When an event happens that shapes your life, or plays a significant role in it, you tend to remember every little detail of the moment it happens. 32 years ago tonight. December 8, 1980. I was in my bedroom, lying on the bed with the headphones on, listening to WNEW. It was Jim Morrison’s birthday, and the station was running a two hour special devoted to him. I was obsessed with Morrison at that time, and was taping the special I was listening. I know I was wearing an old Led Zeppelin t-shirt and sweat pants and I was writing a poem as I listened to the radio.
My room faced the front of the house, and the Christmas lights that hung from the roof glowed red and green and white over my bedroom window. There was a decoration hanging on the window; a big white star made out of plastic pieces melded together. The colors of the bulbs outside made the star look psychedlic. I had smoked enough pot that night to stare at the star for a length of time, imagining the colors blending into one another. My concentration would be broken every now and then by headlights beaming down the street, and I would run to the window and peer out. We were waiting for my cousin Michael, my favorite cousin, to arrive by car from Florida. I was anxious to see him and disappointed that each susbequent headlight did not belong to his car.
All the while, Jim Morrison’s life story played out in the background, and I stopped looking down the street for my cousin at some point and started paying attention to the radio. I remember it was late, probably close to 11:00. I may have drifted off at some point and I was jolted fully awake by a shaky voice announcing that someone tentatively identified as John Lennon had been shot outside the Dakota apartment building in New York City. I waited, nearly numb, hoping for more news. Soon after, it was confirmed. I went inside to tell my parents, but they already knew. I think they announced it on Monday Night Football.
I was never a huge Beatles fan. But sometime in high school I went through a hippie phase and took a liking to John Lennon and his ideas. The fact that he spoke out for peace and died so violently was one of the first things that struck me when I heard the news.
The event didn’t change my life the way it did the lives of Beatles fans. It didn’t impact me in quite the same way as someone who was mourning Lennon the man, or the music he created. I mourned something else. Up until that point, I still had a sense of innocence about me. I was still naive about the ways of the world. I was still all about peace and love and tranquility. I assumed the rest of the world was too. I thought we could all live in harmony and love one another and make the world a better place for future generations.
Something happened to me the night John Lennon died. I lost a lot of that idealism. I couldn’t get past the fact that someone who was so fervent about living peacefully could have his life taken from him in such a way. I couldn’t fathom that something like this could happen.
It was then, that very night, that my eyes opened to a new vision of the world. When Lennon died, whatever was left of my inner hippie died, too. I dropped my peace sign mentality some time after that night. I gave up and gave in and became cynical like every grown-up I knew. It wasn’t all because of Lennon; there were other things that lead up to it also. But the death of John Lennon - the murder of John Lennon sure as hell played a very significant role in shaping my psyche for the rest of my life.
That, more than anything, is why I remember every little detail of that night. Somehow I knew, I felt it in my gut the moment I heard the news. I knew that I would never be the same again. I ingrained that moment in my brain somewhere, marking it down as a “this day in history” of my meager little life