Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Remembering Danny Cassidy

I’m saddened to hear just now about the death of Danny Cassidy who wrote an Irish language column over the past year or so for the Echo. Danny, as it happened, was one of the main movers behind the Irish Writers and Artists for Obama, a group that nailed its colors to the mast with a full-page ad in the paper during the primary season.

I suppose I’ll always remember one thing about Danny – he defied the preconceptions I’d had about him before I met him.

Let me explain. I’d had no interaction with the scholar before he spoke that night with writer Peter Quinn at the Tenement Museum. Certain things I’d heard and read, though, suggested someone rather wacky and eccentric, and perhaps very cranky. This had nothing and yet everything to do with his thesis about the development of American slang.

Nothing in the sense that I was agnostic on the question, but enough people I respect thought his ideas very plausible and even convincing.

Everything in the sense that to push such a theory against the conventional wisdom one had to have been mildly eccentric at the very least -- as so many innovators and theorists have been.

Such a quality tends, however, to be accentuated in our electronic age. It turned out, indeed, that it was Danny’s emails that were a little wacky, or could be, not the man himself.

In person, I found him tremendously likeable and charming, as well as intelligent in an understated way. To my great regret, that first meeting was to be the last.

My own subsequent email correspondence with Danny only reinforced my new opinion – he was a great guy.

Danny, you’re gone too soon, way too soon.

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