Lake Placid Encounter

Today's story is about an interesting encounter in Lake Placid during the opening of the winter skiing season on the day after Thanksgiving. For the uninitiated, there is more to Lake Placid than the 1999 horror film that shares its name. It is, in fact, a quaint town in upstate New York cradled among the Adirondack Mountains, that hosted the Winter Olympic Games in 1932 and 1980.

It was at this Olympic Village that I came across David Heim, a member of the organising committee for the 1980 Games, and the de facto curator of the Winter Olympic Museum. He had fascinating tales to tell about the most important public event experienced by the 2,000 odd inhabitants of this sleepy little hamlet at the height of the Cold War. While most Americans associate the 1980 Winter Olympics with the "Miracle on Ice" (the US team winning the gold medal in ice hockey), there are many other moments of human-interest that reflect the true Olympic spirit and make the Games more memorable.

First and foremost was that Lake Placid was caught unprepared by the influx of sportsmen, journalists and fans, and makeshift arrangements were made by the town to host the participants. That was how the brother-sister pair of Andreas and Hanni Wenzel from the tiny European country of Liechtenstein ended up staying in Heim's house. Between the two of them, the Wenzels won 4 medals for their country, at an average of one per 6,250 people! It had been estimated by the Olympic Committee that if the United States had won the same number of medals per-capita, it would have won 36,000 medals (instead of the paltry twelve)!

Another heart-warming incident happened after the Men's Giant Slamon skiing event in which the famous Ingemar Stenmark from Sweden edged past Andreas Wenzel by less than a second to win his second straight gold medal. Despite the traditional animosity between the two countries, Stenmark insisted that the gold medal be shared with Wenzel, and two days later, they welded halves of their gold and silver medals together. Heim claimed that this news was largely ignored by the media (barring a small mention in Sports Illustrated), and try as I might, I could not find any official mention of it.

Heim himself has lived a colourful life. A one-time U.S. spy in the erstwhile German Democratic Republic (East Germany), he has hobnobbed with all kinds of people. In one celebrated incident, he borrowed a jacket from an acquaintance at a bar without realising that he was Prince Albert of Monaco (the jacket now finds a place of pride in the museum!). But his most life-defining event happened about seven years ago when the private plane that he was travelling in crashed during landing at Lake Placid, and he entered into a 39-day coma. When doctors were all but ready to give up on him, his wife brought in their twins to the hospital (who were conceived after years of expensive fertility treatment), and placed them skin-to-skin on each side of his body. This to me is the real miracle on ice-- Heim woke up the next day!

I mentioned in passing that David should put down all his life experiences in a book, and lo and behold, he is actually working on a memoir titled "The Glass is Half Full", which is expected to be promoted by Oprah's Book Club. Besides being a teller of entertaining sports vignettes, the optimism and enjoyment that David Heim exudes as a result of being offered a second chance at life, is infectious and bound to be an inspiration for all.

The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.
Baron Pierre de Coubertin, Founder of the Modern Olympics

Ballad of Yoko and John

Who is the real Yoko Ono? Over the years, Yoko has been demonised as an opportunistic businesswoman who broke up The Beatles and prevented their rapprochement, and dominated John Lennon and hijacked his legacy. On the other hand, she has played an instrumental role in the completion of the Lennon Anthology and Beatles Anthology projects, and has been spreading John's message of love and peace around the world.

Yoko was already an established avant-garde artist when John met her at London's Indica Gallery in 1966. In about a couple of years, the pair had become virtually inseparable and started receiving flak not only from Beatles-fans and media (not all of which was free of racism), but also from the band members. As the couple embarked on their bed-in peace movement, the world media came around to ridicule them, a complete reversal from the early 1960s when earnest questions from the Press were met with dead-pan humour by the Fab Four. However, as John conceded in his 1980 interview with Playboy magazine, he was very satisfied with the impact of their commercial for peace: "We're putting the word Peace on the front page of the paper next to all the words about war."

The extensive 237-page interview by David Sheff that concluded two months before Lennon's murder should be required reading for every Beatles-fan, and is guaranteed to bring a lump to the throat or a tear to the eye. When compared with his angry persona in the Rolling Stone interview from a decade earlier, the side of Lennon that leaps out from the pages of this book is more relaxed, optimistic ("I am going to be forty, and life begins at forty") and even vulnerable, although just as passionate. His views on politics and religion are as powerful, and he has no hesitation in declaring that "the idea of leadership is a false god" since "when the good news comes, they worship the messenger and they don't listen to the message."

In the interview (and the companion "Heartplay" LP of unfinished dialogues), John and Yoko come across as modern-day shamans, almost like Richard Bach and Leslie Parrish. Their words are fraught with religious and cultural references that require an occasional browsing of Wikipedia to appreciate (John refers to Yoko's influence on him as similar to the role of Carlos Castaneda's Don Juan Matus, a Yaqui Indian teacher). The discussions range from Mahatma Gandhi, pacifism and ways to counter the war lobby (John and Yoko's "War is Over, If You Want It" campaign was meant to be taken in the spirit of self-prophesying wish-fulfillment, an attitude that may yet prove useful today), to his house-husband phase with their son Sean and his support for women's empowerment. Through all this, his wit remains razor sharp, as when he instantly counters Yoko's statement that "people picture God as an old man with a beard" with "They don't know it's an old woman with a beard"!

While John Lennon's views on war and peace remain as relevant today, we must also bow to his opinion of Yoko Ono, instead of wasting print judging her. John, and only John, should be allowed to have the last word: "If somebody is going to impress me, whether it be a Maharishi or a Yoko Ono, there comes a point when the emperor has no clothes. So for all you folks out there who think that I'm having the wool pulled over my eyes-- well, that's an insult to me. Not that you think less of Yoko, because that's your problem; what I think of her is what counts! But if you think you know me or you own some part of me because of the music I've made, and then you think I'm being controlled like a dog on a leash because I do things with her, then screw you. Anybody who claims to have some interest in me as an individual artist, or even as part of The Beatles, has absolutely misunderstood everything I ever said if they can't see why I'm with Yoko."

Wonsaponatime there was two Balloons called Jock and Yono. They were strictly in love-bound to happen in a million years. They were together man. Unfotunatimetable they both seemed to have previous experience-- which kept calling them one way oranother (you know howitis). But they battled on against overwhelming oddities, includo some of their beast friends. Being in love they cloong even the more together man-- but some of the poisonessmonster of outrated buslodedshithrowers did stick slightly and they occasionally had to resort to the drycleaners. Luckily this did not kill them and they weren't banned from the Olympic Games. They lived hopefully ever after, and who could blame them?
John Lennon, Jock and Yono