A Most Interesting Man

A Most Interesting Man

Written by Roy Hall

“My name is Father Michael Cooper; may I speak to Roy Hall?”

“Speaking,” I replied.

He went on to tell me that he was an Orthodox monk who was opening a monastery and brewery in New England. Inside the building, a high-end sound room was being constructed so his parishioners could listen to quality music. He had heard through a friend that I made very good turntables and he wanted to order two pieces.

Sometimes in life, you have an instant connection with another human being. We just hit it off and talked for quite a while about many things. Eventually he ordered two of my top-of-the-line model, the mmf 11.3, and as I have often done with clergy, I gave him a discount. I sent him an invoice and he paid by return.

A few weeks later, I got a call from him saying he would be in New York, and would I join him for drinks?

Always eager to drink and talk with friends, I accepted his invitation, which read:

“Thank you for your time yesterday. I'd be interested to hear more stories of your life in Israel/Palestine and all about how you got into the turntable business, which I find absolutely fascinating.

I'm very much looking forward to seeing you at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday and thanking you in person for your generosity to the monastery over a whisky at the Union League Club, which is at 38 East 37th Street. I plan on meeting you at the door, but if for whatever reason I'm late, the doorman will have your name and will show you to the grill room. I'm grateful that some friends make it possible for me to stay at a good place in Manhattan, but the Union League is a bit fussy so there is a dress code – jacket and slacks and shoes, no jeans or sneakers. The dining room requires a tie, but the grill does not so I leave that to you.

Kind Regards,”

I arrived and was ushered into the bar. I have had the pleasure of dining once or twice at exclusive, private clubs in Manhattan. I love the anachronistic feel of these places. They make you think you are in an old movie and that Noel Coward or Basil Rathbone will be sitting at the table next to you.

The Union League Club was wonderful. Wood everywhere, overstuffed leather chairs, lawyers and their ilk drinking old fashioned cocktails and highballs, their wives wearing unglamorous clothes. To wit:

“The Union League Club provides the opportunity to meet like-minded people and their families living both locally and out of town. Many members consider the Club their “home away from home” when traveling for both work and leisure. With a wide array of amenities and programming, the Club offers diverse opportunities to socialize and create lasting memories.

The Union League Club is a private club, and sponsorship is a requirement.” [From the Union League Club website]

Well, I guess that left me out.

Father Cooper really looked the part. He had a long beard covering his friendly face and wore a simple black cassock. I asked him what I should call him.

“Father Michael” was his reply. Almost immediately two large glasses of Lagavulin scotch whisky arrived and he started to tell me his story. He was a widower, he had worked for McKinsey, was for a time a freelance journalist in Afghanistan, and also once ran an investment fund that specialized in utilities. He decided to become a monk after the death of his wife and eight years later was ordained in Mount Athos in Greece. His mission was to open a monastery in his town of birth, and that was what he was currently doing.

Even though I never wear one, I had secreted a tie in my jacket pocket in the anticipation of being invited to stay for dinner. I was not disappointed.

The specialty that night was prime rib and the Bordeaux flowed freely. Just before we ate, he asked if it was all right if he said a prayer.

When he had finished, I said the Hebrew prayer for bread. I never say it but somehow, it felt appropriate.

I left the club rather late, wobbly but feeling good.

A few weeks later he e-mailed that he was coming into New York. I offered him a choice of a restaurant or a home-cooked meal. He chose the latter.

Rita, my wife, was immediately charmed by him and over dinner we talked about the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, where he worked for a while. He spoke of his relationship with God and how much he believed in Him. He was having trouble getting planning permission for the monastery. Apparently, the various religious establishments and the local council didn’t want him there. This perplexed him.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Gerd Eichmann.


We promised to meet again soon. But somehow our schedules clashed. I was traveling on business. He was flying to Poland to help young Ukrainian teenagers, dispossessed from their homes.

He called me and said that he was travelling to the UK, to the Chelsea Flower Show to meet the top rose grower in the UK. Apparently, some monk in ancient times had a rose garden. He subsequently sent me a link for an article in Financial Times all about his visit to David Austin’s Show Gardens in Shropshire.

Some months later, he called and said he was having issues with the person building his sound room. I put him in touch with a friend of mine near Boston. A week later my friend called to say that the installer in question was a customer of his and it would be a conflict of interest to get involved. 

A few days later, my friend called again.

“Your monk has been indicted”, he said.

“What?” was my startled reply.

“He stole three point six million dollars,” he retorted.

According to a piece in the local press:

“A self-styled Orthodox ‘monk’ and his companion, a lawyer, both charged in a $3.6 million COVID pandemic relief fraud scheme, waived their rights to a preliminary hearing to determine probable cause during a brief hearing Thursday.”

Apparently, he was living with his female partner/lawyer in the “monastery.” He may not even be a monk and it is impossible to know what, if any, of his story is true.


Header image courtesy of Pexels.com/Plato Terentev.

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