It was the morning of Saturday August 6th. I had left my phone charging in the kitchen overnight and missed a call from an old friend on the East Coast. The time of the missed call made my skin crawl – 4 AM New York time. It was one of those feelings that I’ve had experienced one too many times before: “What had happened in the middle of the night?”
Turns out it was a pocket dial from my friend Max – all was okay for the time being and I went about my day. Less than 12 hours later the phone rang again, and some bad news ran down the line right to my core: our good buddy Dorian had passed away on the night of his birthday celebration. Was it a premonition earlier? Had this exact thought just crossed my mind? Regardless, the invincibility of my youth flashed right before me. It was time to mourn, and perhaps time for many of us to grow up.
Dorian and I had just hung out at The Gorge, seeing our favorite band Phish for two nights. Dorian brought our crew gallons of water because amongst all the food and beer, we had somehow forgotten to bring any. After night one, we hung out at his campsite. I was cold and he lent me his sweatshirt so I could just hang and enthusiastically discuss the music we had just experienced. That was the type of friend he was. We made plans to hang once he moved back to Colorado. Life was free and open to the endless opportunities ahead of us.
Months have passed and it still doesn’t seem real. It took me a while to gather my thoughts, and one afternoon I decided to email Phish’s bassist Mike Gordon. This wasn’t out of the blue – Mike and I have been email pen-pals since meeting in Boulder a couple years back. This time around my intention was to a) thank him for an amazing weekend at The Gorge, b) share two live photos that I took which turned out great and c) introduce him to the memory of my good buddy.
Although I’m sure Mike had heard this many times before, at the time I felt drawn to express how positively Phish’s music affected my friends life. I kept it short and sweet, but if Mike only knew! The moments when Dorian and I got down side by side, smiles ear-to-ear. Moments after shows where we could only express happiness, where words did no justice. Mike responded with condolences, and soon thereafter a message came asking if I was available to shoot the upcoming Colorado shows.
First off, are you kidding me? Secondly, of course I want to work for my favorite band. I flash back to the 18 year old me at the Phish festival IT in 2003 (my first show), surrounded by 80,000+ fans, expanding my consciousness as a 40′ techno-crane flies above – I’m thinking “I want to shoot live music for the rest of my life, this is so cool.” Flash forward to now: the video production company NOCOAST that I co-founded (with Tobin Voggesser) is on this rise and life has come full circle. The hard work has paid off, but there is obviously so much more to do in both art and self-reflection.
Long story short, time has passed and Dorian’s passing still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I have been caught up in much sadness, anger and a little regret. Though what rises above all was his smile when he would greet me, and how big and wide his eyes became in moments of elation. These are the experiences that make us who we are.
I’d be lying if I said that I wouldn’t go back and change a few things. Although it isn’t in our power to change the past, that doesn’t mean we are powerless. I look around and realize how lucky we are. Out here in Colorado we live in this beautiful place, we all have such caring friends, and we often engage in shenanigans resulting in laughter. What we are left with is a series of decisions that have led us to this moment, a collage of all the amazing and heart-breaking things learned along the way.
I will never say that the shenanigans should end, but perhaps they should evolve to a more mature and healthier place. In this moment we have the chance to do many things Dorian does not. We need to take the upmost responsibility for that, and I thank you Dorian, for teaching me this. Thank you Brother. I love you!
“But who can unlearn all the facts that I’ve learned
As I sat in their chairs and my synapses burned
And the torture of chalk dust collects on my tongue
Thoughts follow my vision and dance in the sun
All my vasoconstrictors they come slowly undone
Can’t this wait ’til I’m old
Can’t I live while I’m young?!”
– lyrics from Chalkdust Torture by Phish