On West Drive in New York City, we found Strawberry Fields, the garden of remembrance for John Lennon. It’s a small circular mosaic, with the word “Imagine” in the centre, surrounded by park benches. Its simplicity makes it very touching, and it’s probably the only location in New York where the place is named after a song, and not the other way around.
The memorial was created by Yoko Ono, with the support of the city of New York. Over a hundred countries contributed to the garden with native plants and stones, and a small plaque lists all the countries who contributed. John and Yoko loved to walk in Central Park and one of their favourite spots is precisely where Strawberry Fields now lays.
While we were there, the sombre atmosphere was slightly offset by the fact that the mosaic was covered in pumpkins, candles and Halloween party props – John’s fans obviously feel their hero would want to be a part of the celebrations for this holiday. In the same way, I imagine that Strawberry Fields is probably adorned with tinsel and holly at Christmas. I’ll bet it looks great in the snow.
There were about ten people sitting on the benches around John’s memorial, all of them, as far as we could see, either drunk or stoned. One elderly tramp had a cardboard begging sign which made us laugh out loud. It simply said “Why lie? I need a beer!”
We sat on a bench between Strawberry Fields and the Dakota, and recorded a short chat for the second of our New York podcasts. Then we crossed Central Park West and went and stood in the exact place where Lennon was shot.
John and Yoko bought several apartments in the Dakota building, and Yoko still lives there. The place was built in the late 1800’s, and it’s part of a series of spectacular gothic buildings which overlook the park – one of which featured in the movie Ghostbusters.
Access to The Dakota is restricted and the entrance is guarded by a fairly eccentric doorman who stands permanently outside, posing for photographs and filling in the tourists on any gory details they care to enquire about. John was shot right in front of the main entrance on December 8th 1980, when he was returning from a recording session for his final album Double Fantasy, accompanied by Yoko.
“I really don’t want to be here,” said Georgina. So I resisted the temptation to try and interview the doorman, and we headed back towards Broadway.
“What was the name of the guy who shot Lennon?” asked Georgina.
“I can’t remember,” I said.