Wednesday, December 08, 2010

If You Were Here Today...

And If I Say I Really Loved You
And Was Glad You Came Along.
If You Were Here Today.
Ooh- Ooh- Ooh- For You Were In My Song.
Ooh- Ooh- Ooh- Here To - Day.
- Paul McCartney "Here Today"
It was a snowy Saturday morning in January, late 70s. I can't remember the exact year, and I suppose I could bother to go and do the meterological research.
But I won't.
Sixteen of us gathered on the Sheep Meadow in Central Park for a game of tackle football. No equipment. There was snow on the ground, about half a foot, to cushion our falls, and besides, no one hit that hard anyway.
We were in our teens and early twenties, college and high school kids. We met every weekend to play, then shake hands and go home to breakfast.
I had just thrown a pass to my friend Brian and missed him. The ball bounced west on the lawn, towards the grand buildings on Central Park West. A couple was walking. He was skinny, in a great coat and kind of cab driver hat, a tam? She was also skinny, and wore a jacket. She had long black hair. They stopped on the path, worn down by footprints and some shoveling by park personnel. They were close together, as if there was one four footed humanoid walking. They were about fifty feet away.
I only noticed them because Brian was retrieving the ball from their general direction. It was a glimpse, and with the weather, I chose not to wear my glasses. I guess I needed to squint, but didn't.
We ran a few more plays, and they stood there for a few moments, then strolled on slowly. I don't recall how long, my attention was on the game, and I only saw them in the corner of my eye. It was rare for people to stop and watch us, the great anonymity of New York City working its magic.
Fourth down and we were to punt. I stood back and called signals as the cop tromped over the fresh powder, and kicked the ball. That's odd.
The snow settled, and we prepared defense. Now the cop came closer, and called to us. He was grinning. Probably reminded him of his youth, altho he couldn't have been that much older than we were.
"You guys know who you just missed? John Lennon!" He sang out like a canary that ate the cat. He was proud. I guess the precinct had an eye out on John even then, altho I think his naturalization problems had been resolved by that point.
I tell that story, because for all the New York celebrities and rich and famous people I encountered growing up, there is only one I would have given my left arm to meet, and it was John Lennon. And I was that close, all for the want of a pair of glasses.
It's hard to describe to someone younger what the Beatles meant to us, our generation. So many bands have been hyped as the next Beatles, pushed and polished and ultimately failing. The Beatles were transcendant, rising above the hype to perform their talents, and both proving the hype and raising the alert level.
Led by JohnandPaul, the Beatles did to music what, well...there really is no comparison. Perhaps Bill Gates and personal computing.
There's not a day that goes by that I don't think of John Lennon, if only for hearing a Beatles or Lennon tune on the radio. Or McCartney. Or Harrison. Or Starr. It's hard to think of one without the other three.
I've posted before that I wonder what Lennon would think of the world. If he could come back, and look around, what would he marvel at? And more, what would he spit out his disgust at? I suspect the answer to the latter is easier. He'd be pretty pissed that we didn't take the lessons of the Sixties and the Seventies, lessons he was not ashamed to put to music, and keep the flame alive.
A forceful advocate for so many things, especially world peace, Lennon was a complex figure. You knew his heart was good, but he had so many struggles to shed the chains of his learned behaviors, particularly when it came to his wives. He reminds us all that it is human to be flawed, no matter how towering the monument you've built to your name.
And in the end, the love you make really is equal to the love you take. If you were here today...but I am holding back the tears no more.