R.I.P Dan Craft

Jan 10, 2013 by

I’m 41 years old, and for the most part the people I grew up with are still alive.  The ones who aren’t have died from the kinds of things that happen to the young and relatively young: car accidents, drug overdoses and tragic mishaps.  This past week, one of my high school friends was the first of my friends to fall to something like natural causes – cancer.   His name is Dan Craft and he was 41 years old when he died this past Friday.

I hung out with Dan almost every day in the 9th and 10th grade.  We ate lunch at the same table; we had classes together, listened to similar music and liked the same movies.  I was just starting to get into Punk in the 9th grade, but Dan was already well rooted in his alternative life style, which included one of the best haircuts of all time.  I don’t even know how to describe it, it wasn’t a Mohawk or a bunch of spikes, and it wasn’t necessarily long hair though it kind of was and eventually did become quite long.  There were some braids involved, some shaggy layers, some long parts, some short parts, it was kind of all over the place and NOBODY else had one like it, which was exactly the way Dan wanted it.

It was around this time that Dan began to use the word “individual” with earnest.  He and another friend started making their own T-shirts, purposely crude in design, but different than anything anyone had.  A bunch of us started doing it after that, kind of throwing a kink into the “individual” thing, but at least he set the trend.  Of course, as friends, it was our duty to make fun of Dan as much as we could.  Every time he said something about being an individual, we rolled our eyes and mocked him.  That’s what friends do, right?  At least it is when you’re boys and you don’t understand something.  It’s how we express our love for one another.

I still hung out with Dan Jr. and Sr. year, just not as much as before.  He went to the Governor’s School of the Arts for theater, so he was in school for half days and then at GSA for the rest of the afternoon.   There were still parties and summers and other opportunities to hang out, but we were beginning to go our separate ways, as is the case with most high school buddies.

Years went by and I find myself twice as old as when I first met Dan and playing around with this newfangled thing called Facebook all the kids are using.  In general I have a rule not to connect with high school friends.  We’ve lost touch for a reason and we’ve all got new lives, why complicate them any more than they already are?  There are exceptions and Dan was one of them.   We didn’t suddenly become besties; calling each other every weekend and catching up, like I said, lives are complicated.  We chatted, caught up on the last 20 years or so, and asked about the family.  We commented on various silly things through Facebook, and generally got a good idea of what each other had become since we last new each other.

I learned in addition to horror movies Dan had developed a passion for Asian film.  He was an organizer for the New York Asian Film Festival and was involved in Subway Cinema since 2004.  He worked for MTV.  He was married to the love of his life, lived in NY and was living exactly the life he wanted to live.  All except for one thing, he had leukemia.

Watching Dan live with Leukemia took me back to High School, he treated it the way he treated anything else he had disdain for but was forced to live with – he used his humor, intelligence and quick wit to minimize it.  It was very easy to see his truth as he dealt with it and to laugh along with him.  His friends cheered him along the way and for all I knew, he was in the clear save the occasional visit to the hospital, because as he put it “Since the marrow transplant, everything is a little bit scarier, I go in for one thing and they find two more to treat.  … it’s better than dying of leukemia though, so you know, I got that working for me”.

And that’s the bitch of it all.  It wasn’t leukemia that killed him.  It was some other form of extremely aggressive cancer.  As I said, we weren’t super close; we were Facebook friends that went to high school together.  I didn’t know it was happening.  It was another friend of ours from High School who sent me a message on Saturday.

I haven’t been able to sleep over the last few days.  Thinking about Dan, his wife, his close friends and family and what they must have gone through (and are still going through).  I find myself reading through all the words his many friends and coworkers have written on his page.  I learn more about him through the eyes of his friends and I regret not having stayed more in touch with him.  I couldn’t help but wonder why the death of an old friend, but someone I didn’t really know all that well anymore, was affecting me so much.

I guess some of it is facing my own mortality, we are the same age after all and come from the same background, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought about the influence Dan had on my life:

Individuality – We gave him such a hard time, but I met him at a time when I was just starting to break away from the pack mentality of high school.  Dan helped me consider what it means to do what you think is right and not give a fuck about what others thought.  Dan is the one who made me question my beliefs and figure out for myself what I want to believe in.

Horror Movies/Fiction – I admit it, I was a wimp before I met Dan (and our friend Bobby).  Horror movies gave me nightmares, I didn’t want to go anywhere near a Stephen King book much less an HP Lovecraft story (My mom introduced me to Stephen King, Dan introduced me to HP).  By the end of the 9th grade I’d read every Stephen King book, fast forward a few years and I’m lying on Dan’s bedroom floor reading Fangoria while discussing Dario Argento and Tom Savini.  My final exam monologue for 10th grade Drama was from an HP Lovecraft story. (Dan’s was a Frank-N-Furter song from Rocky Horror Picture Show, while wearing one of his girlfriend’s dresses.)

Irreverence – You can’t really ever have too much of this can you?  Nothing was sacred, nothing off limits, anything goes.  Whether we were talking about midgets, the government, school or your mom, we tried not to take anything too seriously.

Highly produced electronic English music – Nah, I’m just kidding, I still hate this shit.  But I have many a fond memory of riding with Dan to school and being forced to listen to whatever horrible shit he had on the radio.  I really do think of it fondly and to this day, if I hear the Bauhaus I think of Dan before I throw up.

When I think about it, some of my strongest views regarding politics and religion can be traced back to conversations I had with Dan.  It’s crazy to think how much of an influence he had on me and yet when he died, I hardly knew the man.  In a lot of ways I’m not just grieving the loss of the man, but the loss of the friendship I could have had.

I guess what I’m trying to say in 1500 words or less is I’m sad to see Dan go.  I’m sad for his family and friends, I’m sad for the community he left behind, and I’m sad I didn’t take advantage of the technology at my disposal to get to know him better when I had the chance.

From one atheist to another, there isn’t really anything else to say except, Good bye Dan.

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Click here to see the Hollywood Report about Dan

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