I had an elaborate list of D words: death, dirt, douche, die, deaf, deer...man, the letter "d" is kind of depressing. Ah! De-pressing! But then I remembered my old friend Dan Lee. It's his birthday on Friday, and I finally found a word that starts with d that's not bleak, heartwrenching, or yucky.
Now, if you thought all I had to say about Dan Lee is that he's not bleak, heartwrenching, or yucky, you'd be wrong. I mean, that's true, he's none of those things. But wait, there's more!
I first met Dan Lee at Lauerman's bar in Fargo in 1998. I had fallen in love with his then girlfriend, now wife, Tenessa, earlier that semester in our Margaret Atwood class, and went to meet Dan and the gang (like Kool and gang, but with more Dan!) with our mutual friend Steve. I remember walking in and seeing this guy who looked a little like a roofer or farmhand, standing at the bar in a crowded Lauerman's. He was telling a story, surrounded by people, and everyone was listening intently to him, laughing. "That's Dan," Steve said. I didn't believe him. I knew this guy's special lady friend, and I was SURE he wasn't Tenessa's type.
I'm not sure why that was my first reaction, but once I got over my lack of sensitivity to my new friend's type, I liked Dan right away. He's funny and smart and had read all the back issues of Languishing that I'd forced on Tenessa.
I don't know where to begin to explain to you how much I like Dan. I know here, and in real life, I write about my family of origin, and my own family, a lot. I write about my female friends, too. But I somehow just don't talk much about my male friends. I have several that I hold dear, but none dearer than Dan. I guess I'll just tell you a couple of stories about him.
Once, when Shaun and I were first dating, Shaun dropped his keys into a sewer drain on the street. Seriously: like a movie cliche, Shaun came to my apartment all worried, because the keys to everything in his life (car, work, home...) were down the sewer. I didn't know what to do, so we went upstairs and got Dan. Dan brought a wire hanger, and after seven or eight very tense minutes, triumphantly raised the keys from the depth of Fargo. Both Shaun and I knew then that this man was no mere mortal, but some kind of specialized, hanger-wielding superhero.
After he and Tenessa moved to New York City, Shaun and I went out to visit. I had recently started collecting vintage Samsonite suitcases, and while it's an admirable thing to collect (I think), it's totally impractical to travel with. Still, because I was filling my home with the stuff, I really felt it was important that I show Shaun it was useful! And cute! So I packed the large white hardside, (it looked like the one in the link, but had a handle and wheels built in) and off to NYC we went.
After picking it up at the baggage claim, it was clear I'd made a terrible mistake. Though this suitcase had wheels, they were small, close together, and hard to maneuver. And on an average day, apparently, Dan and Tenessa walked 300 miles just to get from their apartment to the subway and back. Oh, the humanity. And Shaun and I, being at least as lazy and out of shape then as we are now, were in no condition to navigate the Big Apple with such a burden. I should've bought a different suitcase at the damn airport, but instead relied on Dan's skillful maneuvering skills and North Dakota hospitality. (I don't know if I ever told him how sorry I was. And am. Ach).
He taught me how to drink from a glass bottle out of the side of my mouth, the joy of The Big Lebowski, and shares my knowledge (and most of my appreciation) of late-70's/early 80's country hits like Sylvia's "Nobody" or David Frizzell's "I'm Gonna Hire a Wino." V calls him Uncle Danny, because that's what I call him, too.
I hope he has a fantastic birthday, and knows just how much I love him. More than dirt, death, and deer, that's for sure.