December 8th, 1980

The things you remember, or perhaps more aptly—the things you don’t forget.

When John Lennon was shot Monday, December 8th, 1980, it was a week before my birthday. I was sixteen, and in the middle-half of my punk phase.

Notwithstanding that my musical tastes at that time tended towards Stiff Little Fingers, The Clash, and other less talented bands, I knew—like everyone alive—who John Lennon was, and I secretly enjoyed listening to his music. John Lennon was special. He was the rebel Beatle. McCartney had more hits, but Lennon had more heart, was more anti-establishment. At the time, I liked to imagine that if Lennon were 25 years younger, he’d have been a punk rocker too.

Lennon’s death was all that anyone talked about during school the next day. Classes went on, but they were subdued. For most of the teachers, it was personal. The Beatles were of their era. The local classic rock station, Chez 106, announced a memorial would be held on Parliament hill the coming weekend. Lisa Kenkel convinced me that we should go. Other than being friends, Lisa and I had virtually nothing in common. She was an A+ student. I was solid C’s. She was a distance runner. I chain-smoked. She was on the school council. I most certainly wasn’t.

I said I would drive. Our chariot was a Russian Lada that came with a tool-kit in the trunk and a starter crank. There were two of them in the driveway at home—one for parts and the other to drive. My father had purchased them at a Transport Canada auction because they were cheap—and they were.

It was a Sunday; cold and slushy, and slightly below freezing. We parked a few blocks away and walked up to the hill. My black punk jacket and pointed-toe suede boots weren’t exactly ideal winter-wear, and by the time we arrived at the memorial, I was freezing. We hung out for a half-hour, listening to people in the crowd sing the songs you’d expect them to sing—Imagine, Give Peace a Chance, etc.

Lisa and I are somewhere in this photo. I hesitate to say it, but I remember the memorial as being slightly lame. Almost a week had passed since Lennon’s death, and it’s hard to be miserable and sullen when you’re shivering in your boots.

But every year, on the anniversary of his death, I think about Lennon, and Lisa, and the Lada, and I’m glad for that day and the memories it left me with.