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My John Lennon Anecdote

What with everyone reminiscing after the anniversary of Brother John's assassination it occurred to me that I have something to add, in a roundabout sort of way. Obviously I never met JL. Didn't know him personally. Actually the story is only peripherally about him, after all.

I'll get on with it now.

One of the better part time jobs I've had was acting as chauffeur and errand boy to one Gloria Emerson. Gloria had been in a car wreck shortly before I met her, and so I would shuttle her back in forth to physical therapy or the hairdresser, go grocery shopping, pick up the dry cleaning, mail letters (lots of letters) and other odds and ends.

Gloria was a very particular person. Not what one would consider "warm" or "friendly". At least not on the surface. She was, as I can best describe it, concerned. Deeply concerned about the people and the world around her.

Driving Gloria to and from physical therapy was always an intense experience. At the time she lived on Mercer Street - one of the busier two lane roads in downtown Princeton, NJ. She called the intersection of Mercer and Nassau Streets - where we had to make a rather "unprotected" left turn - "crash corner". I don't think we ever pulled up to that intersection without her exclaiming, rather excitedly, "be careful, here comes crash corner". I would try to focus on the task at hand, as best I could, ignoring her as much as possible without being rude. Any one of several Brian Eno albums would usually be on the car stereo, which I'm sure helped calm my frazzled nerves. I'm pretty sure Gloria appreciated it as well. I remember her being particularly fond of the Brian Eno/David Byrne album "My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts", and I can't listen to the Talking Heads song "Heaven" without hearing her say "Oh, I love it. It's so nihilistic."

I didn't really appreciate who Gloria Emerson was at that point. As far as I was concerned she was just a quirky lady who I ran errands for, who payed me generously, and who I was pretty fond of (mostly just after I'd dropped her off at home). It had been a year or so since I'd helped her pack up her things to move to Manhattan when I was up late watching Legends: John Lennon on VH1. Towards the end of the hour-long(?) run-down of JL's more noteworthy escapades I was roused from my sleepy stupor by a familiar voice. John and Yoko were the only ones on screen at first, but I could distinctly hear the concerned voice of Ms. Gloria Emerson coming from my TV. She was lecturing John and his companion on the ineffectiveness of their particular brand of social protest. One line stuck in my mind: "My dear boy, you're living in a never-never land!"

Instantly I was on any one of a hundred car rides with Gloria, cautiosly nearing crash corner, or parhaps walking the aisles of McCaffery's looking for margarine and Tabachnik's pea soup. I remember standing in the aisle in front of an entire wall of salad dressing, Gloria exclaiming "What is wrong with Americans! Why do they need so many varieties of salad dressing!?" I also remember, and will probably never forget, dropping her off one morning at the hair dresser. Just week's before a friend of mine had invited me to visit a Hare Krishna temple in north Jersey, and I'd taken home a copy of the Bhagavad-Gita. As I sat down in the lobby to read the Gita and wait for Glria to be done with her hair appointment, I heard her tell the receptionist and the hairdresser "It's very important that you don't disturb him. He's reading the Bhagavad-Gita!"

Though at the time I found Gloria's attention to be a bit of a nuisance, I consider it my great fortune to have been nagged by such a thoughtful (and yes, noteworthy) person. At that age (late teens? early twenties?) suffering through yet another inquisition of my plans for the rest of eternity... it was not a welcome occurrence. But somehow, hearing Brother John on the receiving end put things in a new light. Unlike most people inquiring about the details of my 80-year plan, there was a genuine interest and, yes, concern in Ms. Emerson's voice, as if anything could be a significant event in the unfolding of one's contribution to the rest of humanity.


1 Responses to “”

  1. Anonymous john 

    Great story. Don't we look past people all the time?

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