Yeah, I know, Ellis Island is touristy. Walking through Battery Park with thousands of people all in awful clothes, queuing up for ferries to take you to the Statue or the Island. What can I say? I wanted to see the station where twelve million immigrants first set foot on American soil - including my grandfather, Papou George, in 1910. He'd arrived aboard a ship from Crete when he was 18.
Another friend, Randy, reminded me not long ago about that dark night in December - thirty years ago? How can it have been thirty years?
Randy was buying the Beatles' Rock 'n Roll Music Volume 2 at the Warehouse in Modesto on December 8th, 1980. The hippie clerk took Randy's money and then told him that Lennon had been murdered. Are you kidding? That's how Randy receives the news? Along with change from his purchase of a Beatle album?
I heard it like so many others - from Howard Cosell during Monday Night Football. The Patriots at Miami:
Remember (Cosell said) this is just a football game. No matter who wins or loses. An unspeakable tragedy confirmed to us by ABC News in New York City. John Lennon, outside of his apartment building on the West Side of New York City. The most famous, perhaps, of all of the Beatles. Shot twice in the back. Rushed to Roosevelt Hospital. Dead on arrival. Hard to go back to the game after that news flash.
I don't know. Lennon was important. To me. I was fourteen. Do you remember how important things were when you were fourteen? I mean, his words? The music, of course. His ideas. How crazy, really, is give peace a chance? But in the final-final, I mean, the Beatles? They changed everything. Everything. And then for something so - so - senseless.
Senseless - this word - Senseless - this word loses meaning - Senseless - this word loses meaning the more it's used. But I can't think of a word that describes the act with greater clarity. Just a writer. Just a singer. A husband. A dad. But so much more because he was also a Beatle. Killed . . . murdered . . . murdered because . . . .
One of the first questions Randy asked me, freshman year at Davis High, just a few months before December 8th, was who my favorite Beatle was. I have no doubt that if I had answered differently, we would not still be friends today - thirty years later.