John Lennon: Come and Gone

Written by Jay Jay French

[Portions of this story were originally published in Goldmine magazine—Ed.]

February 7th was the 55th anniversary of the Beatles’ arriving in America.

To commemorate this date in Beatles history, I present this true story of fate that involved a random conversation I had one afternoon about an event that still blows me away!

About 6 years ago, I was having trouble with my cable boxes. My cable company, Time Warner, had sent several teams over the previous year, with each team of young repairmen confiding in me that the previous ones didn’t know what they were doing.

I got fed up and demanded a senior repair supervisor to check out my problems.

When the doorbell rang, there in front of me was a guy who looked to be near my age. I was impressed. He looked like a senior technician, and sported a grey beard to boot! He apologized for the lack of knowledge of the previous TWO repairmen and proceeded to diagnose my issues. He was a no-nonsense kind of guy who wanted me to finally stop having service disruptions.

At some point, he was in my living room and kneeling down to check the TW modem. He looked up to see an 11-foot-long picture frame that housed two huge black & white photos of the Beatles, taken when the Beatles performed on the Ed Sullivan show.

He stopped what he was doing and said these words:

“Man…that John Lennon cat. I was there the day he arrived & I was there the day he left.”

I was reading the newspaper at that moment and was really only half listening. Then, suddenly, I reflected on what was just said, put down the paper, and asked him to say that again.

He repeated the statement exactly as he had already done.

I said to him, “What does that mean?”

Here is what he said:

“Man, I’m 60 years old (so was I at the time of this conversation), and in 1964 I was in 6th grade at my school in Queens, NY across from Idlewild Airport. Y’know, that was what JFK was before they changed the name. In February of 1964, my class was visiting the airport, selling candy for a school fundraiser, when all of a sudden there were police everywhere and girls screaming.

“The Beatles walked right by us. It was crazy and insane. I couldn’t believe my luck!

“I saw it on the news that night, so I was there when John Lennon arrived in NY!”

Wow, I thought, what an amazing story.

I wasn’t, however, prepared for the second part.

He then went on…

“On December 8th 1980, I was working for Western Union delivering telegrams. I had just delivered one at the Dakota, and as I walked around the corner onto Central Park West…I heard the gunshot.

“I heard the bullets that killed John Lennon.

“I was there the day he left!”

I was stunned.

I said, “You are probably the only person on earth who could say that.”

A cable supervisor, because he was in my apartment and saw that photo, had just told me a story that sends chills down my spine every time I tell it.

As this was 6 years ago, and I didn’t get his name, I can’t acknowledge this person and the profound nature of the conversation.

There may be no greater example that on any given day you may either meet someone or engage in a conversation that stops you in your tracks.

I will never forget those words:

“I was there the day he arrived & I was there the day he left.”

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