I was in New York City. And I was waiting for Jim Lauderdale to start his set.
At the time he wasn't Jim the Grammy winner, he was Jim the talented, but largely unknown musician by night and office worker at Rolling Stone Magazine, by day.
For me, it was the year I took off from college in 1980, when I lived in a sublet on Riverside Drive on the Upper West Side.
That particular night I remember very well, Jim asked if I wanted to come hear him play an acoustic set at the East Side YMCA.
I did, naturally, and invited another college friend to join me. We met at the Y and took our seats in the echoey hall. I believe it was on 72nd street. Well, I think it was 72nd, it might have been 79th. I know is that it seemed to be directly across Central Park from and the Dakota, where the Lennon's lived.
That night my friend, Sam and I waited for Jim to come out and start his set, which, as I recall, he didn't start as scheduled, which was odd. For him. The one thing you could count on with Jim was that he was always on time. For work.
There weren't too many people in the audience that night and street sounds were still clearly audible from inside the building. There were only a few people in the audience that night. Then we heard the first sirens scream past the building, this didn't seem so strange for New York, but I do remember these sirens, for some reason. There were a lot of them. The steady stream of sirens along with Jim's unusal delay starting his set seemed at first awkward, but then in my gut, ominous. I knew something was wrong.
Finally, Lauderdale came out to the front of the stage, picked up his guitar, but then just stopped -- and put his hand on the mike and told us in a bewildered, very strained voice, "I don't know how to tell you this -- I just heard something terrible, and I sure hope it's not true -- but I just heard that John Lennon was just shot."
I can't remember anything after that ---- Or if he even played anything else or not. I don't think he did. Because my only memory was him standing there peering out into the hall, while he delivered this terrible message to us. There was this one, cold, white spot light on him, making him that night appear washed out and older than his years -- just peering out into our faces with his guitar strapped across his chest sounding so very confused and wounded, himself.
We all left bewildered, scared and eager to get to the evening news to hear if this bad news was indeed true. It was.
Jim was very shaken, I remember this. And he lived not far at all from the Dakota. All of us living on the West Side had an even closer affinity for John Lennon because he and Yoko were so loving and caring with the community they lived in. His untimely, horrific murder seemed so incredulous to us all. He wasn't just a god-like Beatle to us, to we who shared the Upper West Side with him he was something even more personal. Lennon was someone we all sincerely, profoundly loved and were all so proud to share our beloved city with. Losing him this way was beyond comprehension to us all. The entire city was speechless and reeling from the loss.
A few days later New York City held a collective moment of silence in his honor.
It was held right in the middle of the day. It was a bitterly cold, gray winter day.
Again, for this -- I was alone with Jim, in his apartment on 79th street. He was solemnly packing to leave town, again. His two guitars sat neatly in their cases by apartment door. I was looking out the window at the street below. A NYC radio station was on at the time. I think it was. In my head it was.
During the moment of silence the usually manic city completely stopped its perpetual clatter and motion, and I noticed a very light snow begin to fall.
We said nothing.
This was 30 years ago.