no perfect way to be an audience

It’s late on the eve of Leonard Cohen’s final album release and I’m writing this from a corner stool at Redbar, knowing that You’re only gonna be seeing this after the album’s been released and probably after I’ve already gushed some rapturous hot take on social media, but what I’m feeling right now, in a heavy way, is what I last felt in 2015, at a TGI Fridays in Kendall, grabbing two quick shots of Jameson before heading by myself into an opening night screening of Creed—the seventh movie to feature my favorite character in cinema, Rocky Balboa, who, as the trailers suggested, was going to die at the end (misleading—he survives).

            Rocky Balboa is probably as formative a figure in my internal life as Cohen, insofar as they’re two figures I came upon at the right age and who cemented some ideas about how I wanted to live my life, and when I was there by myself at the bar, on that night of Creed’s release, and then the theater, I was glad to be alone for the occasion. Because it was only in being alone that I felt like I was really in the company of the work, the artist, the character—whatever.

            A film takes a really long time to come together. Same goes for an album, a novel. When a night comes along that you’re about to consume that long-gestating art from a personality with whom you feel a serious connection…it’s almost like I need to be alone in order to appreciate the company. To give it the entirety of my attention.

            (Or maybe that’s bullshit—because while it feels totally right and true, and I do it a lot whenever something new is coming out that really matters to me, I went to see Once Upon a Time in Hollywood with my girlfriend at the time, Elle, whom I’d only been seeing for a couple months but whose company probably made the movie twice as enjoyable. So who knows.)

            What I’m feeling right now at the bar, three hours before the album will ideally pop up online at 12:01, is that it’s time to relinquish this idea of some perfect listening situation. Because all week I’ve been mired in Leonard Cohen music, looking forward to tonight. And I’ve been thinking about getting candles, wine, a hearty indulgent expensive meal beforehand.

            But here I am on the big night and…I’m not prepared for any of that. I’m at the bar with my notebook and I’m not gonna stop on the way home for wine and a candle and if I get any food at all it’s like to be McDonald’s. I’ll be lucky to not have diarrhea when midnight comes along at midnight.

            Like with anything else, you come at it as you are.

            The artist brings her own self to the occasion, and you bring yours.

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