I read the news today, oh boy…

The summer before my sophomore year in high school, or was it my junior year – I don’t remember anymore, I went to Chico State for basketball camp. I really only remember a few things about that camp: it was stupid hot – like 110 degrees by noon; my coach – who had been like Captain America of Chico in his day – took us to have the world’s tallest soft serve ice cream cones, and eating them was a futile endeavor in the aforementioned heat; we went to see a movie (About Last Night) with Coach, and that was pretty much the height of awkward; and I listened to a mixed tape that Willy had made for me over and over and over and over again, in particular the Beatles A Day in the Life.

And somebody spoke and I went into a dream

I never understood why he put that song on there. Though to be fair Willy dedicated every moment we spent together through high school educating me about the cultural deficits that we were suffering in the 80s and showing me that my parents’ tastes were where I should be looking to develop my own, and so he often showed me how to be less lame by giving me mixed tapes that included songs that confused me because I couldn’t tell if they were supposed to make me happy or sad. But I listened to this one over and over.

And though the news was rather sad
Well, I just had to laugh

Willy was an old soul, people said. He did always seem to know things that I didn’t, but should’ve. He never got really wound up about stuff. He always had that little smile on his face that let you know he was in on the joke, even when you didn’t know there was a joke.

A crowd of people stood and stared
They’d seen his face before
Nobody was really sure if he was from the house of lords

Thirty-two years ago today John Lennon was shot and killed in front of his building on the Upper West Side. I remember the day that this happened. We were living in Seattle. Reagan had just been elected president. It got dark at 4:30 in the afternoon and that always struck me as really weird. I had just gotten all interested in the Beatles myself as a 10 year-old who would endure adolescence in the 80s and revisit the Beatles under the tutelage of a wise soul. In 1980, I was partial to Meet the Beatles and their early pop endeavors. I always liked George. My mom was completely dedicated to John. He seemed like an old soul. I am pretty sure we had just gotten Double Fantasy, or I want to think we had it before it happened. That album would play a lot in my house, like a way to punctuate an event where nothing seems apropos.

I read the news today oh, boy
About a lucky man who made the grade

I remember my mom trying to explain how sad it made her. I remember that my dad never opened the newspaper that day. It is still in the plastic sleeve. He said there was no reason to read the news. I understand days like that much more now.

Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire
And though the holes were rather small
They had to count them all
Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall

I’ve been talking a lot with my students lately about how the news is so depressing. We wonder where the cycle started. Like, what came first bad news or bad behavior. What would happen if the news didn’t report the bad stuff? Would it make a difference? We never agree on an answer.

I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round
I really love to watch them roll

No longer riding on the merry-go-round
I just had to let it go

Thank you John Lennon (9 October 1940 – 8 December 1980)


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