/ The Baby Boomer Travel Guide
Baby Boomers, New York — By Tui Cameron on August 16, 2010 at 11:58 pm
Filed under: beatles, music, top-feature

John & Yoko’s New York

Although John Lennon and Yoko Ono met in London, their love truly blossomed in New York. Yoko, who already knew the city from her years studying art at Sarah Lawrence, delighted in taking John on long walks to explore hidden treasures in the city’s squares, side streets and parks. Of this, John has been quoted as saying, “You could say I fell in love with New York on a street corner.”

Strawberry Fields mosaic in Central Park, NYC

Strawberry Fields mosaic in Central Park, NYC

The couple lived in the Big Apple from 1971 until John’s death in 1980. These years were transitional and challenging, both personally and creatively. The pair dealt with the threat of deportation, harassment by the FBI, and after three miscarriages, Yoko gave birth to their son, Sean, while John shifted from being a member of the Beatles to leading a more domestic life. Sadly, Lennon’s solo career was just taking off when tragedy struck and he was shot dead by a delusional fan.

New York is a dynamic city, and in the decades since John and Yoko first strolled its streets much has changed. Their favorite restaurant, Cafe Fortuna, for example, recently closed its doors. Plenty remains, however, of the city where they blazed a creative trail together. Below are some suggestions for enjoying a playful day in NYC, while paying homage to John and Yoko. Perhaps, as you spend a day or two exploring the sights, you, too, will fall in love with New York on a street corner.

When John Lennon and Yoko Ono first arrived to New York City, they stayed at the St. Regis Hotel (2 East 55th Street New York, NY 10022-3192, map), before renting a two room apartment in Greenwich Village (105 Bank Street, New York, NY 10014 map). Despite John’s incredible fame, the pair had no bodyguards. He and Yoko often rode bikes around the city.

Stay at an apartment near Greenwich Village with iStopOver.com
Unbeatable Manhattan Location
Bond St
$80 for 1 guest
Sunny Greenwich Village room
east 6th street
$110 for 2 guests
Sunny Studio In Legendary East Village
East 7th Street
$99 for 4 guests

Their apartment quickly became a hub of activity, an impromptu think-tank for creative minds, including the likes of Alan Ginsberg, Abbie Hoffman and Peter Boyle. In 1973, after a scary robbery while the couple was home, John and Yoko moved to the Dakota ( 1 West 72nd Street New York, NY 10023 map) because it offered better security.

Reading and discovering rare books was one of John and Yoko’s shared passions. Strand Books (828 Broadway, New York, NY 10003 map) in Greenwich Village, two blocks from Union Square, is a family-run, independent bookstore. With 55,000 square feet jam-packed with new and old titles, a bookworm can become happily lost in this sprawling store.

Passionate discussions are often fueled by books, as were some of Lennon’s songs. Mind Game, for instance, owes its title to the book of the same name, a pop-psychology tome by Robert Masters and Jean Houston, while the opening words to Tomorrow Never Knows come straight from Timothy Leary’s introduction to his version of the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

Although Yoko Ono is an avid collector of rare books, she is reluctant to reveal her favorites in interviews. One of Lennon’s favorite books, however, was Sugar Blues by William Dufty. He was known for pushing copies of it on friends, then lecturing them on the perils of eating white sugar. While it’s true that Lennon was into health food, he was also a notorious chain smoker, which makes the whole thing rather amusing.

Instead of waiting until you get home to examine your bookstore treasures, it’s fun to take a break at a cozy cafe and skim through your purchases. Open 24/7, French Roast (78 West 11th St, New York, NY 10011 map ) is ideal for a bookstore debriefing. There’s plenty of indoor seating, although on sunny days, it’s nicer to linger over espresso and snacks at the sidewalk tables. Yoko Ono and her son, Sean, have been spotted here enjoying the ambiance, so maybe you will get lucky, too.

Visitors at the Strawberry Fields Memorial in Central Park.

Visitors at the Strawberry Fields Memorial in Central Park.

While John and Yoko enjoyed good Italian fare, they also loved macrobiotic food and sushi. Sushisamba 7 (87 7th Avenue South, New York, NY 10014 map) in Greenwich Village makes a nice spot for dinner after an afternoon of bookstore browsing and people-watching. The cuisine is a creative combination of Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian dishes, featuring everything from a raw bar to traditional Brazilian barbecue.

