well almost, by the time this post publishes, probably 31 years and a day...though also about this time of night I imagine...no pun intended, that John Lennon was killed. As if Reagan winning the presidency wasn't bad enough, a month later a guy who just talked about peace was killed.
I remember reading somewhere that Hunter Thompson was talking to Ken Kesey about this and saying: "why him? Why not me? I'm the asshole" and Kesey saying "you never promised anyone anything, that's why." I think he had a point.
I woke up the next morning (dec. 9, 1980) to my radio alarm blaring out the voice of a DJ saying "-n was shot last night" and then a Beatles or Lennon song playing - was it Yesterday? Imagine? Honestly, I don't remember. I just remember knowing as soon as I heard the song that something terrible happened, the person's name ended with 'n', the Beatles were playing, so there was a good chance it was John Lennon.
I was 17 and in love with all thing Lennon at that time, which made me incredibly unhip in 1980. I think I may have written about this earlier in the blog, but this was when I was at boarding school on scholarship and my similarity with most people there was slim to none. I of course thought this meant something was deeply wrong with me and didn't realize until years later it might have had something to do with the gaping chasm of a class divide between us wherein most of them were raised to rule the world or at the very least (some female students) to marry a ruler of the world. Many of them, for the record, now do rule the world. No, I don't know how to contact any of them now, though I probably could through the miracle of social networking, but then again I'd probably have about as much to say to them now as I did then, i.e., not much.
The students I liked and admired were into things like punk and new wave and went to CBGBs on the weekends. They seemed like they orbited a different social stratosphere than I did. I listened to the Beatles, Abbey Road mostly, sometimes the Doors and the Who - living in some 60s la-la land that probably never existed and certainly bore zero resemblance to reality in 1980.
But to those of us who lived in that world, and there were a few true believers at Choate, mostly other smarty-pants scholarship students like me who were pale and serious looking and clung to each other in un-hip-smarty-pants-ness, Lennon's assassination was brutal. We were depressed for days, some even wore black arm bands. I don't think I went that far, either because I thought it was odd or because I lived in a whole house of people who didn't really care, were Way too cool for school and which I had somehow ended up in because I got along with the Dean of the Girls, Francelle, and her husband Ken because of my growing interest radical left-wing politics. I used to spend weekends in their living room drinking tea and talking Marxism and Latin - you know, the usual way one spends Saturdays when one is 17.
I loved her tea, though - Francelle's - and the ceramic handmade mugs, the honey that was fresh from some honeycomb somewhere, that you twisted around a wooden ridged stick thing. It felt warm and safe in her kitchen and living room. I met her many years later and told her she had saved my life that year. She told me I had helped her a lot, too, which totally surprised me. But in retrospect, she wasn't your usual person at Choate, especially not with her then-husband Ken, who was from Trinidad and had hair that went up straight, which always looked like he had just put his finger in an electric socket...seriously. But he would talk and talk and talk about left-wing political theories and ideas and they would reminisce about Oxford and I would stare at them and think: wow. I would then research lots of these ideas for various papers and teach-ins and like whatever...so I was their little protege I suppose.
So why, to this day I can't figure it out, was I alone in their little TV room watching Reagan bounce on to that stage with 'his Wife Nancy' to the tune of Happy Days Are Here Again? I was crying and crying, thinking: things are going to be terrible...which they were/are still/as in we haven't recovered from the damage done - and it's only getting/gotten worse. And I was ALONE. Very, very alone. None of the other girls in the house gave a shit as far as I could tell and why would they? They were safe and snug as bugs in a rug (oh except of course for the ones who would die of drug overdoses and stuff...yes it was an illusion, their safety, but they believed it is the point...I didn't know how to reach my parents half the time - this made things different - perhaps they didn't either, come to think of it - oh never mind - let's just say they had more money and leave it at that...)
Then a month later Lennon gets shot, right after putting out the Double Fantasy album and that haunting Rolling Stones cover with him naked in a fetal position next to Yoko, fully clothed. I stared and stared at that photo - riveted by the possibilities inherent therein - not the least of which was the gender reversal that was Unheard of in 1980, even that late in the day - this was truly radical. Now, probably not so much. Then, truly shocking in a good way.
He was shot when he was what 42 maybe? I'm 48, so I've already outlived John Lennon, which is depressing from both angles: i.e., he should not have died so young and I have accomplished only a teeny tiny shred of what he accomplished in his short life. Both of these facts depress me, his death more so, because I can still rally (she said bravely). At least I hope so.
I'm not going to even talk about the shooter or all that shit because it's sensationalist well shit. The fact of his death is what matters and that it was violent and unnecessary but probably given our weird aversion to peace inevitable.
Is the Occupy movement the beginning of the pendulum swinging back...finally? Too soon to tell I suppose but at least small things are changing in the way people talk - it seems to be rearranging certain politicians' spines back into left wing alignment where they were supposed to be according to their rhetoric...and so long may it continue.
