I met Joe two decades ago, in college. We were both freshmen at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania living around the corner from each other in the dorm that was oh so cleverly named "Tower B." We met because his bizarre roommate knew my then-girlfriend.
I have no idea how we became friends because we couldn't have been more different - but sometimes that's how friendships work.
Among the many reasons I'll always remember Joe, these are two:
It was a sunny spring day. My roommate, Jeff, had just left for his next class, and Joe was killing time chasing a fly. The fly was circling Jeff's desk. And then, after a loud thud, it wasn't.
Joe 1, fly 0.
"Are you really just going to leave it there, squished to the top of his desk?"
Your average person would have scooped up the fly carcass and dropped it in the trash. But not Joe. He fished a pen and an index card out of his backpack, and removed a tack from Jeff's cork note-board.
The next day, while searching for something among his tacked-up notes, my roommate found a dead fly tacked up there as well. It had been pseudo-scientifically labeled to denote what it was, what its fate had become, and who brought about said fate - though not in that order.
"Josephicus Flyus Splatondeskus"
Here's the second reason I'll always remember Joe: he loaned me a cassette tape.
Joe didn't loan me just any old tape. No. He loaned me a tape with an album I'd been too cheap to buy on one side and what looked like the world's worst band name on the other.
Here's the thing: If anybody offers to let me raid their music collection, I'll do it. And since we're talking about the year 1990, we're also talking about cassettes.
Side one of the tape I borrowed from Joe had an album by The Church. If you know who The Church are, then you know which album it was. Right...
The other side of the tape had the words "House Of Freaks" written on it.
"What the hell is House Of Freaks?"
"Just listen" Joe said.
I don't know if I even bothered with The Church side of the tape because I was too curious to hear what I expected to be the worst band ever. I thought it would be so bad that it would be funny.
Instead, what I heard was brilliant.
House Of Freaks was a two man band from Richmond Virginia. They released four albums and a 5 song EP between 1987 and 1994.
Their lead singer/gutarist was a man named Bryan Harvey who, tragically, was killed in a random robbery on January 1st of this year. I've written about that here. Jury selection for his killer's trial began this past week.
If House Of Freaks had released a "Best Of" compilation, it might sound a little like this:
House Of Freaks - a compilation:
Song Title | Album
I remember walking into one of those lame mall record stores back in the mid 90s and seeing a copy of the House Of Freaks CD "Monkey On A Chain Gang" in the rack. It was obvious the disk had been there for years. This was back in the days of those wasteful cardboard long-boxes that CDs used to come in. The box was dented, twisted and mangled, but I grabbed it and immediately headed for the counter, cash in hand. The guy at the counter looked at me as if I were insane. He'd have probably given me the CD if I'd asked. Over time, I managed to find all of their other CDs, mostly at used record shops. I'm glad I did.
"Great works of great men to whom we are indebted. Man does the work, but God gets the credit. I don't understand... but I want answers."
House Of Freaks. Such brilliant music.