Purists may avoid the Hard Rock Cafe ( 1501 Broadway, New York, NY 10036 map ), feeling that it is too commercial, however, one characteristic of Ono and Lennon’s creative partnership was the fearless manner in which they joined forces with the media, determined to channel its power in positive directions. Yoko Ono continues to use the momentum of her husband’s fame to extend their united vision of a peaceful planet into the present. She offers support to the Hard Rock Cafe with a program called Imagine There’s No Hunger, which aids grassroots organizations worldwide. If you visit the Hard Rock Cafe and purchase an Imagine pin or bracelet, the proceeds go to the non-profit group WhyHunger.

According to Ono/Lennon lore, the two met through an art exhibit Yoko displayed in London. Part of the installation required viewers to climb a ladder and view a note on the ceiling, which simply read, “Yes.” Lennon liked the positive tone of her artwork, and was smitten from that moment on, or so the story goes. Now in her late 70′s, Yoko Ono continues creating artwork. She currently has a display in the Museum of Modern Art (11 West 53 Street New York, NY 10019 map ) called From a Whisper to a Scream that is definitely worth checking out. The installation invites viewers to participate in the artwork by responding to written instructions, writing wishes to tie to a tree, and even inviting volunteers to scream into a microphone. If all that works up your appetite, consider enjoying on a creative meal at the museum’s dining room, a.k.a. The Modern.

Visitors to Strawberry Fields in Central Park.

Visitors to Strawberry Fields in Central Park.

Lennon loved gum so much that he would often chew it on stage. While we can only assume that he chose sugarless brands, he surely bought a pack or two at his favorite neighborhood drugstore, West Side Pharmacy (255 Columbus Avenue, New York, NY 10023-3330 map ). If you pass the pharmacy today, you can still see a photo of Lennon in the window.

As mentioned earlier, John and Yoko loved riding bikes around New York City.  Central Park Bike Tours, telephone: 212-541-8759 ( 203 West 58th Street map) offers bike rentals, as well as guided bicycle tours of Central Park.

Whichever mode of transportation you choose to explore Central Park, keep your eye out for Tavern on the Green (67 Central Park West, New York, NY 10023 map.) In the 1970′s, this swanky restaurant was managed by Warner LeRoy. LeRoy’s son was friends with John and Yoko’s little boy, Sean, so the families often celebrated birthdays there. Sadly, the restaurant has gone out of business, and as of this writing, a bankruptcy sale will soon take place.

In 1985, 2 1/2 acres of Central Park located directly across from the Dakota were dedicated to the memory of John Lennon. Dubbed Strawberry Fields after the famous Beatles’ tune, the area features a mosaic with the word, “Imagine,” in the middle of a peace sign. The mosaic was donated by the city of Naples, Italy. Although the area is a designated quiet zone, there was a man softly playing guitar on the day I visited. No one seemed to mind. I visited at mid-week on no special holiday, and there were a dozen or more people, quietly milling around. On certain days, such as John Lennon’s birthday October 9th, you can expect it to be very crowded.

To this day, Yoko Ono still lives in the apartment they shared near Central Park. Considering the head-on approach she and John took with the media, starting with their famous honeymoon Bed In, it comes as no surprise that Yoko embraces social media and enjoys interacting with fans on MyspaceFacebook, and through her personal website, Imagine Peace .  Each Friday, she answers questions on her Twitter page, where her bio simply reads, “I love dancing. I think it’s better to dance than to march through life.” Surely, if John Lennon were still alive to dance through life with her, he would be sharing his art, music, and philosophy online, as well.

Photo credit: Tui Cameron

Related places:
  1. A
    The St. Regis New York
    Two East 55th Street at Fifth Avenue, New York, New York, 10022, United States
    View Details and Book
  2. B
    105 Bank St, New York, NY 10014
    View Details and Book
  3. C
    The Dakota
    1 West 72nd Street, , New York, , 10023,
    View Details and Book
  4. D
    Strand Book Store
    828 Broadway, New York, NY, 10003, USA
    View Details and Book
  5. E
    French Roast
    458 Sixth Ave., New York, NY, 10011, United States
    View Details and Book
  6. F
    87 Seventh Avenue South, New York, NY, 10014
    View Details and Book
  7. G
    Hard Rock Cafe
    1501 Broafway, New York, New York, 10036, United States of America
    View Details and Book
  8. H
    MoMA - Museum of Modern Art
    11 W 53rd St, , New York, , 10019-5497,
    View Details and Book
  9. I
    West Side Pharmacy
    View Details and Book
  10. J
    200 Central Park South
    200 Central Park South, , New York, , 10019,
    View Details and Book
  11. K
    Tavern on the Green
    67th St & Central Park West, New York, New York, 10023, United States of America
    View Details and Book
Tags: beatles, music, top-feature

Leave a reply


Leave a Trackback