The Walrus and The Carpenter

I really can’t remember how I met Dan but I do know we were looking for a doorman at the live music saloon called Barney Steel’s in Redwood City where I was the de facto manager.  I suspect it was through a mutual friend, Jan Condran, a waitress on my crew at the time.

If a perfect doorman ever existed he was it.  We had him for about ten years I think.

Our bar did not attract a violent crowd but on a few occasions his gentle, wise, manner would get set aside and this brief but effective Grizzly Bear would pop out and, with little fanfare, settle the situation of the moment.

The rest of the time he was amazingly congenial, never seeming to tire of greeting customers with “Good evening, Welcome to Barney Steel’s.  The cover tonight is ___ and the band tonight is ____”
Endlessly…!     Always with a smile.

But he was much more than that.  I’m sure I share the same kind of memory as others in his deep listening and gentle responses as I/we vented our latest mental or moral trouble. Always the guy to encourage someone’s efforts.  A man of infinite wisdom and wit, wit that was never at someone else’s expense.

Most nights he was working I stood next to him a lot of the time to check the customers as they came in and occasionally give him a break so he could go on a “parking lot check” with someone.  I’d go on a ‘parking lot check’ with him from time to time too, where rumor has it certain herbs may have been smoked.  I can’t remember…
And we talked.  We talked for hours about “Shoes and Ships and Sealing Wax…of Cabbages and Kings” as Lewis Carroll would say.

I never saw him drunk.  Ever.  Maybe two beers a night if that.  A man who led by example.  He had a drive of about thirty miles at the end of the night and he would not risk a DUI…
We had a lot in common, he and I, but at the same time we were very unalike, myself being everything they attribute to an Aries.  His Steady Mellow and my Intensity harmonized pretty well.

He was a pretty good pool player.  He never rattled….

After the bar shut its doors we drifted away to do other things as people will and we saw less of each other.  Distance and busy lives… we all know how it is.  And a visit from time to time, more of an incidental crossing of paths, were not be the same as the bonding we had at that bar.  A bonding we both missed.

But when someone Takes Flight suddenly like this I regret the opportunities missed to communicate, to have had at least one more dinner… one more e.mail…that kind of thing… too many things unsaid…

The Dan I knew never seemed troubled or worried but he must have been so at times because he was human with the same pains and pressures of life all of us face…some of the pains he had to go through  took their toll.  But you never knew because he hid it and made it About You.  You got his full attention.  Didn’t matter what it was that had you in a flutter and flurry, he would talk you down in his own inimitable way.

Jan aptly put it this way  “He always knew the right words and his talent for getting you to realize the answer to your own question was uncanny.”

He would answer any question and even when his answer was “I don’t know.” you felt better anyway…

When I grow up I want to be just like him.