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THE CHATTER BOX

 
  
  
  The Chatter Box : Blathering On
  
  
  
 
John Lennon Essay by tucsonmike on 10 December 2010 12:21am
 
This is from my friend and former boss, Susi Baldwin. Tell me what you think.



Confessions of a Beatlemanic and Other Thoughts on the Death of Childhood

There are days of our lives forever engraved in our memory, frozen in time, to which we can return at the least provocation and see the world through the eyes of who we used to be.
For my parents’ generation, such was the day remembered yesterday, December 7th, 1941, on which the Japanese bombed the American fleet at Pearl Harbor. I hadn’t been born yet so I live that day sixty-nine years ago vicariously through my mother’s memories, books and films. The day that continues to live in infamy led to America’s entrance into World War II, in the shadow of which I was born at the pinnacle of the Baby-Boomer Generation.
For most of my contemporaries the first unforgettable seminal moment in our lives was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Six years later we can probably all remember where we were and who we were with when Neil Armstrong, et al, landed on the moon. (With my grandmother, Gladys Baldwin, and about a thousand people of all nationalities standing in an open square at midnight in Lucerne, Switzerland watching and cheering the action on a big screen TV!)
On September 11, 2001, a whole new generation had joined us to stare in horror at the unimaginable images of the Twin Towers coming down. It was as if, in those few compelling minutes, the world as we’d known it had changed forever.
Some other critical anniversaries are more personal but equally as definitive. Births, deaths, rite of passage events and “eureka” moments of self-discovery are the signposts of our lives.
Thirty years ago today Mark David Chapman shot and killed John Winston (Ono) Lennon outside the Dakota in New York City. For many in my generation December 8, 1980 will be as definitive a date as any of the above. People all over the world were shocked and saddened by the death of a Beatle. For me, it remains a personal milestone as well. The day that John Lennon died was the day my childhood ended.
You see, I was a Beatlemanic. I can still remember vividly where I was, (in a car driving east on Perugia Avenue), who I was with, (Jackie Avant), what I was doing, (we were “sweethearts” of the Tekes club and we were on our way to Pete Nichols’ house in Coconut Grove to decorate for the big party that night) and even what I was wearing, (A beige tight skirt with a blue madras blouse), the first time I heard, “I Want To Hold Your Hand”. It was early February, 1964. I had just turned seventeen and was a senior in high school. When the song started, Jackie reached for the dial to turn up the volume and yelled, “You’ve got to hear this! Stop the car!” It was a good thing I did because when the song was over I was too weak to drive. I remember finally getting to Pete’s where even the guys were all a buzz about this new sound; this new group from England with the funny name: The Beatles.
It was right after that I saw them in action for the first time on The Ed Sullivan show. I was sitting on the floor at the foot of my parents’ bed with my brother and sister when I first laid eyes on John Lennon. I think it was mostly his sexy mouth, but whatever the reason, looking at him I could hardly breathe. Paul was handsome, George was cute and Ringo, with his puppy-dog eyes, was loveable, but John was beyond description! Up until that time I hadn’t had a big schoolgirl crush on a singing idol, but John Lennon changed all that. He became “my Beatle”, (in case you weren’t afflicted by Beatlemania, you loved them all, but everyone had their main man). Up went the posters, LP’s (remember them?) were played endlessly and everything English was hot!
The years went by. The Beatles went through a “revolution” that took them from the fresh-faced long-haired rockers, to slightly more dangerous trend setters, through the Maharishi phase and the drug haze to the ultimate break-up. Like any good Beatlemanic, I stuck with my man, although I have to admit he didn’t always make it easy. (I was all for giving peace a chance but I STILL don’t get Yoko Ono, especially in the nude, and what was up with the tampon on the head thing?) Still, as idols go he had a lot going for him. The “intellectual Beatle” could sure write the hell out of a song. He had fascinating creativity and perspective and cruised just along the edge of being dangerous. There was nothing “bubble gum” about that Liverpool lad.
I, of course, had abandoned the need to put my Beatle affliction first and foremost in my life. Like sobriety, it didn’t mean that there weren’t times when the old cravings didn’t surface. In 1977, I was thirty years old and working for the Close Up Foundation in Washington, D.C. That August Elvis Presley died. One of my colleagues, about six or seven years older than I, was clearly shaken and affected by the news. Some of my co-workers were making fun of this attractive, sophisticated woman mourning the passing of a singing-sensation, but I stood up for her. I remember saying that when John Lennon died I’d probably feel the same way. Little did I know that the time to test that theory would come so soon.
On December 8, 1980, I was living in an historic, and slightly dilapidated old manor house that had once been an abbey and came complete with a dungeon, outside of the town of Rathdowney in County Laois, in the Republic of Ireland. I lived with the Coughlan family, Brian and Philomena and their children Tara, who was a few months short of four, and Aidan, who was in the full throes of the terrible two’s. I actually don’t remember what I was doing on December 8th, (probably sitting in the one room with a trustworthy fireplace in front of a turf fire…coal was too expensive…trying to stay warm). It was night in Ireland when John Lennon died and we didn’t have a TV so we weren’t to learn of his death until the morning of the 9th.
As was his usual routine, Brian drove into Rathdowney for milk and a paper early that day while Phil and I got the kids up and dressed for breakfast. I’ll never forget Brian running down the big great hall towards the kitchen in the back yelling, “John Lennon is dead.” It was stunning news that just didn’t seem real. After breakfast I made him drive me into town, (hardly more than some pubs, a church, a small grocery, a chemist, a post office and the remains of a burned out meat factory in those days). Our local pub, (I think it was called O’Malley's) had a television. Along with a number of other stunned faces I sat glued to the screen of the BBC broadcast that confirmed the death of a man I felt as if I knew personally, whose image and career had been an intimate part of my life for sixteen years; years that had bridged my adolescence to adulthood. As I watched old familiar footage, I distinctly remember thinking that my childhood was over for good.
It was about a month later when a postscript to that day occurred, searing another memory forever in my brain. Brian and Phil were folk singers and I was their agent/manager. They had been booked in to sing at a pub in Listowel, a cozy little town south of Limerick. It was the end of the night, and the publican had declared last call but was yet to declare the unique Irish way of clearing the house, “have ye no homes to go to?” Brian and Phil were packing up gear and I went into the back bar to get paid.
I noticed the man immediately as I slid onto a stool to wait for the owner to come out with the check. He was a big man in a worn jacket that looked to be roughly my age. He had a head full of red hair worn down to his collar in the back and a slightly scruffy beard. He was wearing a cap and holding on to his half finished pint with big calloused hands. I noticed dirt underneath his fingernails. I remember thinking how he was almost the embodiment of the hard working Irish men I’d been living among in Rathdowney. Their lives and their world were very different than mine had been going from Coral Gables to D.C.
There was a radio on at the back bar and suddenly I heard a very familiar voice. It was John Lennon singing, “Imagine”. A hush fell over the small room where seconds before the mostly male voices had been rumbling in conversation. No one said anything until the song was over. That’s when the big Irishman sitting next to me said to no one in particular that he still couldn’t believe John Lennon was dead. Then he added, “The day I heard, it felt like my childhood was over.”
It was like that night in Lucerne, when an Italian man with little English managed the words “our moon” as we shared the excitement of watching men from earth standing on its surface. Sitting in that Irish bar next to a stranger who had mourned more than the death of a man whose music had been part of our lives made me feel part of something that crossed gender, nationality, beliefs and way of life. I kind of think John Lennon, the man who liked to “imagine” a world where we could live as one, would have liked to know that among those of us lucky enough to matriculate to the sound of his voice it would become part of his legacy.


