1993: I was 18 years old and fresh out of high school. Two days after my graduation I left the lil’ East Texas town that had been my home for nearly 13 years and headed back to my birth land, Kansas City. After about a week or so of being in town I walked in to a tiny little record store in Oakview, Missouri, a small community that hugs Gladstone in Kansas City North, and was hired on the spot to help check in shipments and process used CD’s (a new thing back then!) I had no idea at the time that Disc Traders would change my life forever. I met a lot of very influential folks in the KC music community: Chuck Haddix, Howard Iceberg, Barry Lee, Phil Kline, among others, and the one who became my “adopted father,” Dan Conn. Dan was in his 40’s (SO. OLD… according to 18 year old me.) He was the coolest 40 year old I had ever met. He loved music passionately – everything from Pink Floyd, Neil Young and The Grateful Dead to Mark O’Connor, Clannad and Maura O’Connell. He was a seriously cool dude. We had such fun working together at that store for over three years. Later when I went on to work at Recycled Sounds in Westport and he went back to the Music Exchange we still got together frequently to listen to music, tell stories and share a meal. I miss those times.
As years passed, Dan was stricken with a debilitating illness. Agoraphobia got the best of him. Many of us who loved him didn’t understand what was happening at first. It started with dates that were stood up, talks on the phone instead of face to face conversation, then slowly less and less interaction. As my life moved on it seemed that Dan’s was standing still. He did reach out to me a couple times by way of a phone call. I was a very busy mama by then, 2005, tending to my daughter and growing a new relationship with a man and child who would become my husband and bonus son. I didn’t return Dan’s calls just due to the business of my life and my great character flaw for picking up a phone. It was rude and Dan was frustrated by it. He left a final voice message for me expressing angrily his feelings of being forgotten. I was hurt and angry that he didn’t understand the mountain of things going on in my life. My frustration got the best of me and I then left an angry voice mail for him. It wasn’t pretty. I’m not proud. I am human.
Fast forward a few months to the winter of 2006. My family had just bought and moved in to a new home. Things seemed to be settling down a bit and I made my way into the Music Exchange where Dan used to work, but was no longer going in because of the agoraphobia. I knew that Dan’s phone number had changed recently so I told his brother, Dave, also an employee at the store, to please let Dan know that I would love to hear from him and heal our scuffle – the only one we’d ever had in all those years. It was only a couple days later that I received the phone call that Dan was found dead in his apartment from a self-inflicted wound. My heart broke. The kind soul who had taken me under his wing, taught me so much about music and friendship was gone. We had a stupid falling out over stupid things called expectations. We both expected the other one to understand what was going on in our lives, despite our poor attempts to communicate it. What a waste of perfectly good time.
I’m still not over it. Although these days I like to think that some universal force pulled me into the Music Exchange to say the words of peace out loud – Dan was likely already gone in that moment. Word has it he had been gone a few days before he was found. Meanwhile, I had already written a song about our situation and those greedy little destructive things called expectations, but I never had the chance to share it with him before he was gone. As his birthday approaches, September 8, I’d like to use this opportunity to share the story of Dan and me. I miss him every day and I’m so grateful for all the things he taught me, perhaps the greatest being “don’t go to bed mad.” You just never know what tomorrow holds. Move towards it with all the love you can muster….
Listen to “Expectations” from my 2007 self-released album “Live How You Love.”