Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Love, peace and slippers.

On Wednesday evening, I took me down to Strawberry Fields, where everything was real. It was the thirtieth anniversary of John Lennon's murder, and Strawberry Fields is the memorial area of Central Park, right across from the Dakota Building in 72nd Street (or ON 72nd Street as US English has it), where he lived and was shot down, and where his widow Yoko Ono still has apartments.

Susan was working, so I went on my own, riding up on the subway on the A Train. There were hundreds of people there, some lighting and holding candles, all singing Lennon and Beatles songs. The age range was from teens to seventies: John and his band have universal appeal. There was a minute's silence at 10.50pm, the time he was shot, and another at 11.10pm, the time he died, or anyway round about the time he died; a couple of people had turned up by then whose idea of fun was to disrupt things by yelling. There were those who wanted to do some damage to the people shouting. I thought "right; if they won't give peace a chance, split their heads open..." and a woman behind me said, surely rightly, that John would have been with the disrupters. But more or less a minute of more or less silence we eventually got, which is an achievement in itself in Manhattan.

People were relaxed, calm and peaceful, talking to one another about John, the Beatles, what the lyrics meant (I know, I know, but it's inevitable), the history of it all; and singing, always singing. Everyone seemed to know all the lyrics and we were all singing along with great gusto. We sang Imagine (of course), Strawberry Fields Forever (of course), A Day in the Life, which was the moment I choked up-- well, okay, one of them-- and many others. It was at that point that I looked down at my feet and realised that I hadn't changed out of my slippers before I left the house. Well, do you know what? My feet never felt cold or sore, so they must be damn good slippers, well worth the twelve quid I paid for them, so that's a result really. I'm glad I went, glad now that I was there, glad that from now on I can say I was there, that after thirty years I've finally been at a Lennon memorial at Strawberry Fields. And that I have a fine pair of slippers.


  1. One of these days I will go to Strawberry Fields. I hope to be there for a December 8 memorial. When Lennon was killed, I was singing lead in a little band while I was stationed in Virginia, in the Navy.

    In fact, I remember exactly what I was doing. I was an EKG tech at the Navy Hospital in Portsmouth, VA, and had duty that night. I was watching Quincy, M.D. when they interrupted with a special report. My first thought was that the Iranians has started killing hostages. (The Iranian Students had taken our people hostage in 1979, and they were still captive at that time.)

    But it was the news about John. I walked into the Emergency Room, which was right next to my clinic, and one of the nurses saw my face and asked me what was wrong. I told her. Within a couple of minutes, ever Doctor, Nurse, and Corpsman that was not with a patient was in my clinic, crowded around my TV, watching the news report about John Lennon. There were more than a few of us who had tears running down their faces. We had all grown up with the Beatles.

    Somehow, I think John might have ignored the shouters, or at least bantered with them.

    Give Peace a Chance.

  2. To be honest, Mike, when he was murdered, I was fifteen and hadn't really discovered the Beatles yet (that happened about a year later), so it didn't mean all that much to me, although the news scenes from Strawberry Fields, as it still wasn't called then, and elsewhere moved me.

    But he sure means a lot to me now, as did visiting that shrine on that day. Since then, I've noticed that when Merry Christmas (War is Over) plays, as it very often does in this city, I can feel myself instantly choking up; since that night, it seems to mean even more.