Thursday, December 08, 2005

Best Quote I Heard All Day

I'm not going to change the way I look or the way I feel to conform to anything. I've always been a freak. So I've been a freak all my life and I have to live with that, you know. I'm one of those people.--John Lennon

If you are a person of a certain age, as I am, you can almost certainly remember exactly what you were doing when JFK was shot. And when John Lennon was shot, 25 years ago today.

In December 1980, I was 30 years old, married with two small children and working the night shift at the Essex County Hospital Center, a large psychiatric institution where I was employed as a psychiatric technician. After seven years of working maximum security wards, med-surg wards, and crisis intervention wards, I had finally gotten transferred to the geriatric area, where I and four other people cared for 108 incontinent, senile patients. Hard work but very rewarding.

Once the patients were all changed, vital signs taken and charts written, we sat in chairs, read, knit and crocheted, and listened to the radio. At 12:30 a.m., one of my co-workers said, "Hey, that John Lennon got shot!" I didn't believe her. Who would shoot John Lennon?

I soon found out. Some lunatic named Mark David Chapman. Shot John in cold blood in front of his apartment house, The Dakota. Somehow, nothing was quite the same after that.

John Lennon has been the single largest influence on my writing, my attitudes and my beliefs. When John said, "The Beatles are more popular than Jesus Christ," he wasn't wrong.

Picture a fourteen-year-old girl, geeky, wearing glasses, studying violin and writing poetry that she never shows a soul except to her one close friend, another like-minded geeky girl named Dotti.

Everyone in junior high school tortures the two of them because they are different. Weird. Freaks.

That was me, then. Painfully shy, no self-confidence and never going to be accepted by other kids.

And then came The Beatles. And Dotti and I were hooked. Not only on the music but on John. He was funny, he was outrageous, he was intelligent, he was everything we admired.

When John published In His Own Write, we both bought copies immediately. And it was then that I realized that my writing and Dotti's drawings were worth something. If John could write silly, whimsical pieces and illustrate them, so could we. And we did.

I was so inspired by John's writing that I muscled up my courage and started showing other people my short stories and my poetry. I had a piece published in the school literary magazine and in the local newspaper. I added classical and folk guitar to my music studies because I loved the music John and Paul wrote. And Dotti kept on drawing. Now it didn't matter if the kids teased us.

And oddly enough, once my stories were published, people shut up. And I grew less shy and more confident.

By the time Dotti and I hit high school, we had found other, kindred freak souls. There weren't a lot of us but enough so that the "popular" kids ceased to exist in the schemes of our lives. Dotti and I, originally Mods who wore knock-off Mary Quant miniskirts, now threw away our fashion-following personas and wore and said what the fuck we wanted. I never looked back.

Throughout the years, I've gone back to In His Own Write often for inspiration, as well as his music. John Lennon contributed greatly to my development as an adult. He helped me understand that it doesn't matter what other people think, that you do what you do and fuck 'em all if they can't take a joke. John cared deeply about peace, about the insanity of the world and about doing what you can to make the world a better place.

I'm grateful to John Lennon for helping one kid finding her way out of her shell and making the most of what she had.

Today, as on every December 8th, I remember John. Because he was good. And even though we never met, he was my friend.

I'd like to end this with one of John's poems, the one that Dotti and I used to recite from memory:

I sat belonely
I sat belonely down a tree, humbled fat and small.
A little lady sing to me I couldn't see at all.
I'm looking up and at the sky, to find such wondrous voice.
Puzzly puzzle, wonder why, I hear but have no choice.
'Speak up, come forth, you ravel me', I potty menthol shout.
'I know you hiddy by this tree'. But still she won't come out.
Such softly singing lulled me sleep, an hour or two or so
I wakeny slow and took a peep and still no lady show.
Then suddy on a little twig I thought I see a sight,
A tiny little tiny pig, that sing with all its might.
'I thought you were a lady'. I giggle, - well I may,
To my suprise the lady, got up - and flew away.

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