Never Mind the Groceries, Leonard: Guest Post by Caitlyn James

You might assume things upon hearing that Caitlyn James is a teacher. Most of them would be way wrong. For instance, I was prompted to ask her to write a little something because of her latest exercise regimen: burlesque dancing.

Everything else she does is mad, too.

Me write about music? Sure. Why not? I can read music. I can play some songs on some instruments. And, I know how to work a radio and a CD player and iTunes. I have been asked not to sing ever. I have been kicked out of a church choir (surprisingly, not for rowdy behaviour but for my voice) and been refused private singing lessons after one. Lesson.

But, I have also been in choirs and passed both my singing tests at university (after many, many, many, many hours of coaching and practice.) And, I dance to music. Always. Mostly every day. Sometimes while driving. Which is different. It includes speeding. But the stuff in my living room or a dance floor isn’t all that straightforward because I can’t hear music accurately. That, my dear, is my musical resume.

Now, tell me what you want. How much of it, in what sort of vein? My favourite music/musician? Raising a baby with a heavy metal band in the living room? “Dust in the Wind” still reminding me of being 19 and hanging out with all my gifted musician friends? Finding Nancy White and realizing that I, too, don’t really want Leonard Cohen to bring my groceries in (and that’s not a metaphor, you are to take that literally.)

Do you know of Nancy White? Here she is:

I was listening to music as I swept the kitchen floor.
I was needing a shampoo and I was pushing 44.
And I had one of those flashes that hits you now and then
About experience manqué and certain sadly missing men.
And I realized in horror as I stroked my double chin,
Leonard Cohen’s never gonna bring my groceries in!

I’ve a husband and a baby, there’s another on the way.
And, like Leonard, I am aching in the place I used to play.
But really, I’m enjoying all this domesticity.
Hey, I never have to deal with Warren Beatty’s vanity.
But there is one thing I regret, and my regret is genuine.
Leonard Cohen’s never gonna bring my groceries in.

Oh Leonard and me, together we’d be great.
Strumming our guitars and singing songs while it got late!
(Well, not TOO late, these days I kind of fold about eleven.
But for a little while it would be heaven, heaven, heaven.)
Oh, Leonard and me, we’d be so decadent.
We’d look at all those bottles, wonder where the wine all went.
(Well frankly I can’t drink it anymore, my head can’t take it.
But I know me and Leonard we could make it, make it.)

I love each line he’s written, Except for maybe one:
“Nancy wore green stockings [Male chorus] and she slept with
everyone.”*
I thought: “What if somebody thinks he’s singing about me?”
‘Cause after all, I lived in Montreal in 1963.
And perhaps I was his type when I was young and sweet and thin.
But now Leonard’s never gonna bring my groceries in.

Oh, Leonard and me, we’re soulmates, there’s no doubt.
I feel it in my heart, we’d have so much to talk about.
We’d hole up in the Tower of Song with coffee strong and bitter.
That is, of course, if I could get a sitter,
A sitter, a sitter.
Hey, I’m just some singer looking for a sitter.

[Nancy White's gushingly spoken words over Cohen-type "la, la, la, la" female chorus] OK wait! Leonard! Hey maybe Leonard could babysit. Yeah, Oh he’d be wonderful, the girls would love him. He can read stories. A poet can always use an extra five dollars an hour. He would be perfect. How can I get his number? Hmm, Marie-Lynn Hammond she’ll have his number. I know she will. I’m going to call her right now. This is inspiring. I am so happy! So Leonard Cohen can babysit and Doug and I can go to the mall and pick out the new towels for the bathroom. [pause] That’s what I really want to do. Of course, [pause and sexy, sotto voce] ’cause maybe I can be the one to drive the babysitter home tonight.

The above version of the spoken ad-lib section is as recorded on the CD. Nancy indicates that these lyrics evolve over time. Currently she is saying “I’ll call Rita, Rita’s everybody’s friend.” This will probably change soon, since this is a reference to Rita McNeill who had a TV show on CBC called “Rita and Friends” which has now been cancelled.

* “Seems So Long Ago, Nancy” on Leonard Cohen’s Songs from a Room

© 1990 Multinan Inc., SOCAN. 4:15.
Lyrics reprinted with permission.
Cat. # SANCD 1025, Children’s Group, Toronto, 1990.
Published by Mouton Records.

I often say that I love it when someone disagrees with me politely, because it means that either I’m about to learn something new, or to reinforce something I believe.

Caitlyn does me this favor more often than anyone else I know.

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2 Responses to Never Mind the Groceries, Leonard: Guest Post by Caitlyn James

  1. Joel, your final comment(s) touch me deeply. Thank-you.

  2. Karen J says:

    You both know that I wish I had Elastic-Man arms, so I could give you both a hug at-the-same-time, from Chicago, dontchya? Karen

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