Friday, August 29, 2008

Out of Respect For John Lennon

Last evening I went for a long walk. Into Central Park at 106th and moved down the West Side. Weather has begun to cool off, making late-summer nights damn near perfect. Still plenty of locals enjoying evenings in the Park. A few picnics. A few kids playing catch with parents. A few dogs marking territory.

As the sun dipped below the horizon, I exited the Park at 72nd Street. Right next to The Dakota. The Dakota is a luxury apartment building. One of my favorite pieces of architecture in the city. Legend says that when the place was going up in the early 1880's, someone from The New York Times stated "They might as well have built it in the Dakota Territory." The West Side did not reach up to 72nd at that time. It was still immune to the urban sprawl that would eventually take root. The nickname stuck.

The Dakota is a work of art. High gables, terracotta spandrels, balconies with balustrades, ornate detail all around. It's the kind of building that isn't made any more. Detailed craftsmanship and unique design has given way to beige stucco and the creepy cookie cutter look of American suburbia. Notable residents of The Dakota have included Judy Garland, Lauren Bacall, Leonard Bernstein, John Madden, Gilda Radner, Jason Robards, Boris Karloff and especially ... John Lennon.

John and Yoko lived at The Dakota starting in 1973. The Beatles were no more, all the lads were making solo records and trying to live with the impossible expectations that came with being a Beatle. John had become more controversial, refusing to be a typical pop star. He spoke out at what he felt were injustices. He made records that weren't going to be popular. John had overcome a very serious addiction to heroin and seemed to be turning the corner in his life. He spoke about hope and that maybe the 80's would be better than the scandal ridden and negative 1970's.

A psychopathic, mentally unstable man named Mark David Chapman ended all that. On December 8th, 1980, Chapman stood outside The Dakota and asked John to sign his copy of Double Fantasy. John obliged.

John and Yoko went to a recording studio. Chapman sat outside the Dakota and waited. Just before 11:00 pm, John came back home to tuck in his son, Sean. As John exited the limo, Chapman took a military stance and fired five shots from his .38 revolver. Four of the bullets struck Lennon and he fell to the sidewalk. The Dakota doorman rushed over to help, screaming at Chapman "Do you know what you've done?" Chapman smiled and calmly said "Yes, I just shot John Lennon." He then sat down on the ground and began to read The Catcher in the Rye, waiting for police.

Lennon was taken from us. A symbol of hope and creativity. A musical genius who, yes, was a very flawed man, but he gave us more than just 3 minute pop songs. I was 5 when John was killed. But that certainly doesn't matter.

My point of all this is, when I pass The Dakota, especially the 72nd Street entrance where the murder took place, I remove my cap. Why? Out of respect.

I take off my hat and think of that great Scouser that died for no reason. Out of respect.

John's last interview, just hours before he was killed.

"Everybody loves you when you're six foot in the ground."
John Lennon

Goodnight and good luck.

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