Bobby Gold had been listening to Leonard Cohen. That sounds like an innocent occupation, but Gold listened and listened again to “Suzanne.” “Suzanne” is a very sinister song if listened to too late in life. Its erudite songwriting is both lyrical and fatalistic. Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river. You can hear the boats go by. You can spend the night beside her. That all sounds great. Until you discover that she’s half crazy. And she wears rags and feathers from Salvation Army counters. And she shows you where to look among the garbage and the flowers. Which is not so great. Bobby Gold, I believe, took every word of “Suzanne” as literally as though it had been a Bloomberg Report. You understand me, he had some reservations, but on the whole, the song to him was sound. It was all that was needed to set him off. I did not realize the extent to which it had set him off until one day when we had a conversation.
“Hello, Bobby,” I said. “Did you come by to cheer me up?”
“Would you go with me to Dean & Deluca to buy some tea and oranges that come all the way from China?” he asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t really like tea. Besides, you can get all the tea you want at the corner QuikiMart.”
“It’s not real tea.”
“It looks awfully real to me.”
He looked up into the sky and said, “The sun pours down like honey on our lady of the harbour.”
“What do you think of Britney Spears new album?” I said, hoping to change the subject.
“It stinks. Now listen, Dave. If I handled both of our expenses, would you go to Dean & Deluca with me?”
“You know your cheeses. And it would be more fun if you sang backup vocals to Sisters of Mercy with me while we were at the deli counter.”
“No,” I said. “I like Ry Cooder and I go to Cuba in the spring.”
“All my life I’ve wanted to write a song about oranges and tea that comes from China.” He sat down. “Now I’ll be too old before I can ever do it.”
“Don’t be a fool,” I said. “You can go write any song you like. And your dad will make a CD of it. He has plenty of money.”
“I know. But I can’t get started.”
“Cheer up,” I said. “All songs sound like Edith Piaf.”
But I felt sorry for him. He had it badly.
“I can’t stand it to think my life is going so fast and I’m not really writing anything as great as Hallelujah even if Rufus Wainwright sang it better.”
“Nobody ever sings as great as Rufus Wainwright except Prince.”
“I’m not interested in Prince. He’s neither male nor female. I want to sing like Leonard.”
“What about Paul Simon?”
“No; he doesn’t interest me.”
“That’s because you’ve never heard an album by Simon and Garfunkel. Go on and listen to a Bridge over Troubled Waters. Particularly when you’re weary, feeling small.”
“I want to go down to her place near the river and hear the boats go by.”
He had a hard, Brittish, stubborn streak.
“Listen, Cam, go to Cuba with us. There are snookers there and you can get tight.”
“But I don’t want a snooker. I’ve got Francis.”
“Bring her along too.”
“I don’t think she’d go. Why would she be interested in snookers?”
So there you were. I was sorry for him, but it was not a thing you could do something about, because right away you ran up against the two stubbornnesses: Leonard Cohen could fix it and he did not like snookers. He got the first idea from an album, and I suppose the second came from an album too.
“Well,” I said, “I’ve got to go upstairs and do some writing.”
“Do you really have to go?”
“Yes, I’ve got to Twitter and post some photos on my Facebook page.”
“Do you mind if I come up and sit around watching you tweet?”
“No, come on up.”
He sat on the couch in the outer room and read a review of “Famme Fatale” while I put on some music and tweeted about him liking Leonard Cohen and then Photoshopped several photos of me and uploaded them to my Facebook page. When I was finished I went out into the other room and there was Cam asleep in the big chair. He was asleep with his head on his arms. I did not like to wake him up, but I put my hand on his shoulder. He shook his head. “The fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, the major lift…”
“Cam,” I said, and shook him by his shoulders. He looked up. He smiled and blinked.
“Did I sing out loud just then?”
“Something. But it wasn’t clear.”
“God, what a rotten dream!”
“Did my playing Sarah McLachlan put you to sleep?”
“Guess so. I didn’t sleep all last night.”
“What was the matter?”
“Famous Blue Raincoat,” he said.
I could picture it. I have a rotten habit of picturing my friends singing maudlin songs in the shower. We went out to the Hotel Chantelle to have a drink and watch the evening crowd on Delancey Street.