It was at least 20 years ago.
But to be honest I can’t remember the exact year.
I was in New York on business, staying at the Algonquin hotel.
It was quite close to Times Square.
On my way back, I saw a sign, Jimmy’s Corner.
It was a bar.
It was half a block from Times Square and one block from the hotel.
As soon as I entered I loved it, a place full of atmosphere. The place was jammed.
The walls were decorated with boxing pictures, autographed posters and pictures of the world’s great boxers.
And behind the bar was a man called Jimmy.
I ordered a bourbon with branch water, a classic way to drink bourbon.
And as is my wont I struck up a conversation with Jimmy the bartender.
We made the usual small talk as often is the case in bars.
But I continued to chat away and before you knew it, Jimmy and I engaged in a real conversation.
At one point Jimmy asked – where are you from?
I said, Vancouver.
And that’s when Jimmy recounted a great story about Vancouver and someone he knew from there.
It turned out Jimmy knew none other than the legendary Murray Pezim, the best-known stock promoter in Vancouver.
I also knew Pezim aka The Pez.
I once was the stock market reporter for The Vancouver Sun.
Of course during that stint I got to know The Pez really well.
So when Jimmy heard that, it sealed the deal – we became friends.
Of course, I offered to buy Jimmy a drink, but he politely said no, saying he had a policy of not accepting drinks from customers.
So after a few drinks I said goodbye to Jimmy and left.
But every time I went back to New York, which was often, I would visit Jimmy and have a few drinks.
Of course, initially he would not remember me. But when the conversation got around to, where are you from and I said Vancouver, he would remember me.
And over the years he and I would have great conversations.
Jimmy was a classic storytellers.
I just listened.
And he was modest.
Turned out, as I later learned, he was the owner of Jimmy’s Corner.
He had great stories to tell about the world’s greatest boxers.
They all came to see Jimmy as he was a former amateur boxer.
He even got knocked out by Floyd Patterson, a former boxing great, when he was still an amateur
Earlier this week I learned Jimmy died in May from the coronavirus.
Jimmy was mourned all over the world.
Newspapers everywhere did a story of his passing.
Jimmy was 89.
RIP dear Jimmy.
And when I return to New York, I will visit your bar and order a bourbon with branch water – in your honour.
But, in the meantime, the memories of you and your place are forever etched in the windmills of my my mind.