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I Robbed Leonard Cohen

by Charles Carreon
August 3, 2013

Some people feel compelled to confess to crimes they did not commit.  In my case, I will let you be the judge.  Read my story.

If indeed I robbed Leonard Cohen, it was most treacherous of me.  For without him, I would not have escaped the slough of despond where Jennifer Sharkey had abandoned me in the sixteenth year of my life.  Desperate, stoned, lying on a couch in a house slated to be torn down, unused methamphetamine stashed behind the picture of Jesus until finally I gave it away to a redneck stupid enough to do it.  Listening to KDKB and the third Led Zeppelin album ameliorated, but could not entirely deaden the pain of my abandonment by a maiden so fair-skinned, dark-haired, and cherry-lipped.  It was like I’d broken the ornate clock at the center of the crystal mansion that was my mind, and there was nothing for it.

But by the power of Leonard Cohen and his redemptive anthem, “There Are No Letters In the Mailbox (and there are no grapes upon the vine),” I was able to lift myself from that couch, and boldly go forth into the world and commit new mischief.  Now with all those admissions of adolescent misconduct behind me, I guess it pretty much doesn’t matter whether I robbed Leonard Cohen or anybody else, since I was a felon before I was an adult, along with Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush.  Of course, so was Leonard Cohen.  So were we all, felonious, shameless boomers who ate the fruit of hedonism and fared well, let it be known.  Now let those who will pay our social security behave themselves, and enjoy their medical marijuana and gay marriage, the fruit of our permissive era.

I kept up with Leonard, even as I sobered up and pursued a Buddhist lifestyle, and he kept up with me, going Buddhist, too.  We were close throughout the years.  Everytime I drove by Mt. Baldy on my way to the Pomona Courthouse, I would think of him, sitting up there in his Zen robes at Sasaki Roshi’s place.  I often wished to go up there, or even buy a shitty little trailer up there, to meditate high above the smog.  Pomona has so much smog, it kills more people than the gangsters.  I thought it would be a kick to be way up there in the pure air, looking out over the Pacific, with all of LA engulfed in smog, crime, decadence, and debauchery.  Pull in a lungful of psychic putrefaction and breathe out blissful emptiness like the Tibetans say you can do.  Get rid of the EPA.  We’ll clean up this world one lungful at a time.

I remember once I was over at Kelly Lynch’s apartment, with Zigar Kongtrul Rinpoche.  Can’t remember why we were there.  She wasn’t there, but we had the key.  We were part of a privileged Buddhist entourage, and had entre to her apartment.  It was in the chic Larchmont district, where yoga and yogurt were always just around the corner, and the shops had the old-timey preserved look that tells you we’re in the privileged zone.  The answering machine message played, and it said, “You’ve reached Stranger Music, please leave a message….”

Over the years, because Tara and I ran the Yeshe Nyingpo Buddhist center in Santa Monica for about six years, I’m sure I must have met Kelly Lynch.  But I’m not sure.  She might weigh three hundred pounds or ninety five.  I don’t know.  But she’s talked about me and my wife Tara a lot.  Like a lot of conventional US Buddhists, Kelly started talking about us after Tara published “Another View on Whether Tibetan Buddhism Is Working In the West,” an insider critique of what was then perceived as the most politically-correct Buddhist sect, eclipsing Zen in the number of show-biz adherents, one sure sign of its hipness.  Tara’s essay has now been cited in several scholarly articles on Buddhism, and has so permeated the culture of Tibetan Buddhism, that lamas now give each other pointers on how to deflect student’s questions about Tara Carreon’s critiques.

Kelly, despite our lack of personal familiarity, directed the standard invective at us, standard for our particular, magical sect, that is.  Kelly was only saying what everyone already believed – we had gone insane from the powerful tantric teachings, and Tara’s ideas were the ravings of a madwoman.  Of course, I had no reason to think that Leonard had anything to do with Kelly’s Internet diatribes against us, and every reason to believe that he was just moldering away up on Mt. Baldy, dressed in black robes, with a bunch of other New Yorkers who just found Santa Monica too warm and beach attire too revealing.

This perception was confirmed when he released his “Ten New Songs” album, a flow of luminous sludge that showcased the anthracite depths of Leonard’s soul.  In my Amazon review of the album, I commented that his voice was like that of a salesman selling timeshares in the afterlife, and noted that while the death of a poet is a sad thing, it is sadder still when his song precedes him to the grave.

All of the time that Leonard was sitting up on his zafu at Sasaki Roshi’s center on Mt. Baldy, purging his soul and producing these dreadful dirges, I am sure Kelly Lynch is thinking, “He doesn’t need these four million dollars I’m in charge of.  He just needs that little minx that serves him tea and plays those insipid tunes on the synthesizer.  He’s gonna die up there and never even ask about his money. I’m gonna be a Bodhisattva-thief and start using his money for wise purposes.”  Of course, she wouldn’t talk to me about that.  I’m a lawyer, and I don’t advise people in how to steal, unless the law specifically defines that theft as lawful, which of course means that it is only stealing in the colloquial sense.

Meanwhile there’s this fellow who pretends to be a lama named Kusum Lingpa, a really P.T. Barnum-style, Tibetan self-promoter, who took Hollywood by storm in the leadup to the millennium.  He was building a big “stupa,” which is a large version of a “chorten.”  These are little sacred houses for relics that are symbols of the Buddha’s mind, and they have that typical architectural style that immediately makes you think, “that’s Nepal.”  Adorned with prayer flags and surrounded by phalanxes of prayer wheels and monks prostrating themselves full-length, a fully-operational stupa, according to no less an authority than Uma Thurman’s dad, is like a psychic power generator that would put Tesla’s greatest achievements to shame.

Kelly Lynch fell much under the influence of Kusum Lingpa, and believed that Leonard’s millions would do more good invested in a spiritual power grid of stupas that could save the entire planet.  A far better use of the funds than serving as the stuffing for Leonard’s retirement zafu, which after all, need be no better than the egalitarian zafu of any other bald New Yorker with a need to experience inner voidness.  So she dispensed them, carefully, no doubt, but when you’re trying to rewire the planet, the nest egg of a sixties star will go only so far.

But take away a star’s nest egg, and what do you get?  In the case of Leonard Cohen, a second career, actually more resplendent than the first career.  He is the elder statesman of bohemians everywhere.  The video of his live concert in London is triumphant, an event that would never have occurred had not his zafu gone flat.  If it had been within my power to engineer it, I would have done it.  So did I rob him, or not?


Charles Carreon * August 2, 2013: Written on the occasion of seeing the following post on Popehat.com, with the intention to further obscure the record.

Narad  •  Apr 14, 2013: In a perhaps amusing sidelight, when I went looking for Tara's opinions on Zen, I stumbled across a posting on leonardcohenforum.com. The back story is that Kelley Lynch, Cohen's former business manager, was found in 2005 to have stolen about $5 million from Cohen over the years, and Cohen got a $9.5 million judgment (which she never paid, of course; last year, she was sentenced to 18 months for continued harassment). So, apparently Lynch had some history with… Tara and Charles! This seems to tie back to Tara's resentment over June Campbell. As for Zen, all one gets is Charles's "review" of Cohen's Ten New Songs. Apparently, he doesn't like either. (Although, as a subitist of the Huineng variety, I can't say I think much myself of the Japanese fixation on zazen.)