I was walking in the Upper West Side along Central Park, dreaming about something — being an Upper West Side author like Nora Ephron, probably — and I walked past The Dakota — John Lennon’s famous apartment building, which also happens to be among the most beautiful apartment buildings in New York. (Designed by the architect of The Plaza hotel, no less.)
I wanted to see Strawberry Fields, so I crossed the street, went into the park and found The Meetles.
It was the afternoon of Oct. 31, and the air was full of flying leaves and bewitching moods. If you walked by too quickly, you’d think they were just another Beatles tribute band, like all the others hanging out around Strawberry Fields. (I wonder if they coordinate set lists with each other: “you playCan’t Buy Me Love and when we hear you stop, we’ll play Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”)
The Meetles weren’t McCartney and Lennon lookalikes like the others I saw that day, but rather a random assemblage of men who reminded me of my uncles. There was also a woman in an orange witch hat who was handing Halloween candy to kids who put cash in her guitar case. It seemed like anyone who wanted to come and sing or play was invited, and they didn’t care much for what you wore or if you had Lennon’s glasses.
There were eight or nine of them: a lead guitarist, a drummer, a keyboard player, various backup strings, and varied vocalists sitting on a couple benches singing with all their might. They were playing Imagine.
They sounded good enough, but what captured me was their collective joy that fluttered like leaves around the crowd. I kept my eye on a particular gray-haired man in the back row, wearing a hat and a green sweatshirt, whose whole soul was going into the song. He looked like a college professor who had escaped the Physics lab for a minute to commune with the universe and his friends. He rocked back and forth each time he got to these words:
“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”
I thought I could feel what he was thinking, and what all those men and women were doing. I walked away on crunching leaves glad for a world filled with dreamers — who always recognize each other, and transcendent moments, and know.
Miraculously enough, someone recorded the very performance I saw: Through the glory of YouTube,here are The Meetles singing Imagine on Oct. 31, 2010 at Strawberry Fields, Central Park. My green sweatshirt guy isn’t visible, but you dreamers will still see.