Saturday, December 31, 2016

Cymbal #51:: Ghosts of the Twentieth Century

Lost somewhere in the back alleys of the twentieth century is a hotel. The carpet at the reception is worn down towards the counter. There's a bowl of hard candy resting on it. The wood paneling has started peeling at the corners. Keys hang from a board behind the receptionist, a kind ghost in a white jacket with watery eyes. 

In a room up the stairs, Papa Hemingway has just filled a glass with rum and ice, his hairy fist closing on the crystal cubes. He's sitting in his towel, like a fat bear, his back still wet. A chain hangs around his neck. 

On the fire escape, Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith are eating an orange. They are thinner than thin and hipper than hip. She is holding him, and he growing ghostlier. He is more shirt than man now. Soon, only she will remain, holding his scent in her nose. 

Leonard Cohen - Chelsea Hotel No. 1 - 1972


Down the corridor, a woman is sitting on the edge of a bed, putting her pants back on. Her lover lies cheek down, watching her. He is already writing the poem. He will write it now, he has written it already, he will write it five years from now. He will rewrite it. Over time the last thing he writes and records will replace all the drafts in his head. It will replace his memories of that afternoon as well. 

Greg Dulli - Paper Thin Hotel - 2012
(Leonard Cohen Cover)


I was there too, running for the money and the flesh. Then, that year, the entire mountain fell on me, the unbearable entirety of human despair. I saw the light of the universe flicker, saw how little life there was in all. Up till then, I had believed in death by flame. For the first time, I saw that death could come from slow extinction, from suffocation, from a lack of desire. That I could die equally of patterns in traffic, the slow movement of clocks, that I could die equally of disinterest.

There's a man in the little room by the laundry chute whose face is flames. He never stops hammering away at his typewriter. He's been typing for weeks. One day the spell will break, and the flame will go out and he will eat and he will sleep, like a mortal. What the rest of us would not give to be him - to be imbued by purpose, to be burning like gas from a jet. 

Leonard Cohen - Who by Fire - 2010 (Live)


This is why, in the morning, everybody in the hotel, even the man who is on fire, comes to the courtyard to look at the fish.  They put on clothes, nudge their lovers and walk down the stairs. The fish swim in their nectar - they have no age, they cannot die. We can only touch the water and hope. And I who have no hope from this burnt year, I watch all the ghosts of the century anoint themselves. 

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