Picture this: Getting off of the 1 train at Lincoln Center, walking, walking, walking, past the Starbuckses and opera-goers and fancy apartments and hotels you will never be able to afford, to the edge of Central Park. It is freezing cold, but it's been so freezing cold all day that your fingertips have almost stopped complaining. It's dark and sort of foggy on the edge of the park, and almost completely deserted. Just the sort of place to get mugged, but you're almost sure it's too cold for muggers. You walk under a yellow streetlight and there's a low hill you can see in the park, and over the hill the top of another yellow streetlight. Over the hill is Strawberry Fields, you're told, and a mosaic in memorial of John Lennon. Something resonant, a sound not really heard, but felt, maybe imagined, cuts over the hill. "Do you hear music?" "I'm humming..." "No, I hear music!" There it is again, as you get closer, something harmonic and happy and beautiful. Not a trained chorus, but the combined voices of people made beautiful by shared love. "Is it... no..."
So I can't say that I've ever been that hugely attached to John Lennon (I'm more of a George girl, honestly). He's not a Bowie to me, or even really as up there as Bob Dylan. In fact, when I think about him I mostly think about when Andy, Kate and I were filming our first mockumentary, the title of which I've now forgotten, in which I was playing a sort of Yoko-figure (or what I thought was a Yoko figure at the time). "This wall, while it may look to you just like a wall in my living room, really represents, I feel, the oneness and conformity of the modern world, all beige and singular. It's a real statement that I was making, you know? Also, it matches the couch." Weirdly enough, I think Andy was playing Ringo, so I'm not sure why we were trying to channel Yoko, but it doesn't really matter.
However, I do love music and peace and people and singing, so stumbling upon a memorial sing-along for John Lennon in Central Park on Monday evening (after a day of freezing my toes off in Greenwich Village and SoHo and finding more ways to say "I'm cold" than I'd ever thought I'd need to, but still being ecstatically happy) was more than magical enough to make up for not actually knowing that much about the guy to begin with. I know The Beatles, of course. I love The Beatles. And I know Imagine. Who doesn't know Imagine? Still, I couldn't have predicted that coming to Strawberry Fields on the night of December 8th would find over a hundred people gathered around in a tight circle, strumming guitars and singing his songs. It was, of course, the memorial of his assassination.
We'd intended to go in and take our pictures with the mosaic. We ended up staying for three-and-a-half hours. There were a lot of things going on there that might be worth mentioning (The two old men in golf hats who looked like they belonged in Waking Ned Devine and sang every song with their mouths wide open and their eyes full of tears; the man who repeatedly requested "My Gentle Guitar Weeps"; the really excited frat guy who shouted out songs like taunts at a baseball game and headbanged to "Hey Jude"; the man with the mustache and funny glasses who was apparently in charge of time itself.), but what I really noticed, at 11:15 while we took a moment of silence at the time of his death and I looked around at faces lowered in thought, was the diversity. The people there fit no mold. They were young and old, in every color of the rainbow. A man behind me had come all the way from Florida. Another was from Philadelphia. I was told Yoko was watching from her apartment. Some people knew the words to every song. Some knew the chorus to "I Want to Hold Your Hand". I cannot bring myself to think that any one of those people deserved to be there any more than another.
I could not cry for John Lennon's death. As a person born in 1989 my world has always been one in which he has been as gone as JFK or Martin Luther King. As if I am viewing his life backwards through a tunnel, I have never been able to see it disconnected from its end, but that does not discount the profound effect that he has had on my world just by being John Lennon. If you loved him, if you liked him, if you barely know him even now, if you kiss his picture every night before you go to sleep and wailed for days after December 8, 1980, whatever, John Lennon has touched your life, just by the footprint his life left on your history. In fifth grade I could barely have told you the names of all The Beatles, but I knew Give Peace a Chance. I have seen Imagine sung in churches and on street corners by soloists and stadiums. You may not know the words, but you know the message and you know you want to sing it; loudly, off-key and for hours on end.