Excerpt: 'The Last Days of Dead Celebrities'

That afternoon, Lennon went by himself to his favorite West Side haunt, Cafe La Fortuna, a small Italian coffee shop on West Seventy-first Street, just around the corner from the Dakota. John and Yoko were regulars at Cafe La Fortuna, right from the time it opened in 1976. They would often go in together, with or without Sean, and there were many more times that Lennon could be found there by himself, drinking cappuccino, nibbling on Italian-made chocolates, reading the newspapers, and talking with the restaurant's owner, Vincent Urwand.

Lennon viewed La Fortuna as a safe haven, and over time he established the kind of relationship with Urwand that allowed for much teasing and playful banter. Urwand even teased him that day about Double Fantasy."Look, you've had all those years of wildness and success in the Beatles," Urwand was quoting as saying in Ray Coleman's exhaustively researched John Lennon biography, Lennon.

"You don't need the money," argued Urwand. "What are you doing all this for? You're enjoying being a husband and father!" According to Coleman's book, Lennon responded first by laughing, and then saying to Urwand, "I swore I'd look after that boy until he was five, and he's five and I feel like getting back to my music. The urge is there. It's been a long time since I wrote a song, but they're coming thick and fast now."

Back at the Dakota that night, Lennon phoned his aunt Mimi, his mother's sister and the woman most responsible for his upbringing, and gushed about the new album. Coleman documented the exchange, quoting Lennon's aunt as saying to him from her home in England, "John, you're an idealist looking for a lost horizon. You would make a saint cry!"

To which Lennon responded, "Oh, Mimi, don't be like that. . . . I'll see you soon and we'll bring Sean. Goodnight, God bless, Mimi." John and Yoko also talked that night about their planned trip to San Francisco. They discussed leaving New York on Wednesday, December 10, which would give them a few days to do nothing prior to their weekend appearance at a rally to help Asian workers gain the same kind of equal rights and equal pay as their Caucasian colleagues. "It was about Asians, and we have an Asian kid," said Yoko. "John really was looking forward to that benefit. When he said, 'Okay, let's do it,' it meant another kind of beginning for us, one where we could once again take a political stance in public."

On Sunday night, December 7, Lennon sat down with the cassette to Yoko's single "Walking on Thin Ice" and proceeded to listen to it over and over again. "He listened to it like crazy, all weekend long," said Yoko. "It almost drove me crazy. There's this room in the apartment, overlooking the park, and he was lying down on the couch, or half sitting, with his legs on the floor. And that Sunday night, he just kept listening to the song, and listening to the song. I went to sleep. And when I came back into the room early Monday morning, he was still listening. He said it was the best song I ever wrote, but there was something else going on. The song is really a very strange song. But at the same time there was something in the air that was starting to accelerate. I felt an incredible vibe around us. Not an actual noise, but a strong vibe circling us. I started talking to him over that vibration. I said, 'John, good morning.' And he was still listening to the song."

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