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Sunday, December 9, 2012

An unexpectedly cool weekend

Yes, it was totally vanilla. But cool nonetheless.

I've already mentioned a time or two that John lives in a very small, bucolic town just east of Pasadena. Seriously, the area of the town proper is so small, there are no street signals, just stop signs. He lives up in the canyons against the San Gabriel Mountains, and many of the "canyonites" tend to be around the same demographic -- read: middle-aged and rather Bohemian. His sister fits that description perfectly, with her little market/restaurant, her long hair in a graying braid and her refusal to have a microwave oven in her restaurant, because she thinks the radiation is dangerous. (She thinks hair dye is toxic, too.)

So, a couple of weeks ago, when she told us a local author was having a book signing in her market, I paid little attention. She said he'd been a poet or something in the 60s and hung around with a lot of the "beat" crowd, and I confess, I rolled my eyes. Oh, brother, I thought. Some overgrown hippie who fancied himself a poet and an artist. I'm not big on poetry to begin with, but I've seen enough of it to know one thing for certain: for every beautiful piece that exists, there are about 100 pieces of badly written, pretentious crap.

Yesterday was the day of the book signing, and the tiny market was crowded, but John and I were able to grab a table. John said, "Shall we buy a book?" I made a face. "Just because the author is here? Nahh. We don't even know if it's any good." I had my newspaper, my crossword puzzle and sandwich, and was prepared to essentially tolerate the reading.

In a few minutes, a thin, slightly stooped older man with a full head of gray hair stood up. In a quiet, unassuming voice, he introduced himself as Dan Richter and began to tell about himself and his life. I more or less tuned out when he said he'd been a poet and a mime (a mime?? Who does that, really?), but then my ears perked when he said he'd worked with director Stanley Kubrick and had played Moonwatcher the man-ape in "2001: A Space Odyssey." I've never seen that movie, but Kubrick was huge. He then went on to mention hanging out with other writers of the day, such as Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs. He was also a photographer and shot a lot of wonderful pictures, did album cover art and other stuff. OK, whatever. So the guy had a reasonably interesting career/life, I guess. Still, I was itching to do my puzzle.

Then he said, in a very matter-of-fact tone, almost as an afterthought: "And from 1969 to 1973, I worked for and lived with John Lennon and Yoko Ono."

I forgot about my puzzle. And my sandwich. I just stared at him.

You all know how much I love the Beatles, and that John was my favorite of the four. Granted, I'm not a fan of Yoko Ono, the artist. Her singing (if you can call it that) was reminiscent of feral cats in heat, and I thought her art was the aforementioned pretentious crap. But I respect her as a woman, and feel nothing but the deepest empathy for the senseless and devastating loss she had to endure.

Dan went on to read small excerpts from his book, including some pretty wild John and Yoko stories. He spoke very candidly about the drugs and the various addictions of that time period, including his own to heroin. Then he asked if we had any questions.

One person asked what Ginsberg was like. Another asked what it was like working with Stanley Kubrick. But I had a different sort of question in mind. And it took me several minutes to get up the nerve to ask it, but I finally raised my hand.

“I hope this isn’t too personal,” I hesitated. Dan smiled at me. “Go ahead.”

I took a deep breath. “Where were you… 32 years ago today?” December 8, 1980. The day John Lennon was shot and killed.

He looked temporarily taken aback, and took his own deep breath. “Wow… that IS personal,” he said, and I felt awful, thinking I’d gone too far. But then he rallied and began to speak, and talked for about 10 minutes straight about John, the man, and how horrible it had been when he died. He shared little insider stories and fun tidbits. To my embarrassment, my eyes filled up and then welled over, tears running down my face. I tried to be subtle about it, ducking my head, dabbing at my eyes discreetly with my napkin. But he saw. And he addressed that whole portion looking directly at me. John reached across the table and took my hand.

When his talk was through and people were lining up, John grinned at me. "Want a book now?" Oh, hell, yes. Especially since the book (The Dream is Over) was published in England and isn't available here (yet, anyway), although you can order it from Amazon UK.

We bought two copies; one for John, one for me. I watched as he signed the books of the people ahead of us. It appeared he was writing the same thing on each one: "To [their name]: All the best, Dan." Sure enough, he signed John's copy: "To John: All the best, Dan." Then it was my turn. I apologized for being so personal, and he patted my hand. "You were quite moved; I saw you." I said yes, I was a huge fan. Huge.

He picked up his Sharpie. "To Erica: All the best." He paused, and then wrote another sentence before he signed his name. When he handed it back to me, I looked inside to see what he'd written.

"I loved him too."

Damn. There went the waterworks again.

Is the book any good? Is it well written? I don't know yet, and really, I don't even care. The experience was so special. John really got into it with me. "Let's celebrate! Let's go out somewhere special!" So we went to one of our favorite restaurants last night and splurged on a wonderful dinner.

You can read more about The Dream is Over, and Dan Richter, here.

My back is feeling better, but is still a bit tender. So maybe it's just as well that tomorrow's scene with Mr. D has been postponed until Tuesday. No worries; I have work to do tomorrow anyway.

