03.12.2002 (Tuesday), 12:15 AM

Joe DeVera

it's funny about memories...they make the whole house just stop and reflect...

I bought an iPod from my friend Don back in December. Two weeks ago, I released it from it's over-packaged box (sheesh, Apple rivals the Japanese for useless packaging with style) and plugged it in. I quickly loaded up 700 songs (well ok, 688 songs...) on it, dug out my car adapter and off I went.

(Now I have absolutely no shame in saying that Napster, Aimster and Morpheus have been very, very good to me. I have actually gone out and bought most of what I have downloaded from their services but I'd be lying my ass off if I said I didn't benefit from the (ahem) "sharing".)

So I was driving home tonight with the iPod on the random song setting and up pops the Tom Tom Club's "Genius of Love". Damn, now I'm back in high school, a senior about to graduate...

I first met Joe DeVera when I was a freshman in high school and since I can't really remember, I might had also met him in junior high school. One thing that I do know is that we were never close friends but had a pretty good relationship. We both liked similar types of girls, music and just plain messing around. I never knew his background, his parents, where he grew up or any of that.

When we were just about to graduate, I went to a party over on Bascom Avenue in a set of apartments near where freeway 880 crosses overhead. (It's the same set of apartments where several years later, my friend Alex got his friend Linda kicked out of her apartment when he broke a lot of pool coping by skateboarding the empty apartment pool, but that's another story...) I never managed to go to the wilder parties in high school--just the pretty sedate ones. That was nice though because there was less pressure to get wasted and do stupid shit.

Joe invited me as he was planning to join the military a few weeks after graduation. I didn't really know if he was serious or not but that's they way he was: he always kept people guessing. It didn't matter--his girlfriend was going to be there too and I liked her a lot too although I cannot recall her name. The thing I remember her for was that she could dance circles around most people.

There were about six or seven people there sitting and drinking vodka and fruit juice and the whole scene was pretty...well, mellow. Joe and I were, as usual, plotting plots never to be hatched and just kind of relaxing. Someone put on some music--kind of dance-of-the-day type stuff--maybe Donna Summer, or maybe Journey or whatever. People started dancing and as a rule, I didn't dance.

At some point, it occurred to me that there was the perfect dance song lurking in the cassette player in my car. I went outside and got it then came back in and played it. I didn't wait for the song that was playing to finish--I just interrupted. Joe started to give me a bit of a hard time about it until he heard the synth intro and deep clap beat to "Genius of Love". As the song kicked in, he shot me a look of wide-eyed approval. His girlfriend was starting to really get down to what she did best. The entire room was shaking ass (yeah, even me--I got up and tried not to look the part of the dork...) and it was definitely ON.

We played the song many times that night. We all had a great time. The party never got out of control but it was a fucking blast. Joe and I talked until the wee hours in-between mixing drinks and keeping the groove going. That was also the last time I talked to him.

The truth is that Joe did something after that day--he may have joined the military or just went to school or both. Lots of years passed from 1978 and I heard dribs and drabs of what he was doing but never pursued meeting with him.
It wasn't anything except just not hooking up. I finally found out what he had been up to in 1997. Unfortunately, it was by reading his obituary in the San Jose State Alumni newsletter.

It turned out that Joe worked and lived in Detroit. He was the three-time Michigan Newspaper Photographer Of The Year and worked for The Detroit News. He died in his Detroit home on August 4th, 1997 of unknown causes.

Tonight, hearing that song tore my heart out. I had listened to it many times since I downloaded it but tonight was the first time that Joe's grinning, mischievous face was suddenly right there with me. I could see him lazily roll his eyes into a relaxed state of bliss. He had his groove on. While watching him, I pulled into the driveway, turned off the engine then had the need to ask him where he had been. I never got an answer because he was gone.

Posted by wjc