Mudlark No. 58 (2015)

Famous Blue Raincoat

          Well I see you there with the rose in your teeth
                            One more thin gypsy thief...
		                             —Leonard Cohen, “Famous Blue Raincoat”
The year I first heard Leonard Cohen sing of gypsy thieves
and the sort of loss you dread like conscription, I bought
a black leather motorcycle jacket. I didn’t own a motorcycle.
I owned my experience: enlisting to avoid being drafted
and sent to Nam. The jacket was my Famous Blue Raincoat, 
a symbol. Irsquo;d seen The Wild One, and it was that jacket—
the kind with the belt in the back and silver snaps, zippered 
sleeves, a design to cover anatomic regions of the upper body 
in case of a crash. The first time I wore it and waltzed in 
to the Union Bar & Grill in Athens, Ohio, I liked the way 
women paid attention to me. I liked the man I was then: 
back from the air force, a giant chip on my gypsy shoulder 
the size of a country. I drank beer and didnrsquo;t mind crashing 
and burning for the better part of a day afterwards. Some men 
are halved by their lives; some women, too. But whatever else 
a self is, besides a set of understandings we put on and take off 
like this yearrsquo;s fashion or a uniform, in the jacket I felt whole.
I was building myself from a kit, and the black leather jacket
was my Cloak of Visibility, you could say: Whatever mystery
surrounds attraction, whatever prayer for peace wearing it was
(the Beatles wore jackets like it, in their early publicity stills, 
or John Lennon did) the thing drew women. On top of which 
I wore wire-rimmed glasses with tinted lenses (like Lennon) 
night or day. They were part resolve, part a promise I made 
myself to look past appearances, to scratch the surface for 
whatever depth is, even if itrsquo;s more surface—the way a Plato
or Aristotle might. I think it was Plato who said, Only the dead 
have seen the end of war. Irsquo;m not saying I was Marlon Brando,
metaphorically slouching on some iron horse in movie light,
or Plato. Irsquo;m saying I was from Ohio and learning to live.

Roy Bentley | Nosferatu in Florida
Contents | Mudlark No. 58 (2015)