He was sitting in a hot tub, buck naked with two women, dressed like-wise, or so he said, and even though Danny Paul Carroll was all about having fun, something was missing.
So sometime after midnight – the drinks having flowed freely all evening, no doubt – he picked up the telephone and made a call.
I answered almost immediately.
When you’re single and living in party mode, phone calls after midnight are either really bad news, or truly great opportunities.
Plus, they didn’t sell home safety systems via telemarketers after the sun went down in the early ought’s of the 21st century, so I knew answering wouldn’t be a waste of time.
And when Danny called it was never a waste of time.
I won’t lie. I entertained the idea of driving the 20-or-so minutes down to the New Hampshire seacoast to frolic the night away with my roommate and his two new friends in a Portsmouth hotel room.
But, in the end, after working all night, and finding the couch simply a little too inviting and far too comfortable, I never left the house.
An hour later, Danny walked through the door, a devilish grin on his face and a twinkle of mischief in his eyes. He made himself another drink, sat down and finished his story.
One of the women’s husbands had figured out where she was, he explained. He showed up, obviously upset, pounding on the door, demanding to see her.
Danny barely escaped with his boxers and socks on, the rest of his clothes in his arms and a story for the ages.
And that, in just one brief story, was Danny in a nutshell.
A man for the ages, full of stories for the ages. He lived them (probably embellished a few for comic effect), loved them, told them and retold them to anybody who would listen.
Sadly, on Wednesday afternoon, one last story was told.
The headline simply read: “Dead Man Found In Cocheco River.”
As they pulled his lifeless body from the Cocheco’s cold, unforgiving waters, Danny’s story was over.
He was 52 years old.
• • •
I met Danny sometime in 1998, shortly after I moved from Maine to Dover, New Hampshire.
He wound up dating my first New Hampshire roommate, Monique, when the two of us started being regular customers at the pub where Danny worked.
As I often joked back in the day, when the two of them finally broke up, he got me in the divorce.
I moved in with him and we were roommates for close to three years, living in a house just off Route 108 in Somersworth.
Living with a bartender meant one thing.
The parties didn’t stop at last call, and I can’t tell you how many times I would be rustled from sleep by the noise of an after-hours party going on in the pool room, the living room and the kitchen.
And I never got mad, angry or frustrated.
How could I?
Circling around us during this time – at the pub, at our home, at other houses and apartments – was a tight circle of friends who cared about each other despite our eclectic idiosyncrasies.
We were all vastly different people from vastly different places with vastly different backgrounds, but we were tight-knit and loved each other dearly.
I’ll never forget any of those people which is why I’ll never forget Danny, the man who in a way helped bring us all together beer by beer, story by story.
He was a bartender to many, but a friend it seemed to many more. For a while, when we lived as roommates, he was one of my best friends.
Even as his demons started to rise up from inside him, you could still count on him.
Until you couldn’t.
More and more nights he would disappear into his room and I wouldn’t see him again.
One night I was finally invited in and immediately felt the draw of the slide he knew all too well.
In the end, that’s the reason I moved out of the house, taking a step to distance myself from him. I had to get away from Danny and his demons and in a heart-felt and brutally honest face-to-face I explained that to him.
He never held my decision against me and we remained friends even as he continued his struggles, as he switched jobs, changed apartments.
His world was being snatched away from him one small bag of white powder at a time, but Danny was Danny and it seemed as though he could charm the devil himself to find a way out of it.
Until he couldn’t, I suppose.
• • •
When I left New Hampshire, I left a lot of people and the past behind me. I cut the cord as a way to survive, or at least that’s what I told myself.
That slide – the one Danny couldn’t control, or stop – was too scary for me, no matter how great it felt. Getting away from all of it was my only option to escape.
I relocated and came out the other side.
I don’t know if Danny ever did.
I’ve reconnected with many of my friends from my New Hampshire days through the magic of Facebook, and I’m grateful.
In times like this we can mourn together and remember what was great in all of us, as individual people and as a group.
Jennifer England, who worked as a bartender with Danny and is now a school teacher, changing lives for the better wrote, “I loved Danny. I hated his addiction, but I always loved him.”
Her husband, Marty – who had made such beautiful music his whole life, including for a time with Danny – wrote, “Full disclosure: I haven’t seen Danny in at least 8 years. It doesn’t lessen the love at all.”
Both statements are so true.
Danny was a guy who once he tugged at your heart, you could never let him go. Even when you had to.
It’s been more than 13 years since I’ve seen Danny, but I’ve thought of him a lot over that time.
Memories would pop up out of nowhere. Songs would trigger a smile (I can’t listen to Alice in Chains without thinking of him and his Jeep.) Dreams would make a life lived long ago seem so current.
On random trips back to New Hampshire, I’ve reached out to people who knew him, looking for updates on my old friend.
But nobody seemed to know anything.
I heard things had gotten so bad for him that he was homeless for a while, really struggling with the demons that dragged him down.
But, the most recent messages popping up on Facebook, following Danny’s death, paint a less bleak picture.
He was doing better, it seemed. Somebody had seen him out in the last year and wrote, “We had a good hang.”
It’s what makes the news so much harder.
What happened on the shores of the Cocheco earlier this week? Nobody knows for sure. Two people walking along a path saw a body floating in the water and called police.
According to Foster’s Daily Democrat, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has said the cause of death was drowning.
“At this time, there does not appear to be any indication that Carroll’s death was the result of a crime,” the release stated.
Danny’s obituary reads simply he had passed away “after losing a long battle with addiction.”
Just like that Danny’s last story was told.
Another of my closest friends talked about all the positive messages and wondered aloud if Danny knew so many people loved him.
I hope so. Because I did. He was a good guy, so good-hearted to the people who knew him the best.
Rest in peace, Danny.
And I truly hope you have found the peace you so deserve.