Hope everyone had a nice weekend! :-)


  1. What a lovely surprise... to have such an unexpected experience.

    I hate reading into such things, but I love when he said, "You were quite move; I saw you."

    Tears are such a vehicle to highlight our innermost feelings. He saw you, and a moment was forever created.

    Sorry to hear Mr. D's time was postponed... but am looking forward to hearing all about it!


  2. What a wonderful experience - somehow close to having him back fro a moment.

  3. "feral cats in heat" sums her voice up nicely! But what a lovely afternoon! I'll watch for the book when it comes out here. Have you read John Lennon: The Life by Philip Norman?


  4. Quite an experience. I will definitely get the book. John was my favourite.


  5. I may have to get a copy of this book. I see it is available through Amazon's UK site.

    Erica, you mentioned not seeing the film 2001. It's quite artsy and a touch slow, but I think it's worth seeing. If for no other reason than its place in popular culture and its concepts on human evolution. It is the sort of film I will probably only ever see once, but I am glad to have see it that one time as it connects to so many things.

  6. SC -- I am often chagrined at how easily I cry. But I also laugh easily. Stoic, I'm not. :-)

    MrJ -- exactly. I still miss him. And I miss the youthful joy I had when he and his comrades were making music.

    Hermione -- no, I haven't! But I have another book by the same author: "Shout! The Beatles in Their Generation." Read that three times.

    Ronnie -- it was surreal, talking to someone who had been so close to him, personally and professionally.

    Anonymous -- I suppose, for the sake of cultural literacy, I should see 2001. I'm afraid all I know about it now is "I'm afraid I can't do that, Dave." Oh, and that the computer Hal is named that because H A L are the three letters alphabetically before I B M.

  7. What a great experience. I myself have come across these types of brushes with fame but none as great as the one you had this weekend. I'm envious.

    Give 2001 a shot. It is referenced so much I'm sure it will pop up in The Big Bang Theory at some point and you would hate to miss that joke. Also if you are a fan on John Landis films it explains the "See You Next Wednesday" movie ads.

    I know of the town you speak. i completely understand your feelings for John's place of residence.


  8. Jon -- it's a beautiful little town, and up in the canyons where John lives, one often sees deer. We saw a doe and two fawns just this weekend. However... as much as I love visiting, I wouldn't want to live there. I don't like small-town life; don't like everyone knowing my business!

  9. WOW Erica, What a surprise that author turned out to be very cool afterall :-)I am glad he was interesting to you instead of boring, Maybe the book is good too you never know until you read it :-)I am happy that you and John had a nice weekend.I can't wait to read about you and Mr.D on Wednesday, I alway's look forward to it.I am so glad that your back feel's a little better :-)cause back pain totally SUCKS :-( Much Love and hug's from Naughty Girl Jade xoxo

  10. Jade -- it does suck. I worked out today, so I think I'm past the worst of it! :-)

  11. In the early 1980s I remember reading a book of my then stepmother's called "Loving John." The author's name was Mae Pang?? Sorry about the spelling and more definitive details. For a period of time she was John's mistress with Yoko's knowledge. Yoko was VERY controlling and domineering in many people's lives for good or bad I guess it's how you decide to interpret.

    Hope your back is in peak form for your next "lesson." :)

  12. Kelly -- you were very close; it was May, rather than Mae. I remember that book, although I didn't read it. Yoko did seem very controlling, and her early relationship with John seemed to be fraught with obsession, to me. But then I think they blossomed into something deep and lovely when their son was born in 1975.

  13. Amazing and let's face it, obsessions like this are wonderful, nice story and happy your back is coming around.
    Awesome entry,

  14. Ron -- thanks. Back is all better and ready for today. :-)

    1. Can not wait to read about today, well done my friend. Amazing blog you have and hope all is well.

  15. What a beautiful moment. I so appreciate your sharing it with us. I'm glad your back is better.

    And tears make you well.

  16. Mick -- I wish! If that were true, considering what a crier I am, I'd be the wellest person on the planet. :-D

  17. Wow, he sounds like a very interesting guy! Glad you had a good weekend.

  18. Lea -- honestly, I'm amazed at the clarity of his memories. He fully admits that he spent most of the 60s and 70s on drugs.

  19. You have the best stories, Darlin', and tell them so splendidly. Thank you for sharing that experience.

    Now, somewhere in the late 40's or early 50's, Arthur C. Clarke wrote a short story called "The Sentinel" in which astronauts on the moon found a buried pyramid and wound up setting off an "alarm" so that Those Who Had Been There Earlier would know when we had progressed to that point. That was the seed (as you probably already know) for the Kubrick-Clarke movie collaboration and Clarke's expanded "2001" novel.

    Anyway, I'm always happy to unload trivia. :-)

  20. Dave -- it's my pleasure to share them! And I love the fun trivia you know. I suppose one of these days I really should see that movie.

  21. Ya know, I worked as a mime for several summers, Erica. Just saying. Your old pal, maguffin.

  22. Maguffin -- (laughing) Did you really? I had no idea. (clearly)

  23. I really did. Not saying I was a GOOD mime, but I did support myself for several summers that way.