We, my first wife and I, were living at 88 Canal Street in Manhattan. It was a seventh floor walk-up loft on the eastern end of Canal Street. A combination of residential Chinatown and Jewish commercial district. An “F” train neighborhood. East Broadway, Essex, Ludlow, Orchard, Division.
I walked downstairs that morning and out the door to go to work. As I turned to head up the sidewalk there was a man coming toward me reading the newspaper. The New York Post. He was holding it in front of his face open to some story on the interior. The front page was like a sign board coming down the street toward me. “JOHN LENNON SHOT DEAD.”
It had happened the night before but in this pre-Internet world it was the first I’d heard of it.
I was stunned. Stunned in a way I have only experienced a handful of times in my life: the Kennedy assassination (when I was very young), the Nixon resignation (when I was very cynical), my father’s unexpected death (when he was very young) and the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings. (Not the attack on the World Trade Center, which I could handle somewhere in my brain, but the actual collapse of the buildings.)
I was not a huge John Lennon fan. Just as appreciator. But killing him just didn’t make sense. The same way those other moments didn’t make sense. It left a void in my mind.
There’s a whole book’s worth of thoughtful discussion that should follow this, but that’s not the purpose of this writing so that will have to wait.
At any rate, for me it was the end of the Sixties. The 60s lasted until December 1980, and then they were over.
In December 1980, Ronald Reagan, champion of the “60s are Over” movement was President-elect, having defeated Jimmy Carter in November. If you were around then you’ll remember that Reagan was to the years leading up to 1980 what Sarah Palin is to the years leading up to 2012. I’m just saying.
But all of this is intro to a longer story that played out over the follow three or four months and involved Nancy Reagan, Julia Stiles, mail art, Lucy Lippard, the Secret Service, performance art, Denton, Texas, Jack Daniels, roast pork and bean curd, and a tiny little gun hidden under a pillow.
I hope to get to all of that soon.