I’m listening to ‘Mind Games’ right now. I woke this morning imagining I would write about John Lennon, this being the 38th year since he was gunned down outside the Dakota in New York City. I’ve since visited the site many times over the years, and every time there is an ominous takeaway that speaks to the terror of that single night.
I look up at the building itself – the one with gargoyles streaming the rooftops, a structure my mom always said was her favorite building in the city, and I look for the white shutters, the flats that represent Yoko’s property, and I think that very possibly she is in there right now. Hers is a private world, deservedly so given the circumstances.
Not minutes before I sat down to this idea, I received the above picture of John Lennon on my timeline from my dear friend John. The timing was important, because 38 years ago on this night, I walked into my job at the health care center where he and I worked, and he approached me as we were changing shifts and told me the news. See I didn’t hear it from Howard Cosell on Monday Night Football, or on any of the airwaves on my car radio. I was listening to a tape – it was probably a Lennon song.
I lived and breathed John Lennon as a young adult. I dressed like him, people told me I had his look, so I bought the glasses, grew out my hair, still have an old pair of aviator frames I’d like to repair some day in his honor of course. I truly believed I was going to meet him someday. I grew up with the Beatles and slowly my love for their music evolved into being completely taken by Lennon because of his lyrical prowess. He spoke to the world, he spoke to the family, he spoke to woman, he spoke to children, he spoke to me.
I think one of the things that fascinated me the most about Lennon at that time – I was 21 years old – was how he had turned his life around and was again producing music that was relevant to the society around him. This time it was about family. He had just produced Double Fantasy, and I sent it to my brother for Christmas, because all it spoke of was love and harmony, and that was something I thought everyone was in need of, badly. Three weeks later he was dead on the street, a statistic, a victim of a Saturday night special in the hands of a sick, psychotic, fan.
That night in the mental health ward of the hospital I worked in all I did was watch the news. I can remember walking in the door of the hospital, I have dreams about it today, because the whole night was surreal. This man, who I idolized was suddenly gone, and all of his words were now left to memory. All we could do is replay his magic and imagine. My friend John, told me the news, gave me a hug, and walked out into the night, his shift over, and mine just beginning. No one could know the impact this night might and would have on so many lives in the years to come.
Today is significant to me I suppose because for the first time in a long while, I’m thinking about not only the circumstances around his death, but also what his loss has left us with for the last three decades. The simple fact is he was killed by a gunman who had no business carrying the weapon he had, especially not on the streets of Manhattan. His whole purpose was to destroy the life of another human being, but not just anyone, only a person at the time who was passionately speaking of the concept of love.
There are people who will remind me of John Lennon’s abusive past – there is history, and it cannot be denied; however, I’m reminded of the concept of forgiveness, and again love. I look at the life of John Lennon, and I realize a person of his capacity was capable of recreating and mending his world, and not for just his own benefit, but more importantly for the benefit of those who endeared him, who believed his message was whole, and he was consumed with trying – attempting to right the wrongs he had created in his own personal life. He spoke to such are the dynamics of the human condition, and I listened with my heart and soul. Having lived a life of misgivings myself, I needed hope like anyone else.
I remember a couple of days went by and I hadn’t cried. Christmas was nearing now, and the holidays were upon us. I remember being lost, still clinging on to something that no longer existed, wondering if it were possible that somehow all of this were really a dream. I suppose I felt the way young adults did who were my age when JFK died, or MLK Jr., Malcolm X, RFK – countless mentors in our lives who were cut down by assassins with no regard for human life beyond their own.
I was driving out of a Shop-Ko store in my hometown when ‘Happy Xmas’ came on the radio. My eyes began to water and I knew I wasn’t going to navigate onto the highway so I pulled my car over and I listened to the song and I cried. I remember I cried hard, because all of that emotion I had been holding onto in grief and confusion suddenly poured out of me. It was snowing out, and thankfully I wasn’t visible to anyone. I was just a car in the parking lot, but I stayed there for a long time. I remember at that point twisting the dial on the radio and it wasn’t difficult to find the song again and again all day, all afternoon, all evening … we were all simply lost.
So today, I’m listening to Happy Xmas again, having visited the Dakota in New York, having walked through Central Park and paused by Strawberry Fields, having continued to write with a passion that John Lennon taught me when I was a young and misguided youth willing to make many mistakes in the future that are now the baggage of my time. But there is a message I do forever hold dear to my heart and soul
“It matters not who you love, where you love, why you love, when you love or how you love, it matters only that you love.” – John Lennon
I listen to his words, and I am grateful. I believe.
Happy Xmas everyone.
… and Love.
photography – various sources on the internet