Actor/Neighbor


About halfway through the four-year Gallipoli that was making the Meadowlands, we moved from Ft. Lee, NJ back to yet another house in Secaucus, our third there. On the first full weekend in the new place, I was home by myself cleaning up in the yard, trying to hide from neighbors that a band had moved in next door, the kiss of suburban death.

One of those neighbors, the one directly next door, came over from his yard, introduced himself as Dan and asked the general niceties you do when you meet someone who’s renting (us) the house next to the house that you own (him), raised children in, have a real stake in etc. and need to take a measure of the person the fates have cast in the role of new neighbor and adjust the new threat-to-peace-of-mind level accordingly.

Now I admit that I’m one of those folks that often, when I meet you for the first time in a situation like this, I’ll hear your name, and immediately begin a stupid yet intricate mental calculus on how everything I’m wearing, saying, even am, is coming across to you and trying to assess how all that in turn is being assessed, and so instantaneously forget your name, and hear almost nothing of what you say. I’m not proud of that, it’s more like shame really, but there it is. And as I’m correcting for internal rounding errors in how Dan would compute that a group of three well-past-thirty bachelors, living together in one housearen’t a suburban opium den or worse, a band, I gradually tune in that he is kind of going on and on about the film Caddyshack, which is airing that night in some sort of special anniversary package, if I remember right, and how funny Rodney Dangerfield really was.

Ty-D B., C’est moi

He changes topics and asks me what I do and determined to put the best neighborly foot forward, I tell him I work in advertising and that the two other also-rans I live with are in big pharma. He replies that he did some work in advertising and that “I don’t know if you’re old enough to remember, but the Ty-D Bowl Man – that was me”.

And I’m thinking, “great, we’ve got this common ground, advertising!”. Even though I’m sort of a charlatan in that, while I am working at a big ad agency at this point, I’m scrivenered away in Accounts Receivable which to advertising folks means something like, ‘you work in the accounting industry’. Which is also a total sham since I likewise had an absolute zero of any qualifications in either accounting or finance. Heck, I didn’t even finish my bachelor’s in jazz guitar. But that’s corporate America. Or at least New York. Or just me.

Anyhow…I seed my reply with handsful of the advertising jargon I’ve picked up from cooler actual-advertising friends – “oh, I do remember [about the Tidy Bowl Man account]; that’s great and must’ve been a big deal. Were you the copywriter for that spot or did you account exec. that or something?” [note jargon, improperly used].

“No,” he says, “the Ty-D Bowl Man – that was me. I was the Tidy Bowl man. I’m an actor.”.

Dr. B., C’est moi

“Oh…cool”, I feeble out as I’m completely reshuffling the few decks I’d mentally dealt both of us for this conversation while at the same time, some internal previous contextual alarm goes off telling me – really, re-hearing and reinterpreting for me – that in his opening salvo about Rodney Dangerfield, Dan meant theperson, the actor Dangerfield and he doesn’t mean in the movie – or not just in the movie – but on-set. As in “I am his peer, we worked together, what a card”. And at that same moment I sort of see through the veneer of what is hopefully early/middle old age (Dan would’ve been about 70 at this point) and realize that at some level right below that, I can make out a face I kind of recognize – he’s that other guy in Caddyshack! The priest! No wait, it was a doctor - Dan is the doctor from Caddyshack!

Anyhow, we lived past the awkwardness of that initial meeting to be functional & perfunctorily friendly, if not close, neighbors. We let his dog “get away from him” and crap in our yard hourly; he let us crap up the sonic flagstone path between us with one billion consecutive mixes of “everyone choose sides”.

When we had some big-ish press stuff run after the album came out, he very, very nicely came over and enthused about it at length, groused about being an artist in a small town so close and yet so far from New York City, where he’d done a bunch of Broadway and commercial work over the years etc., which all sort of flatteringly meant that he now counted us as stranded artists too.

Anyway, all this because per some online news, Dan, passed away last Saturday, July 31st, of complications stemming from Parkinson’s Disease.

We liked Dan a lot. Dan, here’s to you. It was nice knowing you and our thoughts are with your family. I hope you and Rodney are having a great time.

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