of Milton and Hutchison. Arms and legs pumping briskly, soon he was half a block ahead, hugging the brick wall of a three-storey building that backed on an alley. As he crossed the entrance to the alley, he seemed to encounter an invisible force that yanked his feet out from under him. Before my very eyes, the red jacketed figure flipped into the air and made a spectacular somersaulting fall, the sort of thing you see in televised ski-jump competitions. Landing sideways, he rebounded like a pro. I caught up with him at the next traffic light as he was brushing snow from his sleeve. I asked him if he was okay and when he nodded I smiled, waved a mitten-covered hand, and continued on my way.

All day I retained that image of the red jacketed man, and the gravity-defying way he seemed to lose contact with the earth as he cartwheeled in space. Witnessing his casual feat lifted my spirits and reminded me that daily life and its gravity are illusions, behind which lies a vast universe of strange possibilities. I felt that Chinese man understood those secret laws, which was why he was able to turn an ordinary spill on a slippery sidewalk into a tango with the cosmos.
The next day, I woke up in my draughty apartment and went out to buy bread. It was the second day of Arctic weather, with temperatures in the minus twenties. At the bakery as I waited to pay, I glanced at the front page of the Gazette. There on page one was a full-colour photo of the red-jacketed Chinese man executing his amazing leap on a patch of black ice on Milton Street the day before. Exactly the same man, same location, same impromptu flip I had witnessed yesterday.

I leaned closer to stare at the picture. How was this possible? Who had taken the photo? There had been no one on the street apart from the Chinese man and me. How could his tumble on black ice, which had happened in the blink of an eye, be appearing on the front page of the paper?
It made no sense that yesterday's private epiphany would become today's headlines.

Different scenarios flashed through my mind. Had the Chinese man and a photographer teamed up to engineer this shot, which I just happened to witness? My next theory: some visiting acrobatic team was roaming around in red jackets, slipping on ice patches, and I had happened across a photo-op. But no -- I was sure the Chinese man had come, like me, out of nowhere.The Chinese man and I were unique, innocent pedestrians out on one of the coldest days of the year, when he somehow slipped into the cross-hairs of a camera lens.

I leaned down and read the caption, and the magic faded: Gazette photographer assigned to photograph weather conditions, stations himself in an alley near McGill, a few steps from a dangerous ice patch, and waits for unwitting passersby to slip on it. The most remarkable fall of the day is the one that makes it to the front page. Nothing strange about that. No point phoning my story in to the talk shows. 

It was like seeing a photo of myself on Page One. Although I was not in the picture, I was subtly a part of it. I was the invisible factor, a few meters outside the frame, viewing it from the rear, silently applauding that unique event in physics when the Chinese man’s feet left the sidewalk, and his body twirled like a boomerang before hitting the pavement and rebounding upward again, with the elegance of something planned in the stars but choreographed on earth.

It was now my turn in line at the bakery. As I stepped up to the counter, I kept glancing down at the newsstand. In a city of two million people, only I had seen that Chinese man’s fall, which today was front page news. I felt all alone in an absurd universe. This moment demanded some special gesture. So, in defiance of my policy of never buying the Gazette, I reached for one and laid it on the counter beside my loaf of bread, carton of milk, almond croissant. As I fumbled for change,
I started to tell the cashier how I had personally witnessed today's lead news item but the story died on my lips, its meaning lost on this girl with her dark eye makeup and heavy curls who rang up the bill which came to $5.40. All I had on me was a $5. 

It was the newspaper or the croissant. I decided I’d rather eat it than savour this coincidence. Feeling lighter without the hated Gazette, I exited the bakery and got hit in the face with a blast of icy wind.

On the frost-bitten street that morning, there was no one around to talk to about the feeling that engulfed me. I seemed to spend my whole life just out of the picture, a spectator of strange events that I could do nothing to change. Who cared if I was looming presence behind the front page photo?  Only I, the Invisible Witnessing Woman, knew the whole truth. I felt a ticklish urge to talk about all this to someone who would understand. Maybe I needed therapy. Maybe there was something really weird about me after all.

In deserted Parc du Portugal, not even a frozen pigeon crossed my path as I strolled by Leonard Cohen’s house, reminding myself again that I dwelt next door to fame. I looked up and noticed the curtains in the second floor window were slightly ajar -- a sign that could only mean he was back in town.

Maybe I could tell my story to him…


I turned the corner onto St. Dominique Street and unlocked the door to my ground floor flat. In the kitchen I made myself a coffee and drank it thoughtfully. I waited till 10 am to pick up the phone and dial his number. It rang twice before he answered.

“Hi Leonard.”

“I’m busy now,” he said. “I’m in a meeting.”

“Okay,” I said. “Never mind. It's not important. Welcome back.”

So much for that silly idea. I went back to my computer but found it hard to concentrate. Was there no one with whom I could share my story?

I called up my friend Louise, a professional Tarot reader, chronically unemployed, always ready to chat for hours. I asked her if she had a copy of the Gazette on hand. I knew she often bought it for the job classifieds and the astrology column. I told her to have a look at the photo on the front page. I had just started to tell her the story of yesterday’s fateful walk, when my front door suddenly flew open with a bang and another freezing gust hit me between the shoulder blades.

