Thursday, December 08, 2005

Carry that weight

At a bookstore yesterday, I spent most of my time next to a table stacked with books about John Lennon. There's just an astounding amount of material on the man available right now - new biographies, photography books, magazines, etc. I already own plenty of stuff on Lennon and The Beatles, but I still considered buying one or two of the books for myself since I won't get one as a gift (Happy Holidays!).

Eventually, all the reading and perusing blew dust off whichever part of my brain remembers such things, and I realized that we were at that time of year, the anniversary (which doesn't seem like the right word) of John Lennon's death.

And now, it's been 25 years since Lennon was killed. I was a little kid back then, and thanks to my uncle, very familiar with the Beatles' music. And my dad knew that. The morning after it happened, he gave me the news as he fixed breakfast for us. He heard about it while watching Monday Night Football. It's a rather vivid childhood memory.

“Why would someone shoot him?” I asked him. He said he didn't know. Thinking about it now, I'm glad he didn't try to explain how insane the world could be. No kid should have to learn about the terrible things people can do to each other while wearing Superman pajamas and eating Cheerios.

I remember trying to call my uncle - a huge Beatles fan - after I got home from school, but he didn't answer the phone. When I saw him days later, I asked him the same question I asked my dad. I got the same answer.

Four years ago, when I visited Mis Hooz in New York for the first time, I told her I wanted to see where Lennon died. She asked me why I would want to do such a thing. It was a good question, one I didn't know how to answer.

I went to the Dakota, stood at the exact spot I recalled from old news footage and photos, and began to take pictures. After snapping two or three, I lowered my camera and noticed someone walking by. He looked at me and shook his head. And then I felt like shit, like I was being disrespectful and ghoulish.

Looking for some shade (and probably a place to hide from embarrassment), I walked across the street to Central Park. I had no idea Strawberry Fields or the "Imagine" mosaic were there. But of course, that's what I found.

It was really quite a sight. Rays of sunlight streamed through the trees and reflected off the white mosaic tiles. From a distance, in the middle of a courtyard, surrounded by an iron barricade, it almost looked like a pool of white light. Outside the barricade were dozens of shells of melted wax, from the candles that had been lit in tribute.

In today's San Francisco Chronicle, Steven Winn writes, "We don't just remember Lennon. We remember how we remember him." Given the preceding 500 words in this entry, I'd say there's certainly some truth to that. Most every time I read about him or listen to his music, I think about that visit.

Tonight, there will be a vigil in Central Park to honor Lennon. I wish I could be there.

♦ From today until Sunday, an exhibit of John Lennon's art will be on display at the Ann Arbor Art Show. I have a feeling I'll check it out.

♦ Today's New York Times has an Op-Ed piece by Jack Mitchell, who photographed Lennon a month before he died.