-By Joseph Barbella

I was in high school when I finally got the courage to get on the train. I knew if my mom found out I would be in big trouble. Because back in the day, the subways were really bad. After I stepped foot into the West Village, for the very first time, there was no turning back: The Boy from Brooklyn, found his home! 

I remember strolling along 8th street, with its stretch of imported record shops, and its rock and roll gear. Along the way, there was an array of stores that provided boots and shoes from designers all over the world. 

As an adult, I started to enjoy the luxury of the nightlife; the West Village provided some of the finest restaurants, bars, and clubs. It had all sorts of entertainment—rock, jazz, and blues. One of my biggest highlights was meeting Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones, near Tower Records. I saw him inside the lobby, and on his way out we talked for a while as he gave me his autograph. He was so nice, and down to earth. I told him how big an influence he was on my brother and me. 

The author as a younger man, courtesy of Joseph Barbella. circa 1987

Over the years, New York City has gradually transformed. And I’ve grown accustomed to the changes, as big corporations abolished the mom-and-pop stores and brought in their own empires. 

With that said, once I saw Derek Jeter in the West Village Starbucks. I didn’t want to trouble him for an autograph—it’s not really my thing, and I heard he’s a shy guy. But I started to think about how big a Yankees fan my mom was. As he left I saw him limping, with a cast on his ankle. I called out, “Derek,” and as he turned around, I approached him; he said “Hold my coffee,” as he put his signature on paper, which I still have today. I thanked him for the success that he brought to the city of New York, and said that we all appreciated his greatness. Derek has been a very big influence on so many. As our conversation wound down I said “Get well soon.” 

The West Village back in the day had more of an artistic and rock and roll feel. New York City itself had more character, and was very bohemian. 

Although New York has changed more profoundly than ever since then, the West Village is still a place for excitement. It supports a new generation that provides a copious amount of energy with its trendy scene. 

The Boy from Brooklyn hopes to maintain residence in the West Village; and if I continue to work hard, just maybe that can come to fruition. 


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