The Column I’ve Always Hoped I Would Never Have To Write!
By Chris Wood
Packerland Titletown USA Publisher
When we were planning the 20-year reunion for my high school graduating class some time ago, I suggested we have “Imagine” as the theme for the event because the song held special significance for us as a class. We agreed to do so and put a form in the envelopes with each of the invitations that read: “When I graduated from Denmark High School in 1972, I never imagined that ______________.”
John Lennon had written the song shortly after the Beatles came unravelled and broke up in 1970, and it had meaning and impact for many people at that time, young and old alike.
I decided to write Yoko Ono a letter and explain the special significance of the song to us and invite her to the reunion. She was Lennon’s widow, when he was murdered ten years after having composed it. The others on the planning committee thought the idea was either pretty funny or nervy of me; depending. So I wrote the letter explaining the significance and inviting her to the reunion being held at Cedar Ridge Hall in Maribel, Wis., on June 27th of that year.
This began an exchange which was to become the beginning of a “pen-pal” type of relationship that went on for about the next ten years (remember those anybody?!).
I had sent her a thank you letter after the reunion for having remembered us with a huge floral arrangement which she had delivered to the event by a local florist shop, along with a personalized card and a letter. At Christmas, she sent me a lovely card and I responded with one of my own and a short note of thanks. After that, she periodically told me about some of her artistic “happenings” and events in New York City, usually on a postcard of sorts and invited me to be involved.
She continued sending the personalized Christmas cards for several years thereafter and I received a promotional copy of a new CD “single” she was releasing, which rated pretty high upon my “How cool is that?!” scale.
When a musical compadre’ of mine was killed in a car accident in the late ‘90s, I decided to donate an autographed picture sleeve with the colored vinyl ‘45 record within that she had given to me shortly before. I knew this would help raise funds at the benefit we were holding in his honor to celebrate his life and help his family financially. I also knew we could utilize it to generate some gratis’ advance publicity for the event (which it did very well!). He and I had recorded several songs together, which was really just a matter of him singing the lead vocal on some of mine at studio sessions because he was a gifted vocalist (which I wasn’t!).
With this correspondence having gone on for some years, I had a nice stash of Christmas cards from her. There were also notifications about some of the “happenings” and “events” she was putting on as an artist, toward the end of the last millennium and the beginning of the current one.
Periodically, this topic would come up in conversations with friends and acquaintances who found it somewhat fascinating; in that I carried on a correspondence with of all people, Yoko Ono! Sometimes, they would ask if they could see some of the specific items that I had talked about. Of course, I was usually amenable to that and would agree to show them at sometime in the future; however, whenever and wherever, usually at someone’s house. As I recall it now, I think it was actually all of about three or four times when the interest was very fervent and I went through the trouble to do it.
Several years ago, I was telling the story at a local establishment that I frequented on a regular basis to both quench a thirst now and again, as well as for nourishment purposes. They had not only satisfying libations, but fine food with an excellent menu as well.
Of course, there was also the socializing element of it which we all enjoyed; being in the company of people we knew well, genuinely liked and enjoyed the company of! These were the “regulars” or “denizens” of the place; who all stopped in regularly to hang out and commiserate with one another, somewhat like on the old “Cheers” television show.
On that particular evening, the group included some of the “regulars” like myself, several of the servers we all knew and loved, and various others who just happened to be there. We agreed to reconvene several days later when I would bring the artifacts in for them to look over and enjoy.
I did so as planned and as I recall it now, it was a very enjoyable evening. This was more than five years ago; maybe six or even seven but I’m not quite sure. After returning home late in the evening, I put the bag of items back in their usual storage place down in the basement or the “archives,” as I usually like to refer to it. When I had made my first Beatles pilgrimage to Liverpool nearly 25 years earlier, I had obtained several “Beatles” bags from shops around there that were great for storing Beatles’ items in by people like me and I have continued doing so ever since.
I had no reason to look at or for the items since then; until a recent weekend when they came up in a discussion about the song “Imagine” and how it really resonated with young people when it was released.
However, when I returned home that evening and began looking for them in their usual place, they were nowhere to be found! You can imagine my surprise, shock, disappointment and devastation at not being able to find them! It went to outright disbelief when I discovered the Christmas cards were missing from the envelopes they had originally come in! Many of the other items were just plain missing – gone from the Beatles swag-bag I had kept them in all these years, since having received them in the ‘90s.
At first, it was just disbelief so I continued to look high and low in the archives; thinking and hoping maybe I had just decided to move them somewhere else for some strange reason. But it soon became obvious that idea was just wishful thinking on my part because after I spent a good hour-and-a-half looking through everything; it was all to no avail.
At that point, it just plain hurt – I had trusted all of the people who happened to be present that evening; never even thinking that maybe I should be somewhat careful or cautious. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized there were several people there I’d never met before and didn’t know at all. They were interested in looking the items over and were oooh-ing and ahh-ing along with the rest of the gang.
A sad, cynical thought crept into my mind; why didn’t I check everything over before I left the place that night?! It was my own fault for not having done so but the thought had never crossed my mind, just like it never had before! I guess I learned an “in this day and age” very difficult lesson: there are some bad folks out there who will take advantage of everybody and anybody they can whenever given the opportunity!
On the brighter side, I had made copies of some of the items and still have those as a remembrance; some of which I’ll share with you here. And I still have hope in my heart that someday, maybe I’ll find out that my sad and cynical take on this was incorrect because it will turn out that I was wrong – I can only hope so! I’ll tell you one thing: I have never wanted to be so wrong on something in my life!
And now, you understand why this is “The Column I’ve Always Hoped I Would Never Have To Write!”