With John Lennon

Introduction by Beckett

I was fortunate enough … a long time, it took a long long time. Arrangements complex. Court orders, papers. Still, luck was there with me. Queen Luck in Manhattan. Eventually got through.

He reminded me because I had forgotten: he had come to visit my cottage in 1967. Then I recalled him from that time: alone, without introduction, with the tense voice and the soft skin. I recalled his introducing himself to me at which my innards knotted in suspicion and black awkwardness. I suspected that he was looking to collect my famous name, for dropping purposes, as if I were a knock-off Rodin or a Pitcairn postage stamp. ‘Kid-snot poised to drip’, I had thought, ‘maw mush aspiring to puke; rat-chewed rag-pile of hair so unlike my own carefully shingled head; arrogant slit of a mouth below the curiously tear-pregnant eyes’. My fear of him was clear, yet the boy was oddly touching. Nevertheless, it was my apprehension that won out.

The brick wall I built in front of the young man was protestant enough. Just passing noon, I offered tea and biscuits. Refused. A dram. Also refused. Asked of his immediate travels to the cottage. Asked of his music, his fame. Listened little because he spoke little. Asked him why he never went to university. Embarrassed him. Ushered him out with my feigned appointments elsewhere.

I have always wondered why I had kicked him in the sweets like that. Always regretted it. Happy, now, for the opportunity for these amends, worked out in a tavern just off 3rd Avenue a block below St. Mark’s.

Introduction by Lennon

First off, it was Sam’s idea, this double introduction thing, along with the whole roundtable bit. Makes me nervous. I’ll try to contribute, but though I still like Sam – and now I can even admit to admiring him without my being misunderstood – though I still like Sam, any burning questions I had for him have long since expired.

Sam broke my little sycophant heart back then, though I doubt he suspected I even had one. So, I was reluctant to do this interview gig, before I remembered all the unfortunates who’d endured my own penchant for shiteheadedness. I mean, his snub of me was at least a polite one. I wasn’t always so nice when I wanted people to leave for whatever reason. People’s tinny insecurities more often make them show off their fecking egos and they try to belittle you in the course of a rejection. Sam just did the “have a nice day” bit and went back into his envelope – to wizen some more, I suppose.

The meeting he proposed at McSorley’s hit me as odd and I figured maybe Beckett was striking at common ground since some of my own people were exiled micks as well – except they weren’t as smart or frenchy-fied as Sam, and , what’s the word? Erudite. I went. I don’t know how, but I went. We sat down under a crusty, smoke-stained picture of John L. Sullivan with his bare fists held up like they did. Awesome. Grubby place – no table service. Beckett did all the walking back and forth to the bar. I’d been away longer than he. Funny.

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McSorley’sBeckett:  Glad you could make it, John.

Lennon:   Sam, this bloody fecking amazes me!

Beckett:   It takes some getting used to. But your public faithfully adores you. You’ll be all right!

Lennon:   I’ve often admired your work, Sam, but I never ever dreamt you might interview me. Especially not now.

Beckett:  Try to relax …

Lennon:   Right! Breathe in, breathe out. I’m a little out of practice.

Beckett:   Now, John, we’ve agreed to discuss the major characters or icons in each other’s work?

Lennon:   We did, yes.

Beckett:   And we agreed to talk about our similar but differing use of various sorts of simple symbols.

Lennon:    I’m actually looking forward to that.

Beckett:   And we also agreed that I could tell a knock-knock joke.

Lennon:   Well …

Beckett:   Just one – for only you, me and the tape recorder.

Lennon:   Yes, one, no more. You did promise, Sam.

Beckett:  Yes, Yes. I did. Only one. I swear!

Lennon:   Can we begin with that, then, and have done with it?

Beckett:  The joke? Sure, why not? Here we go. You start it.

Lennon:   Me? Oh, all right! … um … Knock! Knock!

Beckett:  Who’s there?

Lennon:   What?

Beckett:  Who’s there?

Lennon:   You can be such a silly fecking twit, Beckett.

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Beckett:  To most, your most startling imagery was found in the song “I am the Walrus.” People have claimed it stood for some sort of universal spirituality which you were attempting to share with the world. I have even seen intralineal “translations” of this piece arguing such. Can you tell me about the walrus?

Lennon:   Okay. Are you going to find a little photo of a walrus or something to put with this part?

Beckett:  I’m sure we’ll do something. The walrus?

Lennon:   Hello, there, little picture of a walrus! Okay. Walrus spelt backwards is surlaw , sur … law. Above the law.

Beckett:  So it meant you had felt yourself a bit backwards but above the law?

Lennon:   No, I just noticed that trick just now.

Beckett:  So, what did it mean? What was the walrus?

Lennon:   A 200-stone sea mammal that lives in the arctic. Still is, I think.

Beckett:  With tusks! Those huge, silly, pointy tusks!

Lennon:   And blubber! Lots of blubber! Rolls and rolls! Practically no legs, you know, so on land, it moves just by heaving its blubber around!

Beckett:  Hah, hah hah! Ah, wonderful blubber! The sight of it!

Lennon:   Jesus yes! Great isn’t it? My first wife was into blubber. Not my second wife, though!

Beckett:  There can never be enough blubber!

Lennon:   You learn that about life: Like the Duchess of Windsor said: Your legs can never be too short nor your blubber rolls too wide!

Beckett:  So true! And I’m looking forward to getting still longer in the tooth!

Lennon:   Hah hah hah! That’s a good one, Sam. Longer in the tooth! You’re really good sometimes.

Beckett:  Knock! Knock!

Lennon:   Who’s there? Hah, haha! Actually, the walrus was Paul. I said so in another song called “Glass Onion”.