 
Re: John Lennon Essay by Loretto on 10 December 2010 1:27am
 
That was beautiful. It didn't matter if it was Listowel or Lisbon, she captured the emotions of the moment.

I was 11 when he was shot. To this day I swear if I ever write that best seller, I will not use my real name. I don't want fame, there are too many nuts out there.
 
Re: John Lennon Essay by Spursfan on 10 December 2010 8:23am
 
Excellent.

I too remember when Kennedy was assassinated. I was home sick from school when he was elected, and watched ittucked up in a blanket on the settee. He was the candidate I chose to win, not for his plitics of course, but his looks! I was thrilled when he won. On the day of his death I heard the news from the TV whilst coming downstairs, and just sat on the stairs and wept.

Yes I remember the moon landing too - I was 16, and watched it all night in my bedroom. Then I took a day off school 'sick' as I didn't want to miss any of it! Turned out that they had TVs on at school so I wouldn't have missed it any way!!

Sept 11 2001 we were in Turkey, and I had CNN on the TV in our hotel room. Zak was having a shower and we were getting ready to go down to dinner. I saw the first plane hit, and assumed for a few seconds it was the trailer to a new film. Then the horror hit me and I shouted through the bathroom door - 'I think something's happened...'. Quite an understatement as it happens.

Early on the morning of 9th December 1980, my Mom rang to wish us a happy (9th) anniversary, and then said 'have you heard about John Lennon dying?' (or words to that effect). I hadn't. It was less than a month after my father had died. What should have been a happy day turned into one of shock, regret (that he had died, that there would be no more music, that I hadn't met him), and sadness.
 
Re: John Lennon Essay by kazzzz on 10 December 2010 8:27am
 
I remember when Princess Diana died. I was at a school working bee with the kids.
 
Re: John Lennon Essay by Spursfan on 10 December 2010 11:14am
 
I remember that day well, Kazzzz! It was a Sunday as I recall (when the news broke, that is) and I was having a lie-in (well?!!) and I heard Zak put the TV on in the kitchen as he fed the cats - this was before Tosun OR our present two cats were twinkles in their mothers' eyes!!!! I vaguely heard them say on the TV about Diana being dead. Of course Zak came into the bedroom straight away to tell me - we were shocked!!

Mom was in hospital in Cannock (about 15 miles away) at the time - she'd had MRSA - and I was going to see her that morning as usual, stopping off on the way to buy the Sunday paper.

I can remember driving automatically, with a feeling of not quite being 'there' if you know what I mean. I could hardly remember the journey afterwards. Of course everyone on the ward including Mom (it was a hospital for the elderly) was talking about it, and Mom was thoroughly shocked.

Needless to say we spent most of the visiting time discussing it!

 
Re: John Lennon Essay by suzulu on 10 December 2010 11:37am
 
Mike, your friend's essay is lovely.

 
Re: John Lennon Essay by tucsonmike on 11 December 2010 12:44am
 
Would y'all like to see more of Susi's stuff.
 
Re: John Lennon Essay by Loretto on 11 December 2010 2:00pm
 
Yes, that would be fun.
 
Re: John Lennon Essay by tucsonmike on 11 December 2010 9:38pm
 
Thanks Loretto, I will let her know.
 



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