A thousand years ago I lived at this Hotel in NYC. I was a frequent rider of the elevator on this Hotel. I will continuously leave my room and come back. I was an expert on the buttons of that elevator. One of the few technologies I really ever mastered. The door opened. I walked in. Put my finger right on the button. No hesitation. Great sense of mastery in those days. Late in the morning, early in the evening. I noticed a young woman in that elevator. She was riding it with as much delight as I was. Even though she commanded huge audiences, riding that elevator was the only thing she really knew how to do. My lung gathered my courage. I said to her “Are you looking for someone?” She said “Yes, I’m looking for Kris Kristofferson “I said “Little Lady, you’re in luck, I am Kris Kristofferson.” Those were generous times. Even though she knew that I was someone shorter than Kris Kristofferson, she never led on. Great generosity prevailed in those doom decades. Anyhow I wrote this song for Janis Joplin at the Chelsea Hotel.
Everyone has their own favourite song by this most magnificent poet turned ‘singer’, their favourite stories. The one about the Chelsea Hotel is my favourite story, as told by the man himself at a 1988 New York concert, an ‘indiscretion’ he later regretted. (I made sure to stay in that hotel during my first visit to New York in the eighties, went up and down the elevator, but, unlike Leonard and Janis, was never ‘in luck’.:) My favourite song is Everybody Knows: “… that’s how it goes. Everybody knows the boat is leaking, everybody knows the captain lied.” – If you like the original version of the song you’ll find it here. And my other (maybe even more:) favourite is the Anthem, especially in times like these: The birds they sang at the break of day. Start again I heard them say. Don’t dwell on what has passed away or what is yet to be. Instead: Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.
Apart from the death of one of the Greatest, we heard of early this morning (although he had died last Monday), today will always be the day I’ll remember as the day, three years ago, that Pádraig and I left Beaumont Hospital really early in the morning, I think it was around 6am, to be brought by ambulance to Dublin Airport from were we went by air ambulance to Hamburg. I won’t, and tonight I don’t really feel like doing it, go back to that day, the care of the therapist in Beaumont who had come in at 5am to prepare Pádraig for the journey, the good wishes, blessings, holy water and really heartfelt friendship of the staff that morning.
But thinking of that day and of what followed, and having spent the afternoon with Pádraig today beside the fire while it was cold and rainy outside, I am beginning to feel grateful for the life we have together, as a family. Never thought that …
All men will be sailors until the sea will free them… in the meantime: keep ringing the bell that still can ring and watch that crack: that’s where the light gets in.
PS: Just commented that we all spent nights singing with Leonard, that we all know the lyrics of his songs like nobody else’s. The meaning of which we, or at least myself, never really grasped (I don’t think they were meant to be), but always thought were just magnificent.