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For people who spend the day saying and writing things that others accept, while thinking things that are infinitely more interesting.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Day John Lennon Died

I was bowling the sixth frame of my third game and it wasn’t going well. My first game had been a bust, the second even worse and so far in the third game, I was making my first two look like masterpieces.

The radio over the loudspeakers squawked, then an oddly-detached voice came on and read a statement. I took a shot, left pins standing and as I turned to mumble a curse, the words drifted into my brain: John Lennon had been killed.

I looked up. Of the 20 or so people in the bowling alley, no one was reacting. The same thing had happened in March when then-President Reagan had been shot. I was sitting in the cafeteria that day, the news came on and though some 25-30 people must have heard it, no one said anything or even tried to find out if the news was true.

As if aware of my doubt—of the doubts of so many—the news item was read again, each word a separate tile placed in a mosaic of collective pain. John Lennon, ex-Beatle and symbol of a generation, had been shot and killed outside his Manhattan apartment building. The shooter, a fan, had been arrested and was being interrogated.

No one seemed to care. I bowled quickly, the change of pace actually improving my game so that I finished with my best score of the night. I paid and got back to my room.

When Don came in, I told him the news. In his characteristic way, he avoided looking at me and said “I don’t believe you.” I knew Don was a fan, not obsessed, but a true fan, and I never expected he wouldn’t believe me. He thought I was joking. I told him I didn’t joke like that, but he still refused to believe me. I had to sit down.

Don left and when he came back a couple of hours later, he told me he’d heard the news. He apologized and I made a feeble attempt to wave it off. I was still hurt, but the intervening time had made me wonder what about me would create the impression that stupid and pointless behavior, almost cruel in intent, was part of my make-up. I didn’t have to think for long. Not to find evidence, that is. Beyond a doubt, there was plenty to think about afterward.

We never mentioned the incident again, or if we did, it made no impression on me. But in a rare moment of lucid and mature introspection, I could deem Don’s paining disbelief as understandable. A moment of shared tragedy yielded to me some much-needed perspective. Sometimes you are given gifts in unlikely packages. Don is as unlikely a package as could ever come your way, but without a doubt, he is a gift.

Non-refundable. Believe me, I tried.


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