Let's capture some of why we loved Wilke so much. As one friend of his put it:

"...write up an anecdote – some story where they watched Wilke build up into righteous anger when reporting a story... or ironing out a crease in the fabric of the Journal bureau... And someone should talk about him tearing up when he described taking his kid to college…..Or when he became nearly inconsolable when the anthrax story came back and cost him two fantastic seats at the Nats-Mets game. Describe a time he filled in for people, picked up their loads for them, counseled them, slipped them incredible sources, shared bylines... that will keep him alive and you (and the rest of us) afloat."

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Sentimental Journey

I am an old childhood friend of John's-- we were very close from third grade up through high school or so. We kept in touch after that but our friendship was really based in our young experiences together. Which isn't to say we lost interest in each other-- we each continued to value our friendship-- we just went in different directions. I'm impressed and humbled by all of these tributes to him from later years, but thought I might share this poem I wrote not long after hearing the sad news.


for Wilke

Past the point of no return, there was a fable to be had

And immediately forgotten. To be a fable. The fable we had

Became something similar to our lives, or vice versa.

On the other hand, something opposite to our lives, putting down

Our toys and becoming men, quote unquote. "I come not

To bring peace but a sword." Any number of people say that

Every day, barbers and reporters and poets. But the dutiful

Remain essentially dutiful, or as near as they can come.

Once in a while something aberrant happens; there are always

Regrets, and we know because we have them. Forty years later

I discovered why our black powder never burned properly—

We missed the important step of granulation. How could two

Eleven-year-olds as smart as us, with all those manuals

From comic books, miss that? I imagine we missed it on purpose,

To avoid blowing things up, even though that was our stated

Mission. Then we picked up our swords and went running after

The bad guys, whomever we imagined them to be, regular guys

Like ourselves. And in the cafeteria life eats time and time

Eats life, and a few other pornographic magazines that remained

In circulation until they fell apart. Seeing which bulbs

Light up the scrim, the houses decked out in their Christmas

Colors, mangling the words to the carols, a fake Jew proving

Myself a fake WASP, but holding desperately to the candle

Nonetheless. But I did get part of the poisoned side

Of the apple, the one that held us together like a bonding

Agent—007. And I got all the breaks, or so you reported,

But the breaks were a break, never to be seen again.

I got stuck, like a couple of neighborhood dogs. Now I can’t

Catch one in a gill net, though I confess I’m not trying

Very hard. But this poem is too pretty, it won’t fly, as though

It had a split personality, spitting in your face one minute

And kissing you the next. The large washes of rosy color where

Real memory fails, which by definition it does. We make up the

Past as we get along out of it, little dogies, leaving behind

A faint imprint, like the half-life of a uranium bottle rocket.

Ian Ganassi

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