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Thoughts on a lost friend
by Sal Emma

For the Current/Gazette Newspapers – April 2008

The lexicographers say the vocabulary of the English language is just shy of a million words. I could use every one and still fail to paint an accurate picture of Joe Granese.

Everybody’s unique – but some are more unique than others, you know? One in a billion, he was. Larger than life, beyond characterization, impossible to pigeonhole.

Raconteur, comedian, adventurer, explorer … in Joe I found a kindred spirit who shared my insatiable curiosity about the world. But like most things Joe, his appetite for knowledge dwarfed mine, exponentially.

He was not only fascinated by everything – he kept a perpetual mental catalog of facts and figures associated with … well, everything. Today, you can sit at any computer, anywhere in the world and ‘google’ just about any tidbit associated with life on earth. Joe was doing that before the kids who invented Google were in diapers – with no Internet.

His capacity for remembering and recalling disparate bits of information was mind-boggling. But he never waved it in your face. Joe had the capacity to know it all without playing the know-it-all. Ever the quintessential conversationalist, being in his company was fascinating.

Absent duplicity or pretense, he was a teddy-bear package of razor-sharp wit, a unique worldview and an astonishing virtuosity with the English language. (His most vivid word combinations are unfit for print in a family newspaper.)

Being a friend of Joe’s was an experience like few others. He was one of those guys that you couldn’t dislike, even when the artillery of his linguistic genius was aimed in your direction. In fact, that made the journey even richer. Just being in the same room with him was life affirming. Being with him, out in the world, “doing stuff,” as he liked to say, was a thrill ride.

For stupidity, he gave no quarter, even less for treachery. He was provocative, opinionated, occasionally intolerant and funny as hell. With human frailty, he could be less than tactful with those that crossed him. It took a lot to push his buttons, but the consequences were almost always – memorable. He packed a big wallop but he had a very long fuse.

Despite his flaws, he was always magnanimous. He was generous with deeds, money and expertise to friends, family and strangers alike. He returned favors. He kept his word. He understood the value of citizenship, integrity, loyalty and doing the right thing.

In younger days, his dedication to vice was legendary. Showing the true courage of his character, a heart scare and hospital stay truly transformed him some years ago. Much to our collective surprise, he gave up his unhealthy habits and started listening to his doctors, virtually overnight. Of his reform he was wont to say, “I am a shadow of my former self,” an observation deep with layers of meaning.

The transformation was so dramatic, we were sure we had lots more years to enjoy his company. We were very wrong about that. And today we’re feeling disjointed and foggy, painfully aware of a new and very large void in the universe.

Godspeed, Joe. Damn, we’re going to miss you.