There in our shared entrance stood my upstairs neighbour, Rosalie, 85 years old, permanently bent into the shape of a bicycle wrench from all the field work she had done through two world wars in Poland. Bundled up in her winter clothing, head covered with a ragged shawl, she was clutching five grocery bags in her naked, frozen fingers.

"Bonjour, Madame!" she greeted me, fumbling with her keys. My own front door must not have been properly shut, causing it to blow open when she came in from the street.

I asked Louise to stay on the line while I helped my elderly neighbour carry her groceries up to her place on the second floor. This only took half a minute, a small ritual I liked to perform. I grabbed her grocery bags and climbed the stairs. Reaching the top I suddenly heard my own door downstairs slam shut. Rosalie stood at the bottom of her flight of stairs, grinning up at me like Frosty the Snowman.

"Rosalie, you shouldn't have done that. I don't have my key!"

She was pointing at my door which she had closed to seal in the heat. She nodded, smiled as the reality dawned on her slowly. 

"Pas clef, Madame?"

“Pas de clef, Rosalie.” 

"Ohhhhh, Madame! Pas bon! Pas bon!" 

"Non, pas bon du tout, Rosalie."

My keys were beside the computer, safely locked in my apartment now. Once I helped her up the stairs and deposited the shopping bags on her kitchen table, I would have to find a neighbour and some tools to break back in. Outside in the shivering air I went from door to door. Dressed in only jeans and a sweater, I knocked on one door after another. I crossed the street and knocked on more doors. No one was home. I had nearly run out of neighbours’ doors to knock on. 

Leonard had the kind of doorbell that makes a noise like a bicycle bell when you twist the metal knob. I waited, shivering, until I heard footsteps. There stood Hazel, who normally lived in the building next door. Now I understood why she hadn't answered when I rang her bell a moment ago, as she looked me up and down and I explained that Rosalie had locked me out of my place and none of the neighbours were home.
I could see she felt like slamming the door in my face, but that would have shattered the unwritten Code of the North by which we all lived. So I slid into the entrance and came quickly to the point.“I need to borrow a screwdriver."
She stepped back and looked down the hall to the kitchen where Leonard was sitting at the kitchen table with his 14-year-old daughter Lorca and two of her friends. “What is it?” he called.

I stood in the hallway awkwardly trying to think of something to say.

"Could I use your phone for a second?"
Next to the telephone lay a copy of today’s Gazette, with the Chinese man still somersaulting in the air on Milton Street yesterday. I had suddenly remembered Louise was still on the line, expecting me to come back and pick up my story where I had left off.

Phoning my friend back seemed like the normal, polite thing to do, and would demonstrate that I was telling the truth, which was that these events were purely accidental and I was an innocent bystander at a series of unlikely mishaps that started yesterday when I walked over to McGill. I dialled her number by heart. Luckily she had call waiting, because she was still on the line.

"Hello?” she answered, surprised. “Oh, it’s you!” She had been sitting there all this time, patiently wondering why I was taking so long. “I thought you must be unpacking all her groceries and putting them away in the cupboards or something."

I spoke clearly just so Leonard and Hazel would hear the breathless sincerity in my voice: "My neighbour is a bit forgetful and locked me out of my place by mistake. Now I'm next door trying to get back in."

"Next door, you mean, at Leonard Cohen's?" She spoke in a thrilled whisper.

Leonard had got up from the table and was next to the phone, listening in. "I can’t really talk right now. Let me call you back in a few minutes."

"Okay, I'll be waiting. Bye!"

Leonard was looking inscrutable so I showed him the photo of the red-jacketed man.

You wouldn't believe what a weird day I’m having. Getting locked out is only the second bizarre thing that's happened." I jabbed a finger at the photo. “Yesterday I was on Milton Street when this Chinese man suddenly flew up in the air and landed on the sidewalk right in front of me, and today he’s on the front page of the Gazette! What do you think of that?"

It was never fun to be on the receiving end of one of Leonard’s blank stares. Now i was slipping on black ice. My story sounded like an absurd alibi pulled out of thin air so I could come over and crash his private meeting.

In the kitchen, the three teenage girls were whispering and giggling as Hazel bustled in, armed with a screwdriver. Taking charge, she told me the easiest access to my apartment was from the back, not the front as I had supposed. Leonard pulled an old brown overcoat from one of the closets and draped it over my shoulders. I slipped my arms into the sleeves and followed Hazel out the back door and around through the alley where we scrambled up a snowdrift and over the frost fence.

We were knee deep in the snow of my back yard, thrashing a path to my back entrance. I watched in mild alarm as Hazel handled the screwdriver and jimmied my bathroom window open in no time. "Have you been doing B and E’s all your life!" She just laughed ironically, as if it was normal for the woman next door to possess the skill-set of the professional burglar.

Before squeezing through the gap, I handed her the famous overcoat. Wouldn't want to rip it. I unlocked the kitchen door and let her in so she wouldn't have to climb over my fence again to get back to Leonard's.

"Thanks again! Thanks so much!"  My voice trailed off in the empty flat where I slouched on my futon, lost in thought. I remembered the summer before, when my place had been broken into, my laptop stolen. The thieves had come in through that same bathroom window. Strange that Hazel knew, almost better than I, that this was the easiest way of forcing entry...

I was back in my cold apartment, just as if none of this had happened. Then I remembered Louise was still anxiously waiting for my call.