The Walrus and me
I saw John Lennon and Yoko Ono on the street once. It was around 1971 or so, in New York City. My girlfriend and I were walking along Sixth Avenue in Greenwich Village, on the east side of the street between Eighth and Ninth Streets. We had just come out of the PATH train station on Ninth, and it was early on a weekend evening. Our night was just getting started, but it was dark.
In those days, Sixth Avenue and Eighth Street was the central intersection for us hippie wannabes who hung around in our bell bottom jeans and Army jackets trying to be part of the counterculture scene. It was a place where, one might have thought, John Lennon would never set foot, because if he had, his adoring fans would have torn him apart. As far as the thousands of kids who passed through that intersection every day were concerned, he was the Pope. No, that would be putting it too mildly -- as he himself once acknowledged, he was bigger than Jesus.
Anyway, we're walking along southbound on Sixth when out of the doorway of an upstairs Japanese steak house comes a short Asian woman in hot pants, a black beret, and a belt made out of bullets. I turned to my girlfriend and remarked, "Wow. That woman is doing an amazing Yoko Ono imitation." As we turned around and looked back at her, there was a guy in a cap standing beside her.
And so we walked back a little ways to watch. They were standing in the doorway of the hibachi place waiting for their limo. People walked right past them -- people who, if they had just bothered to look, probably would have stopped dead in their tracks. The only other person who made the i.d. was a young guy who got a handshake and then ran off, no doubt to tell his friends.
We were too paralyzed to get close. The limo pulled up, and the couple stepped out of the doorway and made a quick move across the sidewalk to the car. But as the driver got out and opened their passenger side door, several shopping bags fell out into the gutter. One was from Azuma, an import store over a block or two on Eighth, where we teeny boppers used to hang out all day looking at soaps and incense and candles and Buddha statues, and dreaming that some day John Lennon would walk in.
Lennon and Ono climbed over the spilled bags and got into the car. The driver closed the door and got busy stashing the purchases somewhere else -- I can't remember whether it was the front seat or the trunk. But anyway, that gave us an extra 15 seconds or so to get a better look. My friend and I dared to get a little closer and peer through the open car window from about four or five feet away.
I waved at John Lennon. He waved back.
And then the limo pulled away. My girlfriend and I looked at each other in astonishment at what had just transpired. Except for that one brave fan who shook his hand, nobody else had noticed a thing.