The first time I ever met my friend Dan, he was holding court in a local bar during karaoke night. Tall, loud, garrulous and good looking, Dan welcomed us in with a smile. He was dating my friend Mary at the time - Mary was working on a show at LeMoyne College along with me and my buddy Sean. She was from Auburn, just a quick half hour or so away from Syracuse, so we piled into a car one night after rehearsal and set out to party in Auburn for the night. College students on an impromptu minor road-trip to go drinking a town over are often an excited, rowdy bunch, and as I recall, we were no different.
We were going to a place Mary and Dan hung out in on the reg, an eclectic bar called "Swaby's Kangaroo Court" in beautiful downtown Auburn, NY. This place was filled with all kinds of cool bric-a-brac; there was even an alcove that was sealed off with bars, but behind it was the actual old electric chair from Auburn State prison. It was said that it was the chair that Leon Czolgosz, assassin of president McKinley in 1901, was executed in. All in all, a very cool place. Karaoke was in full swing that night - in an unfamilar town, we made our way in. I don't remember much of that night, honestly, as those nights tend to be a blur in my older age. I've been through a lot in the interim, and we definitely drank out fair share that evening. But I remember singing songs with my new friends, having fun... and being young. But most of all, I remember Dan. It was nice to meet a new friend, and one I ended up having many good times with over the years. Dan passed away suddenly three years ago, at age 40.
Sometimes I still can't believe he's gone. That's life, though. I always expected to go before so many of my peers, but here I am. Just one of the ones left behind - so at least I can share this little tale of mine in memory of him. He was a good person - a fun, smart guy. He loved to argue, but in good nature, and we had many verbal spars as well as laughs, hugs and the joy that comes with friendship. Just another person I am so glad to have met along my travels - but someone I definitely miss dearly. I would have liked to have had one last drink with him. It's often that way with people you lose, especially people you don't see as much as you once did. The last time I talked to Dan, it was over text messages. We talked about the movie The Fifth Element, and how he'd nabbed a reproduction multi-pass on Amazon from that movie. And he also offered to get tested to see if he could donate a kidney to me, as he knew I was back on dialysis and needed one. That's the kind of friends I have made in this life. Friends who have literally offered me kidneys - and followed up and tested to see if it's even possible. How lucky am I?
Very lucky, I'd venture to say. Godspeed Dan. It's been three years and I miss the hell out of you, buddy.
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