Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Remembering Dan

Artist and Disney stalwart Dan Read died a week ago today.

I should have mentioned it sooner but I didn't know exactly what to say. Dan was a fine artist, way beyond his Disney work. He lived for some years in Florence, Italy refining his art and earning his living with big and small canvases. At some point he decided it would be good to become one with a large American corporation and called me asking how he could get into Disney. (I knew from mutual friends that he was a crackerjack artist. I steered him to the usual suspects.)

Disney ultimately hired him in the animation background department, but it took them awhile. Big companies don't always move with alacrity, even when applicants are highly skilled. But it all worked out. Dan came to Disney Animation and thrived, and was a survivor through many regime changes at the House of Mouse because he was damn good at what he did, and the conglomerate knew it. (Sometimes talent does win out.)

Dan, unfortunately, didn't survive the melanoma that spent the last eighteen months spreading through his body. And I write about this now, a week after Dan's death, because I just came across the web log he created the last few months of his life. The first entry goes like this:

This sounds from the title like a blow by blow accounting of treatments. Really, it's just meanderings, as well as much needed practice keeping my thumbs off the touch pad and mistakenly sending the cursor off to some corner of the screen. (any hints?)

So, meanderings: After four trips to to the radiation room, I'm getting used to what is mostly a very uncomfortable experience. The young radiological oncologist seems to have two pairs of shoes. One has the sole detaching all around the front, the other looks like he borrowed them from a shopping cart that had been abandoned in front of a Ralph's in, say, 1953. Just thought it worth mentioning in passing.

Then there's the rest: thoughts about existence, mainly. Or, shouldn't this house have better weather-proofing? What about the fishpond problem? Bamboo: boon or boondoggle?

In case you didn't know, there are myriad blogs and websites devoted to and/or created by other poor souls in my situation (whatever that is). All it takes is a google search and you'll be inundated with far more than you ever wanted to know about any of this. I'm not averse to talking about any of it, so if you have questions, fire away. I just don't at the moment see the point or necessity of going on and on about the scrappiness of this day by day ...struggle? Fight? Sufference? Whatever.

Yet, I'd like to know if I have anything anything inside of me in these moments, in this position in the universe or in life that is insightful or perhaps at least interesting. I always assumed that people in precarious, extreme circumstances had special thoughts. Maybe not, though. Maybe it's all just more of the same. When the brother of a friend of ours got the word that his days were numbered and he analyzed how he wanted to live them out, he decided that he just wanted to live as usual. Nothing special. Time with friends and family. No exotic vacations or fabulous sauna treatments. Me, too. Not that I know anything about numbered days. That's all completely ambiguous and therefore ignorable.

What a joy to hang out and watch spring come to full expression in the garden, to relax and doze off without cares (thanks to hydrocodone, oxicontin, ativan and the rest of the narcotics) What a joy when Andrea comes home from work, filling the house with his particular, busy energy. And what a joy to spend time with friends who have graciously volunteered to baby sit. I'd like to be painting, and hope to be able to again soon, but for now I can muster the energy to write. xoxoDan ...

None of us knows how long we'll be allowed to frolic in the long, bright tunnel. Some of us go past ninety, others don't make age twenty. Dan had just turned sixty, and I remarked to a friend of his that it was a shame he was cut down before his full span of years. The friend shrugged.

"Dan got to live and work in Florence, got to work fifteen years at Disney. He went to all the places he wanted to go to and even with the cancer, he was comfortable almost to the end. So maybe he got his full span ..."

Maybe he did. I'm not smart enough to really know. But what I do know is that, as I get older, I've sorted out that a lot of the stuff wrapped in day-to-day existence is just white noise you're better off ignoring. Politics? Somebody wins and somebody loses, and somebody's taxes go up and another person's go down, and at the end what difference does it make? (Not much. Office politics is the same thing.)

What's important is the friends and family you have, and the satisfactions you derive from the moments of your life. Dan was surrounded by friends and family when his curtain rang down, and he had lots of satisfactions.

Could be worse.


Anonymous said...

A very nice, fitting tribute.

Very sad. He will be missed.

Floyd Norman said...

I didn't know Dan well. On occasion, I would see at the airport when I was doing my shuttle back and forth from Pixar. I knew he was a talented artist at Disney. I didn't know much else. Yet, he was always charming and friendly when we talked about our goofy jobs in the cartoon business.

He was a nice man. I'll miss him.

Anonymous said...

Such is the sad state of overall cancer "treatment" in America. It's a medical money pit, and the only ones getting any real benefit from it is doctors and hospitals.

And research? It's a joke. Or a scandal waiting to be uncovered.

Speaking as someone who's lost 2 family members to cancer.

Anonymous said...

Not the time and place.

Anonymous said...

I met Dan while working on Princess and the Frog. I worked over in EFX. Sometimes I had to go over to BG to get a texture or some piece of art tweeked for what I was doing. Often Dan would be the artist to do the changes for me. I did not know he was ill, he never once complained and even when there was a mountain of work to do he would lend a helping hand. He was always patient and seemed happy. I am glad I got to meet him, wish there were more people like him.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Memorial Page for Dan

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