Thursday, August 23, 2018

Danny Jo

My friend Dan, who also went by Dan'l and Danny Jo, passed away on July 16 while I was on TRAM.  His funeral isn't until next weekend so relatives could get into town, and that's left me a month to collect memories.

This is the dream catcher Dan gave me after I was in a coma for several days.  There are three primary objects I kept from that event. that I keep where I can usually see them  The glass from my window to remind that life is fragile, prone to breaking, and things are never as bad as they could be.  A stuffed zebra named Stripe my daughter filled and refilled with hugs for me while I was laid up.  And Dan's dream catcher to catch all the bad thoughts and the horrible nightmares.  The brain bruised lucid dreams I had then should have rightly filled it up, but I'd like to think there's space left to catch all the sadness about Dan being gone. Given memories are just a sort of dream, I want to list some memories about Dan that won't get caught in the corner of my living room...

  • More than anything, endless days and nights of Milton Bradley big box board games.  He, Kyle, Uncle Bill, and I played Axis and Allies, Fortress America, and Shogun to exhaustion in marathon binges.  The little white plastic chips in my Axis and Allies box are still a deep old-ivory yellow, not with age, but with all the nicotine off Uncle Bill's fingers.  Given how often we played those games, you'd have expected us to know the rules inside and out, but arguing about the rules of the World at War version was most of the fun, particularly as the night wore on, and it is a fond memory of Kyle, Dan, and I all arguing with Bill that he could not rail an aircraft carrier across Russia even if it was theoretically being shipped in pieces.  We played at:
    • Uncle Bill's old place in Big Lake where we once ended the evening with Dan deciding to jog back to Monticello.  Bill went looking for him while I parked myself on the big rock on the corner in Monticello and ordered a pizza from Domino's and waited for him to cross the bridge.  My old scoutmaster Dick showed up to deliver the pizza and asked why I was eating a pizza on the corner.  "Waiting for a friend to show up," I replied, which apparently fit with what he know of me as he shook his head affirmatively and left me to wait.  That might have been one of two times he lost a piece of clothing from my dad.
    • We played at Bill and Carolyn's new place in Maple Lake, which was also when we started playing Magic the Gathering (while simultaneously being a little confused about D.J.'s gigantic pog collection), until the house took a tree in one of the big storms we often played through.
    • We played in Mobridge, South Dakota.  Not just a day in those cases, but a full,
      extended, weekend, with breaks only to find a bison burger over by the river, run to the factory, or watch the cops pull people over in the front of the house after midnight while we played the Mexican hat dance on his alarm clock.  One time the perps actually ran away from the cops by sprinting in several directions at once at the alarm clock music took on the Benny Hill vibe Dan loved so much.
  • When it wasn't a strategy game, it was cribbage.  We even had a little toy harrier jet we found in the dirt that served as the trophy.  Some of my last time with Dan was taking the trophy to Lowell's place for a few games.  Or it was bocce ball wherever it could be played.  In the early days that was in parks, in yards, and particularly at Half Time Rec.  Although one time we had to forgo bocce as we were  the only guys at a cajun music gig of older women who needed dance partners.
  • And once, but just once, it was wrestling in the front yard of the Richfield duplex to see who was scrappier.  Katie lectured me for making his nipples bleed.  He can't contradict me now, so I will state, he definitely started it.

