“You’re not a dildo!”
This was the worst insult my friend, Dan Bunin ever leveled at me.
At least it was part of it.
Of course, he said this after having just called me a dildo in the first place. We were playing a game of D&D back in college, and zingers were par for the course. So was a certain degree of genuine bickering over details long since forgotten. Still, this comment seemed a bit much. Dan was genuinely frustrated at me at that moment, and the awkward silence that filled the room suggested I wasn’t the only one who noticed. I had just resolved to just move on when Dan announced his change of heart, and told me I wasn’t a dildo after all.
I knew better than to think I was totally off the hook here, so I just waited for the punch line.
“If you were a dildo, women would like you!”
…and the whole room burst out in laughter.
I couldn’t stay mad of course. I was too busy laughing right along with the others, but the joke served its purpose. Dan broke the tension even as he got in one more shot. Fair enough, I thought, and we enjoyed the rest of the game.
This was over thirty years ago, and I still chuckle every time I think of it. It was typical of Dan’s wit, and his humor. It’s also typical of the other memories he brings to mind.
I remember once shutting a door in Dan’s face for no reason whatsoever. He opened the door back up a moment later with a very confused look on his face. I really couldn’t think of a good way to follow that up, so I asked if I could borrow five bucks. Dan just laughed and fished the money out of his wallet. I remember once coming out of the library at UNLV and wondering what all the shouting was about down at the student union. Turns out Dan had just about picked a literal fight with the entire fraternity community. (All of them!) I remember countless dinners at Korean BBQs where the running debate was about whether to order two meals for every one person or just the usual three meals for every two people. I remember playing straight pool with Dan and his brothers at the Q-Club. Back then, making a really great shot was as likely to earn you an insult as it was to get you a compliment. Suffice to say, Dan gave plenty of cause to call him an ‘asshole’ during those games. I remember attending a few wild parties at Dan’s on New Years Eve, and I remember noticing when those wild parties had dwindled to a table full of old guys complaining about the state of the world. I also remember that a good portion of the open questions we came up with sitting around that table seemed to get deferred to Dan. In a room full of smart people who didn’t normally hesitate to study-up on a good question, we had somehow gotten used to the idea that Dan was the one who would actually know the answer.
Back when we were both college freshmen, I remember Dan once turning to me in frustration as someone else was talking and saying the guy was wrong, but he just didn’t know how to explain it. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this sort of problem wasn’t going to plague Dan for long. His career as a successful trial lawyer has long since put to rest any lingering doubts as to his ability to explain why somebody was wrong.
I also remember speaking to Dan at the end of an online gathering a couple Friday’s back. He was excited for his coming vacation, and I couldn’t help but be happy for him. He and some other friends had been planning this trip all summer. I figured we’d talk again this coming week. I’d see him smoking a cigar with a drink in his hand, his partner Violet sitting beside him, and Dan and the others would tell the rest of us all about their adventures. I figured we would still be hearing the stories all the way till Christmas!
We won’t be having those conversations after all, not with Dan. To say that I am heartbroken doesn’t even begin to tell the story.
I was going to end this with a platitude about cherishing your friends while you have them, but that kind of schlock seems unworthy of Dan’s memory. I doubt anything I just wrote is worthy of that memory, really, but I’m trying not to make it worse here at the end. The truth is that Dan Bunin will be very sorely missed by an awful lot of people. The world always got a little smarter when he entered the room. It got more interesting, and it got a lot more fun. In his departure, Dan takes an awful lot to smile about with him. I can’t help thinking the world has just become a much more tiresome place.