This is Part 2 of 3. Read Part 1 here.
Looking Through a Glass Onion:
It is late fall, 2001 and I am at a hospital in New York, waiting for a sick friend.
9/11 happened mere weeks before and the hospital is in downtown Manhattan, not far from Ground Zero. There is a palpable feeling of bewilderment and loss all around; death is in the air.
I sit in the waiting room for an entire dreary day, with nothing to do but observe the sick people all around me. To pass time, I flip through the 2001 version of a smartphone: a copy of the New York Post left on the seat next to mine.
The front page announces the death of former Beatle George Harrison. Though I am, at this point, a neophyte Beatles fan, the import is not lost on me. But with so much sadness already present in this room, these streets, this city, there is a grim lack of surprise.
We know now: great things fall.
I read the paper over and over as I wait for my sick friend. I feel sad for my parents. Why? They are not Beatles fans, barely music fans.
It must remind them, I think, that they’re going to die someday.
It never occurs to me that I might someday, too.
Twenty years later, it’s on my mind a little more.
Like today: New Year’s Day, 2020. Now married and entering middle age, I am thousands of miles, physically at least, from post-9/11 New York. In fact, I am in the grooviest of all places: Southern California, whose endless summer can leave you wondering if any time has passed at all. On this quiet holiday morning, I walk my dogs beneath the ever-present sun and listen to yet another podcast–one of countless self-prescribed distractions, aimed at quelling mortal thoughts. This one is about George Harrison’s near-death by stabbing in 1999.
Like all Beatles fans, I know the story well. It is an incident less familiar but actually more gory than John Lennon’s murder: a deranged fan breaks into George’s home, attacking him with a knife. George is stabbed repeatedly, suffering multiple wounds including a collapsed lung. He and his wife fight the attacker off (with the aid of a fireplace poker) and he survives, but the injuries hasten the spread of the cancer that will eventually kill him.
And here, standing on the corner, urging my dog to poop, I suddenly find myself crying what are perhaps the first adult tears of my life–not tears of terror or even compassion; not for a long-dead rock star I don’t know.
More like tears of understanding–of the stories so commonly shared in Beatledom by now-middle aged adults, of parents and teachers, seemingly invulnerable grown-ups, crying over John Lennon’s death.
It’s this: you reach a certain stage and the idea of waste becomes intolerable to the point of heartbreak. What with so little time.
Quietly and for no one, I voice that most hoary, most pathetic, yet most dreadfully unanswerable question:
“Why would someone do a thing like that?”
Next Time: Into a Dream: Chasing The Beatles (6-9)