John Lennon once referred to New York City as “Rome”. He was right. It is Rome. You can interpret that comparison however you choose.
Our city has “adopted” millions of people from all walks of life, John Lennon famously among them. His love for New York is well-known but what’s always amazed me is that Lennon praised this place at a time when the city was, arguably, at its worst – the 1970s. I remember it all too well. It was during that period that New York earned its reputation as a polluted, unruly, gritty, crime-ridden place. I’d argue that point if I could but I can’t. It was like that.
But on the other hand, the city was affordable back then for many, many more people than it is now. It was also not run by authoritarian killjoy mayors like Guiliani and Bloomberg who put the needs of millionaires, tourists, and commercialism above those of artists, musicians, and the native working class. Patti Smith described it well when she criticized Mayor Bloomberg’s reinvention of New York as a “shopping center” and a “hip new suburbia”, and predicted that “One day, all the people who have driven out the artists and have only these fancy condos left are going to turn around and say, ‘Why do I live here?'”. Although I basically agree with her in that pre-gentrification New York was indeed a place like no other, I also think not everything about New York back then should be romanticized. I for one do not miss the litter and filth. It was a fucking toilet.
This week, on Wednesday the 8th, marks thirty years since John Lennon was shot and murdered at the Dakota apartment building, where he lived with his wife Yoko Ono and their five year-old son Sean. The city he extolled for its freedom, energy, and laissez-faire attitude, where the people didn’t treat him like a celebrity or harass him other than to call out “Hi John!”, as he walked the streets like every other New Yorker, is the same city in which he was, tragically, ironically, vulnerable. Living in “Rome” comes with its own set of risks.
As the city of Dallas carries the shame of Kennedy’s assassination, New York City carries the shame of John Lennon’s murder. One of our most famous and beloved residents, John Lennon loved and appreciated New York when it kind of sucked. He could have lived anywhere, yet he chose a dangerous, decaying, bankrupt city. Forgive us, John, for not keeping you safe.
Enjoy this video for “Music Monday”. The psychopathic dickwad Mark David Chapman appears at :51, when John was signing an autograph for him, just hours before Chapman shot him:
“Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we’re being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I’m liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That’s what’s insane about it.” – John Lennon