Tuesday, 11 June 2013

The Dakota

This wasn't going to be my first proper blog but I've just got back from my first trip to America, or the USA to be more precise, and it's early in the morning, earlier than I would ever choose to get up normally, and by rights I should be thinking about going to bed soon by "American time". But I'm not. I've been awake since 3.30am and at 6am I gave up and put some washing on. I'm feeling pretty jet-lagged, more so than I can remember previously, even when coming through 12 time zones, not just five. Perhaps it's the time of day we flew, or the quality of the flight (American Airlines - never again!), or perhaps it's just age creeping up on me?

So why am I sitting at an infernal computer when I must surely have a thousand and one jobs to do which are far more important? Well, as I laid in bed unable to get the melody of REM's Wendell Gee out of my head (a place it's been inexplicably inhabiting for three days now) my thoughts wandered back to The Dakota building on the west side of Central Park where I'd been eight days before. The blog I was going to write (about a DAC buffer) will have to wait.


Here's another I came across, they look so young!

 If you've found this page you probably know what The Dakota is. It's an apartment block located at the northwest corner of 72nd Street and Central Park West and was built between 1880 and 1884 for the head of the Singer Sewing Machine company. But most people know it as the building where John Lennon lived and was murdered by Mark Chapman on the 8th of December 1980.

At the time of his death I was only 12; I knew what a big deal this was and can remember seeing the news on TV even though it's over three quarters of my life ago. But I didn't (couldn't) fully appreciate at that time what a huge loss to the world this was.

Sunday the 2nd of June was to be our last full day in New York. We had tickets to see the New York Yankees play the Boston Red Sox that evening at the Yankee Stadium in the Bronx - what's more American than watching baseball in NYC? - and thought we'd have a wander through Central Park south to north during the day.

It seemed entirely appropriate that we'd take the A train up to 72 St subway, right by The Dakota. And it seemed like a good proportion of NYC had had a similar thought, over 32 years since his death and there was a sizeable crowd milling around somehow trying to soak up any residual spirit of John.

The Dakota overlooks Central Park and an entrance almost immediately opposite gives access to Strawberry Fields, the area where John used to walk and was renamed in his honour in 1985. It was an unseasonably hot morning, already low 30s, and the sun shone down on those making their pilgrimage to the Imagine mosaic, the trees providing some dappled shade. Many people stood around it, taking photos of the mosaic itself, and with their friends and family stood on it. Were they really paying respects to John? Or were they just on the tourist trail? And does it matter anyway?

The benches lining the path were pretty much full and an old chap gently strummed his acoustic guitar playing Beatles songs. Age is a relative thing, when I say old he was probably mid-60s. It won't be too many more years and I'll be considering that the prime of life.

At the time I didn't feel the need to take any more photos after I'd snapped The Dakota on my phone. Somehow it seemed entirely unimportant, they were just photos, and here I was, in Central Park in person perhaps stood at the very same place that John had once walked. The little boy that saw the shocking news on the TV back home in England was now stood on the other side of the world at the place where it actually happened. I was surprised by how moved I was. I wasn't expecting to be, we were just going to start our walk where John had lived.

But the sense of deep loss to the world became much stronger once I was there. I guess I've always been more of a Paul than a John man. I know far more of Paul's songs and John's have always seemed a little more challenging. I guess the first of John's songs I would have known would be Imagine, but only after it was posthumously re-released. To that young boy the video of two people in what appeared to be an empty mansion where everything including the grand piano was white apart from John's clothes was a revelation; I'd never seen anything like it before and it hinted at a world I had no comprehension of.

If John were still alive now though what might his critical influence on the last 30 years of music been? Somehow greater than Paul's I suspect. Would John have played the opening ceremony of the London Olympics? I don't know, but may be not. John might have been too cool, too anti-establishment, too "vital".

I've been trying to determine just what the emotions were that I felt that Sunday and it's been a bit of a struggle to pinpoint them. But I think it's sadness. Sadness that the world lost someone so creative so early. Sadness that some people do some extreme things in the name of (their) God. Rest in peace John. And I wish I'd taken some more photos.

No comments:

Post a Comment