Friday, December 8, 2017

The Rosy Glow of Memory

I've found a lot of things lying in London's waterways on my various walks around town. But until my most recent LOOP walk, I had never found a sofa. At least, not that I recall.

Today is the anniversary of John Lennon's death -- 37 years ago, which is mind-blowing in itself. Almost as many years have passed as Lennon was alive. He packed an incredible amount of living into his four decades on the planet. I will never forget that awful event -- the news reports, the shock, the endless Beatles songs on the radio. I was in ninth grade, and the next year I was given Lennon's "Double Fantasy" album for my birthday.

You know, I feel like I am a forgiving person. I can see the tragedy, for example, in the women of the Manson family who were essentially victimized by Charles Manson -- as I said the other day, every time one of them comes up for parole, part of me hopes they get it. But any trace of forgiveness in me vanishes at the thought of Mark David Chapman. I hope that guy stays in prison forever.

As I was transcribing my old paper journals a few nights ago, I came across an entry from Dec. 9, 2000 when I described going to dinner with coworkers at a swanky restaurant in New York. And then:

After the dinner last night, Ann and Colley and I went down to Central Park to sing at the John Lennon memorial at Strawberry Fields -- we sang a bizarre mix of Beatles songs, from "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" to "I Am the Walrus" (very hard to sing a cappella, I must say). There were huge stacks of flowers and candles. I may go over there again today to see what remains -- somehow it seemed rather carnivalesque and far less somber than I expected it to be. It wasn't the crowd-bonding experience that I anticipated, like singing "Let It Be" at the gates of the AFB at Cape Kennedy during the Trident missile protests.

(I was referring back to a nuclear missile protest at Cape Canaveral, AKA Cape Kennedy, that I attended in college in the '80s. We all sang "Let It Be" huddled around the gates of the Air Force base, to the accompaniment of some guy's boom box.)

Anyway, what's interesting about that journal entry is that I remember that evening in 2000, memorializing John Lennon in Central Park, as very much a bonding experience -- certainly with my coworker Ann and her husband Colley. I specifically remember singing "In My Life" with them, surely one of the most beautiful of all Beatles songs. I don't know why I wasn't more touched by it at the time. Sometimes it takes a while to appreciate the impact of an event, I suppose. Or maybe the rosy glow of our memories fills in the gaps in our actual experience.

RIP, John.


  1. I remember scribbling "John Lennon Is Dead" on a piece of paper before I left for work in the morning of December 9th 1980. Then I shoved it under my friend Kirk's door - knowing he would be up much later and that he hardly ever listened to the radio news.

    In 2003 I also visited Strawberry Fields and the doorman at The Dakota Buildings showed me the exact spot where the icon had fallen...
    There's room at the top they're telling you still
    But first you must learn how to smile as you kill
    If you want to be like the folks on the hill

  2. I remember crowds outside the old University Center and going to my parents for Christmas break only to get into an argument with Stepfather who truly had no idea why people were so upset over a "rock star who never did anything much," as he put it...
    That definitely wasn't a bonding experience either.

  3. I was a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa so I did not hear of his death until the news was already 24 hours old. I remember that it just did not compute, because that same week he had been on the cover of the international edition of Newsweek that the Peace Corps sent to all of us in country. I looked at the magazine and tried to understand that he was not alive on the planet any more.

    Mind you, I'm not a big John Lennon fan at all, but the Beatles were like the Rocky Mountains, like air, like long Summer days -- they were always going to be a permanent part of life as I knew it. And now one of them was dead.

    i once found a perfect stack of pancakes on the sidewalk.

  4. It seems like only yesterday when Lennon was shot. You wonder what else he may have achieved if he had lived.

  5. 37 years???? How can that be? I remember being simply stunned and trying to figure out what to do. Arizona was so far removed from New York with no connection to The Beatles or Lennon. A candlelight vigil on the Tempe campus of ASU was the closest we came. That campus has grown so much, I don't think that spot where the vigil was held is even there any longer. I think there is a building on top of it now.

  6. I had been listening to Double Fantasy non-stop and December 8th was my 4th anniversary with my first husband. The songs on the album had only strengthened my resolve to separate from my husband I was already in a very sad and melancholy mood when I opened the paper on Dec. 9th to see that awful, horrible, hideous news.
    I cried for weeks. Hank still remembers that although he was only four years old.
    And writing this, the tears are springing in my eyes.
    I still don't believe it.

  7. It's hard to imagine that 37 years has passed since that horrible day. I don't know why I thought his murderer was already dead, such a bummer to know that that he is still among the living. I just googled his name, and found some quote by him saying he killed John Lennon to become famous. We will raise our wine glasses in John Lennon's memory tonight and maybe sing some lines from In My Life.

  8. it was pretty sad but I guess John's work was done. as for In My Life, I think that is my most favorite song of all.