Seeing The Neighborhoods perform at the Joe “Zippo” Kelley benefit last night reminded me of my old friend Danny Waters. He shared in many of the adventures — good and bad — of my youth.
It was Sean Marley who introduced me to Dan. It was 1986 and I dropped in on the Marley residence (2 doors down from me) on a Sunday morning. Sean and Dan had been up late the night before, drinking. Dan had a mop of blond hair and I couldn’t see his eyes.
The two were delighting in the sounds of a Randy Rhoads solo on a live bootleg one of them had acquired. That would be the first of many times the three of us would hang out like brothers. I was the little brother, and sometimes they treated me like it, laughing over and mocking something stupid I said. I gave them plenty of fodder.
At one point, Dan was living in a house at the very end of Pines Road, a street directly across from my house that ended in a boat ramp leading down to the water. I’d go there and check out his guitars. The man could play.
He was brutally shy, though, and he would be there one minute and gone the next. He also had an almost super-human ability to consume massive amounts of beer without dropping dead, though one time, after downing 20 beers, he practically spent the next 24 hours chanting, “I’m not well.”
The very first time I drank myself into a puking spree was in his apartment next the the Northgate shopping plaza on Squire Road. I sat on his bathroom floor for a long time counting the tiles. That somehow made me feel better.
I would get loaded in his company many times after that. I learned to hold my liquor, and the drinking parties would often alternate between his apartment (he later moved to an apartment off Revere Beach Parkway) and my basement in the Point of Pines.
Dan was good friends with Zane, a kid I wrote about in a previous post. Zane jumped off the top of a building in 1988. It would not be the last time Dan lost a close friend to suicide.
I always felt like Dan was more Sean’s friend than mine, and to an extent that’s true. Those two were joined at the hip between the mid 1980s and 1990s. I never would have met Dan or found common ground with him if not for the friend we had in common.
Dan and Sean also played a lot of guitar together. They eventually let me join in as singer. We wrote a few songs, but I can’t really remember them.
As the years progressed, Dan and I would hang out without Sean quite often. The three of us still hung out all the time, but at one point Sean was in an intense (some would say Sid-and-Nancy-like) relationship with a girl who looked like that singer from The Cure. The two fought as often as they took breaths, and their fights would usually start at one of the parties at my place or Dan’s.
Times where it was just me and Dan included a 1988 show at The Channel headlined by The Neighborhoods, the 1991 Lollapalooza festival with Rollins Band, Body Count, Nine Inch Nails and Jane’s Addiction, and low-key nights in his apartment, drinking and watching late-night TV.
One night I freaked out because I consumed two beers and an entire stick of marijuana by myself in the concrete storage room beneath the front patio of my basement hangout.
The fellow who gave it to me was about 500 pounds and wore a black trenchcoat, even during the summer. He died Valentine’s Day 2009 of a heart attack. I lost touch with him as I became focused on career and learned after his death that he had led an admirable life of aiding the mentally disabled. Anyway, I was freaking out because, in the midst of lying on my bed enjoying the high, I suddenly got the idea that I just might have a heart attack. That’s one of my earlier memories of an anxiety attack.
I called Dan.
He drove over and found me pacing up and down the driveway in a blue-green polka-dotted bathrobe I used to own. It was well after midnight.
He took me to Kelly’s Roast Beef and bought me a box of chicken wings. The binge-eating addiction was well under way, and I downed the whole thing in seconds. That calmed me down. I settled into a state of high where I’d let out a “heh heh” every few seconds.
Kelly’s was always a favorite place for me to binge eat away my troubles. It was as good as any drug or liquor store.
Sean got a kick out of the retelling later.
Later, Dan and Sean got into a scrape and I failed to return the favor and come to their aid. It was the fall of 1991, around the time that photo of the three of us above was taken. We were at Kelly’s and as we started walking back we noticed 10 punks were following us.
I freaked and walked ahead, ducking into what was then a bar-restaurant called The Driftwood. I looked back to see the punks circling Sean and Dan, kicking the shit out of both. I had a bartender call the cops and went back outside. By then it was all over. Dan had a black eye. The two limped their way back to the Pines. I stayed a few paces in front of them.
If I could relive that moment, I would have stayed with them and taken my beating, too. It would have made me a better friend. I’d also enjoy retelling the story today, because I wouldn’t look so pathetic in the rear-view mirror.
In 1996, I was living back in The Point of Pines and me, Dan and Sean would walk to Kelly’s every Sunday morning for coffee.
They would usually walk a few paces ahead and talk about a Skinny Puppy song or whatever else I wasn’t paying attention to because I was starting a deep descent into a dark place marked by fear, anxiety and vicious binge eating. Those days, Sunday was for getting myself into a state of anxiety and depression about the upcoming work week. The job was fine. I wasn’t.
Sean was in much worse shape than I was. I don’t know how aware Dan was of just how bad he was getting, but I was all but oblivious. I was too locked inside my head to see what was happening.
Thank God Sean had Joy. She did everything she could to bring him out of his deepening depression. He took his life anyway, but I love her all the more just for being his wife and shouldering a burden I was too self-absorbed to share at the time.
The day Sean died, I spent much of the afternoon frantically trying to reach Dan. When I finally got him on the phone, he collapsed into a pile of rubble on the other end. It’s not a stretch to say that was one of the worst moments of my life. I knew how tight they were, and Dan was more of a loner than I was, which meant he wouldn’t have as much of a support system as I had. I alienated my support system, of course. But that’s a story for another post.
Dan and I continued the Sunday walks into the spring of 1997. We always bought three cups of coffee. We always left the third cup on the beach wall for Sean.
That spring, Dan dropped out of my world. I wouldn’t reconnect with him until 2009 on Facebook. I spent all the time in between thinking he hated me for not doing enough on my end to help Sean. I eventually learned I was just being stupid.
Today Dan is doing just fine. He got married, had two beautiful daughters and lives in Texas.
He plays in a band called Three Kinds of People.
I miss him, and know we’ll never hang out like we used to. But when I think of how we both managed to survive a lot of ugly shit, it makes me happy.