A life lesson from John Lennon, in Japantown


SLAIN BEATLE REMEMBERED — Flowers are left at John Lennon’s memorial, Strawberry Fields, in New York’s Central Park on Dec. 8, the 40th anniversary of the legendary musician’s death. Kyodo News photo

Sadness and sorrow. Dec. 8 was the 40th anniversary of John Lennon’s death. Here’s my story on meeting him:

I was a young teen in the summer of 1973, hanging out at Paper Tree, when in walks John and Yoko. They smiled at my folks as they wandered through the store, bought some postcards, then left.

I was frozen into shock. I mean, it was JOHN LENNON!  I couldn’t even say, “Hi.”

At that time, I was a big autograph hound, scoping out the tour buses parked outside the Miyako Hotel. Musicians playing down the street at Winterland and at other venues would stay there. I had a heads-up from Clarence the doorman as to who was staying there, and to bring my autograph book at a certain time when the stars were scheduled to leave.

So as I watched John and Yoko leave the store, I realized that I better grab my autograph book and ask him.

But it was JOHN LENNON! I didn’t have the nerve.

So I followed them as they wandered through the Japan Center, and I hid behind pillars and doorways so as not to be discovered. Nobody recognized them!  As I followed them, I was struck by how loving they were with each other — they held hands the entire time, stealing a kiss or two.

They finally reached the end of the Center, and now they were heading back to the Hotel. “Oh no … I have to ask him or lose an opportunity of a lifetime!  Here goes,” I thought.

I tapped him on the shoulder as they were walking through the Peace Plaza. He turned around and looked down at me. I held out my book and asked, “Mr. Lennon, may I have your autograph?”

Then he replied, “Why certainly, darling!” He then handed the book and pen to Yoko and said, “Yoko, please sign this for the young lady!” She graciously obliged.

So we ended up talking for a bit. He asked me what I wanted to be, and I remember telling him that I didn’t know. Then he said, “Whatever you do, do what makes you happy.”

I didn’t really know what that meant at the time, but when he was shot in 1980, it became clear to me what his words meant. You never know when your time is up, so do what makes you happy. 

John and Yoko couldn’t have been more gracious. They were two people in love, and to be that warm and friendly to little ol’ me showed me that what really counts is being nice and happy! Let’s all follow his example.

Linda Mihara is an award-winning Origami artist, and proprietor of the Paper Tree- a Legacy Business in San Francisco’s Japantown. The views expressed in the preceding commentary are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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