It's heartening to see people so aware, awake and close to fearless - rallying here and there - defiantly remaining leaderless. I can't help but think Lennon would have loved this rebellion/Happening. It's part politics, part Fluxus (the group Ono was part of when they met - you can see home movie like footage of all of them Jonas Mekas took if you happen upon the right gallery one day...on the Staten Island Ferry as I recall...). That's kind of great.
The students where I will be teaching next semester, Hunter, are already occupying their school. My favorite tweet was from one of their professors saying "I'll join you guys when I've finished grading your papers." I look forward to doing the same, except it'll be even more fun since I'm teaching acting. My base text will be Joseph Chaikin's ʼThe Presence of the Actor' - a great manifesto about theater and politics and what he refers to as 'the set up.' That and my own stuff. Should be pretty great. And it will link in effortlessly with Occupy. Not in a didactic way, and no my students don't have to sign up for political action, etc., but the theatricality of it will be made apparent...and the idea of how to create theatrical spaces in public places and the theatricality of political action...etc...
So here's hoping the great big gorgeous spirit that was John Lennon (and yes I know he had his dark side and yadeyadeya...but come on so does everybody - but not everybody sings Give Peace a Chance until they are hoarse...right?) is delighting in this new spin on the dance floor of possibilities opening up. I hope the creaking sound is of the pendulum finally taking a swing back and not the damn thing just flying off its axis...always a possibility...but even then, something New would happen...
It's late now, I finished my last day of teaching for this term today. Hurrah! So I can stay up late again and sleep past 6:45am. Anyone who knows me will know how important this is. I am one of the 5% of truly night people. I have decided I am descended genetically from the cave nightwatch shift, the ones who were supposed to keep their eyes peeled at 2am for marauding lions or whatever. A small but proud minority. For whom a 6:45am start is cruelty.
Back to watching the cave...but now, hopefully Ugo the cat can take charge of that so I - who did have a 6:45am start today, can toddle off to bed.
Welcome to my blog..
"We struggle with dream figures and our blows fall on living faces." Maurice Merleau-Ponty
When I started this blog in 2011, I was in a time of transition in my life between many identities - that of Artistic Director of a company (Apocryphal Theatre) to independent writer/director/artist/teacher and also between family identity, as I discover a new family that my grandfather's name change at the request of his boss in WWII hid from view - a huge Hungarian-Slovak contingent I met in 2011. Please note in light of this the irony of the name of my recently-disbanded theatre company. This particular transition probably began in the one month period (Dec. 9, 2009-Jan. 7, 2010) in which I received a PhD, my 20 year old cat died on my father's birthday and then my father, who I barely knew, died too. I was with him when he died and nothing has been the same since. This blog is tracing the more conscious elements of this journey and attempt to fill in the blanks. I'm also writing a book about my grandmothers that features too. I'd be delighted if you joined me. (Please note if you are joining mid-route, that I assume knowledge of earlier posts in later posts, so it may be better to start at the beginning for the all singing, all dancing fun-fair ride.) In October 2011, I moved back NYC after living in London for 8 years and separated from my now ex-husband, which means unless you want your life upended entirely don't start a blog called Somewhere in Transition. In November 2011, I adopted a rescue cat named Ugo. He is lovely. As of January 2012, I began teaching an acting class at Hunter College, which is where one of my grandmothers received a scholarship to study acting, but her parents would not let her go. All things come round…I began to think it may be time to stop thinking of my life in transition when in June 2012 my stepfather Tom suddenly died. Now back in the U.S. for a bit, I notice, too, my writing is more overtly political, no longer concerned about being an expat opining about a country not my own. I moved to my own apartment in August 2012 and am a very happy resident of Inwood on the top tip of Manhattan where the skunks and the egrets roam in the last old growth forest on the island.
I am now transitioning into being married again with a new surname (Barclay-Morton). John is transitioning from Canada to NYC and as of June 2014 has a green card. So transition continues, but now from sad to happy, from loss to love...from a sense of alienation to a sense of being at home in the world.
As of September 2013 I started teaching writing (composition and rhetoric) as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. While felt blessed for the opportunity, after four years of this, the lack of pay combined with heavy work load stopped working, so have transferred this teaching passion to private workshops in my own apartment and working with writers one on one, which I adore. I will die a happy person if I never have to grade an assignment ever again.
I worked full time on the book thanks to a successful crowd-funding campaign in May 2014 and completed it at two residencies at Vermont Studio Center and Wisdom House in summer 2015. I have done some revisions and am shopping it around to agents and publishers now, along with a new book recently completed.
I am now working full-time as a freelance writer, writing workshop leader, coach, and editor. Contact me if you are interested in any of these services.
Not sure when transition ends, if it ever does. As the saying goes, the only difference between a sad ending and a happy ending is where you stop rolling the film.
For professional information, publications, etc., go to my linked in profile and website for Barclay Morton Editorial & Design. My Twitter account is @wilhelminapitfa. You can find me on Facebook under my full name Julia Lee Barclay-Morton. More about my grandmothers' book: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani
Recently, I started a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. I will be blogging there, too, now. You can also contact me through that site.