It's not just memories of gaming that make it past the dream catcher...
  • There was the time Dan and I threw tampons at Kyle in his Mustang as he follow us after sushi in Uptown.
  • Once we helped Lowell move some of the big machinery in Maple Lake.  We weren't particularly effective movers, and we dragged an edge and left a giant rut down the sidewalk.  We were never sure if Lowell got in trouble with the city for that.
  • We got pulled over while driving to pizza in Maple Lake by a cop who seemed to have lost his mind and gave us a ticket for an hour earlier, with a court date in the past, at a non-existent mileage marker, with a note that it was delivered in Malp Lake.  It's very hard for me to type Maple Lake, because Dan and I called it Malp Lake when we were together for over 25 years.
  • This story, where Eryn called her "Uncle Dan" to share a new word she had learned...
    • Eryn: ...hard to understand
    • Dan'l: "You're a tiny kisser?"
    • Eryn: ...hard to understand
    • Dan'l: "Tiny kisser?"
    • Me: "She said 'Titty Twister!'"
    • Eryn: "Titty twister! Titty twister! Titty twister!"
  • Dan being pigpiled by all the kid's at Eryn's fourth birthday party: 
  • The time he bought my sister Allison a whole bunch of naked dolls at an estate sale when she was little.  Her response was to color underpants on all of them.
So much will get through that sieve....
  • Jen and I picking him up in Monti and moving him into Minneapolis with his carboy full of coins. It must have weighed well over 100 pounds, but it probably kept the back end of the Cadillac El Dorado from fishtailing.
  • My wedding.  His wedding.  And a toast about streaking that his older relatives complimented me on.
  • Dan lived with me twice.  Once with Kyle and I at Cedar Riverside where he holed up in the corner of the front room in our one bedroom apartment in a literal nest of possessions.  I wish I had a picture of it as it's hard to imagine if you weren't there.  He'd periodically come out to eat and take his turn at the old AD&D turn-based game he, Kyle, and I hot swapped on because every time we threw a fireball we had to wait an hour to take the next action.  Later he lived with Jen and me in the Richfield duplex (less a permanent resident at that time and more of an almost permanent visitor, so I'm counting it.  Even more so because he was there so frequently my memory of who got ceiling catted is muddled).
  • How proud he was of being in the Marines and learning Farsi.  Jen and I shipped him crate after crate (after crate) of books from The Book House in Dinkytown.  He'd pass them around the USS Tarawa to the other troops on their way to Gulf .
    • He loved Farsi enough that when he found a stray cat left in an apartment while working in St. Louis Park and adopted it for a while, he named it Chesham, which I think is the word for eyes.
And more...
  • He, Kyle and I went to see a play at the history theater about Baron Von Raschke.  Most males who grew up in Minnesota in the 70s will appreciate that story simply as it stands.  Any trip to see a story about The Claw is a good night.
  • The night he and I ended up at the Moose and saved two nurses from a couple of  pests, later going to see one of them sing country songs.
  • The time he danced out from behind a place he probably shouldn't have been after bribing a bouncer, surprising Kyle and I, and not because he had great dance moves (although his stint in the service had made him very familiar with the electric slide and other moves, which his girlfriend in the Marines, once told me all about while driving back and forth down the road by Kyle's parents' house one night).
    • That reminds me of the time his mom and AuntT bracketed me on a bench/log at Dan's family baseball game (he had a lot of relatives) and kept bringing me drinks, trying to pry information out of me about Dan's girlfriend.  Apparently he'd been tightlipped about his relationship status in the Marines, but they knew there was someone and I was the avenue to finding out the details.
  • How much he liked Halloween with the kids.
  • The time he, Kyle, and I went to Morris and he disappeared and we started to worry about him.  He turned up a few hours later and he told us about how two women had picked him up to give him a ride.  From there it took a strange turn, and he insisted they had locked him in a basement because they were satanists and had plans for him.  Fortunately, their plans were foiled, and after that we went to my folks cabin and tubed all weekend until we couldn't move.
  • Speaking of not moving.  There was the time he was on leave from the Marines and went skiing with my sister Allison and me at Buck Hill until the wee hours, almost midnight.  Dan told me later that he got on the plane and he couldn't move.  He was literally worried he wouldn't be able to get out of his seat at the end of the flight.
  • He helped so many friends with their HVAC problems.  I still have a great big swath of marker on my furnace reminding me to change my damn filter (probably time to do that).  One time he got stuck between my furnace and the water heater.  I threatened to leave him there.
  • And thinking of HVAC, we went to Katie's new employer in Eagan, where she hadn't even had her first day on the job, because I tried to cut off the end off my finger making a delicious Valentine's Day salad for Katie.  He made sure I wasn't going to die, and then he left me with the doc while he went to inspect all the HVAC equipment to ensure Katie wouldn't spend the first day on her new job in an HVAC-compromised state.
The good memories go back farther....
  • We used to ice fish on the lake behind his house.  One time, we were helping Lowell get the fish house off the lake with the van.  We couldn't get traction so Dan and I pushed while Lowell got the thing up to speed, spinning the wheels.  We got it off the lake and...right between two trees.  Two trees that weren't wide enough for the van.  It ripped up the sides and took off the mirror and almost got the whole vehicle permanently wedged.  But the fish house was certainly off the lake
  • RPI...  We had our first year of college together in New York.  A few memories from there...
    • There was a required swim test.  Everyone at RPI had to swim.  Not a problem for me.  It was a definite problem for Dan'l.  They tossed him one end, watched him sink, and said he'd better make it to the other side.  He did....that was sufficient.  So he had to do what everyone else at RPI had to do.  Run.
    • That wasn't a problem.  Dan was always a runner.  What I remember at RPI was how they put us on a track and told us to just run for an hour.  Grade was based on improvement.  There were two people at the front of the laps, Dan and a guy who'd placed first in his state for cross country.  After that was me.  After that....100 math and engineering majors Dan and that other guy lapped several dozen times in an hour.  They lapped me too, but less than ten times.  That was always my goal.
    • The time he bailed on a frat party to go on a wagon ride to study for his physics test because he'd gotten an F--- on his first test.  Don't think that's awful.  It is, but it was also the grade for about 50% of the class.  He studied for days.  After our next test we went to see the prof and he was so proud that his the prof told him his packing structure diagram was 100% correct and exceptional and mine was total garbage.  He moved up to an F++.  RPI was brutal.
    • That bronze statue, that's the RPI nipple.  It was in the student union and rathskeller where we went to watch T'Pau's Heart and Soul on their drop down screen, even though we were too young to get a beer.  When we needed to meet up outside the dorms, it was often "near the nipple".
    • Just to put some perspective around that F++, he loved his engineering lit class, he crushed it.
    • The frat we were both pledging to had a tradition, on your birthday they would drag you into the shower.  This story is more about me, but on my birthday Dan told them that was a really bad idea, perhaps the stupidest idea he'd ever heard of.  He then sat in the frontroom at the bottom of the stairs laughing while brothers literally flew down the stairs.
    • Playing Muskrat Love on volume 11 in Troy, New York, while driving around town in the big green van.
    • When we were stopped at the Canadian border and the pretty young border agent took an inkling to Dan.  She found his radar detector, but winked and sent him on the way.  We weren't quite so lucky when we got stopped at the border in the van and the dogs found a disposable ashtray with marijuana residue on it we'd pilfered from the dorm for Mark McConnon's ash tray collection.  That was a long night.
    • This mug he bought me that my wife subsequently chipped.  Rude.

