Cynthia's writing has also been featured on ShortStoryBook.net, and Women Writers, Women Books. Wind made it to the 2nd round in the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest. You can follow Cynthia on Twitter and read her blog, here. Enjoy!
The Shy Man Cometh: My Encounter with Joey Ramone
By Cynthia Warson
By Cynthia Warson
When I was seventeen, I hand an encounter I would recall with fondness many years later. It was the night I met Joey Ramone. Actually, it wasn’t just Joey; Dee Dee, Johnny and Tommy were there too, but it’s Joey I remember.
It was 1977. Jimmy Carter was President; serial killer, “Son of Sam”, was terrorizing New York, the first Apple computer hit the stores, filmgoers line up for hours to see a new movie called “Star Wars,” and Elvis Presley would die that August. But for me and my friends, newly sprung from the confines of a private, Catholic all-girls high school, it would be a summer of music, cool clothes and fun.
Disco reigned supreme, but suddenly, out of the excess of thumping, and reverberated vocals, came a new music. While the rest of the world was listening to the Bee Gees, I had found a new sound—Punk Rock. Punk was fast, hard-edged, stripped-down, with an anti-establishment message; a welcome diversion for bored teenagers. The punk attire du jour was skin-tight, straight-legged jeans (when mainstream fashion was still dictating bell-bottoms), ripped T-shirts adored with safety pins, stiletto heels, inky eye shadow, and the garment de rigueur, a black leather jacket.
The only Punk club in Toronto in those early days was the “Crash 'n' Burn”, submerged in the basement of a downtown warehouse. It was frequented by kids dying to hear the new sound from local bands like Teenage Head, The Diodes, The Dishes, The B-Girls, and The Viletones. But bands playing larger venues would stop in after their gigs; bands often hailing from the Mecca of North American Punk—New York City. I recall meeting Deborah Harry from Blondie. Debbie was beautiful in an ethereal way—as though sprinkled by fairy dust—and smaller than you might think. One night I found myself in a deep conversation about motherhood with a heavily pregnant Tina Weymouth from Talking Heads. But the night I remember with the most clarity is when The Ramones stopped in for a post-show beer.
Joey wasn’t hard to spot. He towered over everyone like a gentle giant (he was 6’ 8”, apparently). He was dressed in the official Ramones “uniform”: straight-legged blue jeans, shabby T-shirt, white Converse sneakers, black leather jacket. Joey looked lost in the throng, like a child who suddenly finds himself separated from his mother in a crowd. I approached him. Joey was sweet, polite, and shy to the extreme. Wearing his trademark rose-colored shades, he said he was enjoying Toronto, and was amazed at its cleanliness, especially in comparison to the Bowery, the Manhattan neighborhood in which he lived. Joey revealed his favorite band was a New York-based group I hadn’t ever heard of—The Cramps.
Joey and I chatted, shouting to be heard over the raw guitars screaming furiously from the small stage. Thrilled at meeting my teenage crush, I could not seem to leave his side, as though my feet were glued to the beer-splashed concrete floor. Eventually, a friend tapped me on the shoulder, and then shouted in my ear, “You don’t have to stand with him all night, you know.” I flushed, embarrassed at my foolish schoolgirl zeal. I reluctantly said goodbye. Joey leaned down from his rarefied atmosphere, virtually bent over double, hugged me, and with a shy, half-smile, said goodbye.
I wound my way through the bopping crowd to the make-shift bar; a large, ice-filled aluminium tub, the kind you’d find in any garage. I reached in, my hand quickly becoming numb as I fished around for a bottle of beer. Glancing back, I saw that Joey was still standing alone, shyly watching the mayhem surrounding him, like an alien from another planet, sent to observe our way of life.
I was truly saddened when I heard about Joey’s death from Cancer in 2001. Thirty years later (it just can’t be that long!), I was surprised when I heard a long forgotten, but familiar beat coming from my sixteen-year-old daughter’s bedroom. I tapped on her door, and then entered the incense-filled room. Yes, it was, “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker”, blaring from the small speakers connected her minuscule iPod, so unlike the once state-of-the-art plastic turntable I had possessed and been so proud of, so many years ago. I began to sing along, amazed the words came easily. My daughter stared at me wide-eyed, as though really seeing me for the first time. As we sang together, I became aware of the music becoming a timeless connection— a lyrical conduit of my daughter’s youth and mine. I moved the clump of clothes perpetually strewn on her bed. Sitting down, I began to tell my daughter about my teenage encounter with Joey Ramone. She was amazed, delighted. It was the first time I recounted it to anyone. This is the second.