April 15, 2017
I found something online that said, “Friendship is so weird. You pick a random human you’ve never met, and you’re like ‘This one. I want to go on adventures with this one.’ ”
Joe and I began our adventure at Pearl River High in New York.
I’m uncertain as to why, but we played a game in the hallways where we ambushed each other with a solid punch to the shoulder. Sometimes these shots were ridiculously hard. Books dropped.
And we would laugh.
We were weird.
But our respective weirdness fits together rather well.
For almost 30 years we adventured all over the United States. First, it was simply Saturdays at the Jersey Shore or concerts at the Orange County Fairgrounds. There were dinners at my grandmother’s house on Forrest Avenue and dinners with Daisy and Jim on Mapleshade Avenue, maybe a little poker at Chris Carlson’s house.
Later it was me dropping in on Joe—sometimes unannounced—at Syracuse. That’s where I met Heather. Joe often spent weekends with me in Pennsylvania convincing bar cover bands to let me sing whatever song Joe wanted to hear. The stories we came up with to brow-beat the singer into relinquishing the microphone were silly, and yet we almost always succeeded.
When I got my first real job in North Carolina, I discovered this wonderful thing called vacation time—except I had nowhere to go and barely a penny to my name. Joe decided to bring Chris Butler down and help me figure it out—Joe had a talent for acquiring players and adding to the team. He would introduce complementary personalities, and he would turn them into lifelong friends.
Joe, Butler and I were horrible golfers using my press privileges to play PGA courses. We crammed into my Cadillac Cimarron. Do you know what that was? It was when General Motors slapped a Cadillac emblem on a Chevy Cavalier and put a hamster under the hood instead of an engine. The officially listed color of my version was “rose,” which meant pink.
We drove to Myrtle Beach in a pink Cadillac.
For a week I don’t believe we interacted with other human beings for any significant length of time. It was as if we were our own little country. We never stopped laughing. In the years to come, Butler and Joe—when they were West-Coasting together for the weekend—would call me at 3 or 4 am my time. I always woke up, saw who it was, and called back.
More trips to the South followed. Joe and I absconded with a piece of the Duke University basketball floor while the renovators were resurfacing it into “Coach K Court.” Target acquired; adventure complete.
Often I would be driving home from work and get a spontaneous call from Joe—who seemed to be always stuck in some airport. There would be no “Hello,” just his voice saying, “I’m bored. Entertain me.”
The conversation usually lasted an hour or more. I would make fun of his New Age bands. He would make fun of my Hard Rock bands. We agreed that some of the best rock music originated in Canada.
We adventured in Chicago, in California where Joe and I enticed Sean O’Loughlin to join us in speaking exclusively like Sean Connery for days, and in Wyoming where I had to fish Joe out of the Snake River. The water was 40 degrees, but when we got past the rapids, we both decided to jump in again and float through Jackson Hole, shivering together.
Joe got to meet my future wife on a trip to South Carolina, and I had a front-row seat for the Alexander nuptials in New York. That’s where Sean O’Loughlin made the bold move of bringing a new girlfriend to his best pal’s wedding.
Now Sean and Dena have the same last name…and two kids.
When Maya was hours away from entering the world, Joe and I were on the phone. He and Heather were passing the time in the hospital room watching TV. For some reason Joe had settled on Roadhouse starring Patrick Swayze, so I too put on Roadhouse, and thus we were kind-of together.
We got together for real on the Outer Banks of North Carolina in 2013, and my little girl and his little girl were able to wreak some second-generation havoc. Daisy and Jim were there. The Schwarze was with us—three generations of it, and instantly we were all one family. When the kids were asleep, we tried to play Operation while consuming alcohol. The buzzer never stopped.
Joe reverently covered the gameboard's face with a napkin and called it an evening. He and I both were teary-eyed when the week was over, and we promised to find a way to do it again.
Our next adventure was going to be this month at the Rose Bowl.
I can barely remember a life before Joe, and it’s almost impossible to envision a life without him. I cannot tell you how much I counted on him just being.
Joe grew up to have a magnanimous, big-hearted social nature. I can barely comprehend how many friends he has, how many weddings and life events of which he’s been apart. I think half the people I know are people I met through Joe. He is the focus of an endearing social universe of who knows how much influence.
Because of that, every bit of unexpected good fortune that happens to you from here forward is suspect. When something that was going wrong in a hurry suddenly turns in your favor, smile and wonder. Life essences like his don’t just extinguish. They change shape, and sometimes they become more powerful than you can imagine.
You all are a large part of his legacy. Remember that and take care of each other. And make sure that Maya never stops running into people who tell her what a remarkable Daddy she has.