Let's go back even further....
  • Two bicycling trips together with our high school friends before we were old enough to drive.  Memories of planting trees, splitting wood, and doing everything my dad and Larry Kounkel could dream up that they could convince kids was worth $50 toward a trip to Chippewa Falls and Duluth.  Those trips alone are a cache of memories all set to Funkytown by Lipps.
  • That original trip to Wisconsin started as a joke about bicycling to Mr. Nelson's (the math teacher's) home town of Lemmon, SD,  after perfume and glue fights. Those are exactly what they sound like.  His room smelled like a boudoir.  It was after a super glue fight in the lockers where Dan ruined my favorite shirt (did I mention his hatred of my family's clothing above?) that we finally decided it was more fun to pedal, streak, and switch from perfume fights to baby powder fights with the Ben, Joe, the Cassanos and others.

And later... 
  • So many New Years' parties.
  • They always included that damn quarter game, and I swear if I'm not getting senile, it was his fault that inbetween is a yearly event that destroys someone's stake.
  • There were a bunch of Christmases as well including one where he gave me Aerosmith's Greatest Hits on CD, which was weird, because I didn't have a CD player.  Until a few minutes later when I got one from my folks.  And the Christmas where Jen got a package of underpants and threw them at Dan individually as he went into duck and cover behind the couch.
  • And at least one year they included Dan's nipples.  Maybe he was trying to show they'd all healed up after that Richfield wrestling fiasco.  I do not know who Kyle is calling to report on the state of Dan's nipples.  Katie was always at New Years, so who knows....
  • All the events with the kids.  All of 'em.
  • And here's Dan at the Dells.  I finish with this memory, despite a thousand more I could list, because it was a good one for all of us.  His family and my family, the kids still all little and full of nonstop fun... a nice susurrus for all of us before we got older and that dreamcatcher started catching more dreams and memories.

No comments: