Thursday, December 8, 2011

Shades of Life

I was lying in bed this morning, trying to decide whether I really wanted to get up and go to the bathroom, braving the cold of the morning and more than likely waking myself up enough to prevent a return to sleep, but instead turned on my little bedside radio and put the headphones on, hoping that NPR's Morning Edition would distract me sufficiently.

Which did two things: drove all bathroom thoughts from my mind AND woke me up. Funny how these things happen.

Where were you when John Lennon died? Do you remember? Were you even born yet? I was. I was in Guatemala, adventuring as only the young and truly clueless can; the fact that I might need to learn another language to traverse South America only struck me when I crossed the border into Mexico and realized that I didn't understand anyone. For a brief moment I wondered whether the words TACO, SERAPE, and SOMBRERO, along with a lot of hand waving and facial expressions, might be enough to propel me around South America. I was a fan of Italian films and they always seemed to manage on few words and a lot of drama, surely I could too? This thought lasted about, ooohh, maybe three weeks before I realized that I needed more words and less gestures.

So there I was, four months later, working in a vegetarian restaurant as a cook, a fact which still mildly astounds me, given that until that month I hadn't ever cooked anything more than toast. I think I must have radiated a certain culinary confidence though, because I was also Head Cook. The fact that the owner of the restaurant spent all his time out backing smoking pot might have had something to do with my position: not only was he even more clueless than I was, he also operated on the premise that, because I could read The Vegetarian Epicure in the original English, I must be able to cook.

At this point I feel I should do a Burl Ives snowman shrug and say something like "Ah, youth."

This situation lasted about three weeks, then, one night, when I was walking down the main drag of the little town where the restaurant was (a hot spot on the Gringo Trail), contemplating the curious fact that every restaurant seemed to serve exactly the same menu: omelettes and fresh fruit, when I heard a tinny little radio playing Across the Universe. Until that point I knew who the Beatles were, but I wasn't a knowledgable fan. We were separated by a bit of a generation gulf. They were my brother's music. I liked the John and Yoko pairing, and in fact I still think Let Me Count The Ways is one of the more beautiful songs I know, but I didn't know much Beatles music. But there was that radio, playing that song. In a Twitterless, Facebookless world: news spread by (untyped) word of mouth back then. Soon all the gringo tourists were standing in the middle of the street, shocked at the news that John Lennon had been shot and was dead. I think I heard Across The Universe at least a hundred times that week, it was in constant rotation on all the radio stations.

So that's where I was when John Lennon was shot: growing up in Central America. I still remember it clearly all these years later.

Sounds of laughter, shades of life
Are ringing through my opened ears
Inciting and inviting me.
Limitless undying love, which
Shines around me like a million suns,
It calls me on and on across the universe

1 comment:

Samantha said...

I love hearing little bits of your fascinating life!

I was born when John Lennon died, but too young to have heard the news. Fast forward years and years (and years) later... I love his music, and am saddened that his life was cut so short. It would have been interesting to see the impact he would have had if he was still alive today. Likely great, considering the impact he had during his short life.