August 23, 2002

Jerry Day

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2002

Jerry Garcia: August 1, 1942 - August 9, 1995

This is so clear to me, that it still hurts. Seven years ago, I had a day off from work and took in an afternoon New York Yankees baseball game at Yankee Stadium with my buddy Jerry Engel and that's when I found out that Jerry Garcia died. Cal Ripken hit two HRs that day, and that's something I haven't forgotten.

After the game we took the subway down to Manhattan, and went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where I had been working as a security guard and that's when I talked to some fellow guards, who expressed their sadness to me. I somberly walked over to Strawberry Fields in Central Park, and gathered near John Lennon's Imagine Memorial were hundreds of Deadheads, from all walks of life, were paying homage to Jerry. Some were crying, some were getting high and passing around bottles of wine, some were singing and playing Jerry tunes, others were telling their favorite tour stories.

But for me, I just sat in silence and remembered how just 54 days earlier... on June 15th, 1995... I met Jerry Garcia.

While on the job at the Met, I saw Jerry walking through the American Wing late one Saturday night with his wife and I held a door open for him. He smiled and said, "Thank you very much." I couldn't muster up anything other than, "No worries." And I extended my hand, and the old and limping Jerry shook my hand, and he continuded on his way. The next night, I would see my very last Grateful Dead show, with Bruce Cohen.

At the time, it was the greatest thing that had ever happened to me: I shook Jerry Garcia's hand.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

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