In the early weeks of 2000, I finally bowed to the inevitable and closed my little record shop. I'd spent 14, mostly happy, years of my life behind the tiny counter, taking over the business when I was 26, but now here I was, knocking on 40 and I just couldn't sustain it any longer. I was a tense ball of stress and anxiety, with debts spiralling out of control. As I locked the door for the final time, mixed feelings of relief and an odd sense of bereavement kicked in.
Partly to help me through the mental anguish
and partly to celebrate my 40th birthday, my
cousin and her husband generously paid for
me to go out and visit them in New York in
April 2000. The break was just what I needed
- a relaxing time with my family while I
considered what I was going to do next. My
cousin also gave birth to her second child
towards the end of my stay. I happened to be
travelling across town in a cab with her,
when it became clear that the baby was
coming and we quickly diverted to the
hospital. A short time later I became
ridiculously emotional holding the tiny, 15
minute old little girl, who will celebrate
her own 13th birthday next week.
A few days earlier, on the afternoon of
April 15th, the last day of my 30's, as I
walked alone through the East Village, I
crossed 3rd Avenue on 9th Street and noticed
a small kerfuffle in a doorway to my right.
There, towering above a throng of a dozen
chattering fans, was Joey Ramone, signing
autographs, talking to everyone at once, but
clearly trying to edge inside the building.
I fumbled in my backpack for some paper and
a pen and waited patiently at the edge of
the group. The great man was unstintingly
polite, in spite of the barrage of questions
and bits of paper being thrust at him to
sign, but gradually, and before it came to
my turn, he eased himself into the foyer of
the building and, with a wave through the
glass door, he was gone.
I didn't get Joey's autograph that day, but
it was a memorable New York Moment for me. A
moment that came spinning back 12 months
later, when I opened a newspaper on the
morning of my 41st birthday to find that
Joey had passed away the previous afternoon,
exactly a year after my close encounter with
him. The extent of his illness hadn't been
widely publicised, his death was a terrible
shock and 12 years on, we miss him still.
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