Beckett:  Why Paul? How did he get that label?

Lennon:   From his mum, indirectly. Growing up, she’d often look at him and say “Tusk, Tusk!”

Beckett:  Stands to reason …

Lennon:   Stands to reason.

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Lennon:   What? Oh! My turn? Oh shite! Um, okay! I talk into this thing? Okay. Um, Sam, what were your trying to communicate to the world with that ‘Waiting for Godot’ ? And where were you on the night of the murder?

Beckett:  The world? Really John! If a million people, one four-thousandth of the souls on the globe, saw ‘Godot’, I would be flabbergasted … And I was in the bedroom, the parlour, the hall, the kitchen and the loo. Especially the loo.

Lennon:  Must not have been you, then.  Right! So, what were your trying to communicate to the ten or twelve people who saw ‘Waiting for Godot’ ? No, wait, we’ll come back to that. Why’d you write the fecking thing in French originally?

Beckett:  Because I could! I mean, um, to ah … , to sterilise the words, as far as that is possible. To present the struggle outside of any culture. Needed to do something beyond politics and local sentiment. Couldn’t avoid that in the English without the filter of the French. I have plenty French words, but very few of the etched associations of French culture that come to a native speaker. How’s that?

Lennon:   It wasn’t to impress people and pick up girls?

Beckett:  Well, um … that too! Didn’t work too well, though.

Lennon:   Patience! Lots of birds I knew went for that Ichabod Crane type. Mind if I ask you the origins of some of the Godot characters?

Beckett:  No! I’ll tell you everything I can remember and add some of my speculations!

Lennon:   Can you say anything about Vladimir?

Beckett:  No!

Lennon:   Estragon?

Beckett:  No!

Lennon:   Pozzo?

Beckett:  It doesn’t rhyme with Bozo the Clown like that. It’s POTT-SOE, like pizza but with different vowels. Anyway, no!

Lennon:   Lucky?

Beckett:  Um … No! … Damn! and it was on the tip of my tongue, too!

Lennon:   Godot?

Beckett:  Of course not! He never shows up! He doesn’t have any lines!

Lennon:   You don’t remember anything?

Beckett:   I tried!

Lennon:   Oh, brother! Well, let’s go!

Beckett:   We can’t!

Lennon:   Why not?

Beckett:   We’re um, we’re … oh, never mind!

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{At this point, I insisted that we trade seats – so that the one seat would be the interviewer seat and the other the interviewee seat. Lennon thought this was stupid, but went along with it anyway.   -SB}

Beckett:   I wanted also to ask you about the eggman …

Lennon:   Jerry.

Beckett:   What? Who?

Lennon:   Jerry Furman – he was our eggman. Every Saturday Jerry would come around and Mum would give him a bob the dozen for eggs. Once while he was inside the house, I peeked into the back of his van. So many eggs! I’d never seen anything like it! God, I wanted his job!

Beckett:   So the eggman was Jerry! Why didn’t you put that in the lyric of  “Glass Onion” as well, like: {singing} ‘And here’s some good advice for the wary … The eggman was Jerry!’

Lennon:   No, no, no! I couldn’t have done that!

Beckett:   Why not?

Lennon:   Furman was a private bloke! I mean, shite, Paul was fair game. He’d already adjusted to the public. Furman’s gig was eggs, just eggs. People would have fecking hounded him to death! Anyway, he left after a time. We got a new, nastier eggman when I was about twelve. Jerry moved to Pennsylvania or Maryland, or someplace like that. Just one of the many fascinating commodity “men” I watched when I was small.

Beckett:   Lord, yes! There was a man for everything, wasn’t there?

Lennon:   Now that you mention it, Christ! There was a milkman and a breadman, fruitman, garbageman, rag and bone man.

Beckett:   Neighborhood life was a daily parade! There was the postman, policeman, fireman, the telephone man, the insurance man, the Fuller Brush man, the Culligan man, the Maytag repairman …

Lennon:   Right! And always they’d identify themselves as such, like they didn’t have a name or something. I mean you’d hear this rap-rap-rap on the door followed by a muffled “Milkman!” or “Eggman!” or whatever!

Beckett:   Thank heavens that all stopped. Can you imagine the cacophony in this age of overspecialized marketing?

Lennon:   And what on earth would “I am the Walrus” have sounded like? {pause} Hah! Haha! Hahaha!

Beckett:   What?

Lennon:    Rap-rap-rap! Hemorrhoid Reliefman! Hemorrhoidman! Need anythin’ up yours today?

{both laugh}

Beckett:   Rap-rap-rap! Tweezerman!

{both laugh more}

Lennon:    Rap-rap-rap! Hola! Hola! Yardstickman here! Yardstickman!

Beckett:   {fighting for breath} Or in rural areas:  Rap-rap-rap! Pitchforkman! Pitchforkman!

Lennon:    Or for the Pinteresque machinists: Rap-rap-rap! High-speed, tapered shank, spiral flute reamerman! Any high-speed, tapered shank, spiral flute reamers today?

Beckett:    Rap-rap-rap! Astronaut! Astronaut! Rap-rap-rap! Paperclipman!

Lennon:    {visibly lacrimating} Door-to-door Einstein: Rap-rap-rap! Cosmologyman! Theoretical Physicsman! Fresh-picked photoelectric effects! Nice ripe unified field theories!

Beckett:    Rap-rap-rap! Beanman!

Lennon:    What? Beanman? You mean like navy beans and kidney beans and string beans, like that?

Beckett:   Yes! That’s it!

Lennon:    That’s what I could have said! “I am the beanman, they are the beanmen, I am the bovus! Toot, toot, toot. toot!”

Beckett:   {on floor} Rap-rap-rap! Fartman! Fartman!