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Dan Loses His Mind, Threatens to Burn the House Down (Part 4)

December 24, 2012

Losing his mind…and maybe his soul:
I’d never had any friend, much less a good friend, turn savagely on me as Dan did, and for no evident reason. After many years of friendship, in 2005 and 2006 he showed me a sadistic, snarling, malicious, psychopathic side of his personality I had never seen before. He acted like he had no conscience, no capacity for empathy, no capacity to experience guilt, shame, regret, or remorse.

Was he smoking crack? Was it dementia? A brain tumor? Syphilis? A side of his personality that always existed but he had kept hidden from me until then?

I don’t know. I may never know. Having to accept that is hard for me.

One factor I am certain of was envy. I had inherited a house upon my mother’s death after Dan had already received and spent his multiple inheritances. He also apparently spent nearly all the money from the Gore attorneys, too, by that time.

For fifteen months, I gave him free room and board, free utilities, free long-distance phone service, free satellite TV, free laundry, etc., since the day in early December 2004 his 7th wife asked him to move out, leaving him homeless ,unemployed, nearly broke and without the proverbial pot to micturate in. He had called on me to once again take him in, give him shelter from the storm. He spun wheels for the next four months, unable to decide what he wanted to do next. He contributed nothing to the household expenses but he was generally pleasant company at first.

In April I bought a nearby lot with a great view to build a house on. At his passionate insistence, I hired him to help me build it. He had no other job or job prospects. He professed great enthusiasm for the project and told me he had hundreds of useful construction carpentry skills. “I’ve got tons of experience! I’ve built lots of houses from the ground up before,” he asserted, although I knew that was a stretch. He had described one or two renovation projects many years before. I went ahead and created a job for him. His enthsusiasm, encouragement, and apparent energy seemed like they would be significant assets to this big project.

Again, it is amazing to reflect upon how convincing someone can be when they radiate conviction, certainty, confidence, and enthusiasm apart from the actual content of what they say. The conviction, confidence, and enthusiasm seemed contagious). Of ocurse, Dan had no other offers or prospects and he fervently wanted and needed the job.

In practice, whenever I needed any skilled labor, I had to hire someone else and pay them while continuing to pay Dan too, because Dan didn’t really have any of the skills he said he did. He didn’t know what a barge rafter was, for example. Much less how to measure for and build one. When it was explained to him they were roof extensions for the gable ends, he had to be taken out and shown which ends of the house were the gable ends. I had to patiently explain to Dan why his idea of pouring a concrete foundation over loose gravel on a slope that had a nine-foot drop in 50 feet was not a practical idea (he insisted it was “almost level”). Fortunately I also hired highly qualified veteran carpenter to take the lead and relied on his judgment. I also subcontracted out key tasks like excavation, pouringthe foundation, electricity, plumbing and drywalling.

Dan told one of my subcontractors that he had a 30-year career as a professional architectural designer and had won international awards. If you traveled in the right circles, he boasted, “you would know my name because I have some degree of international renown in the field.” In truth, he had never designed anything beyond a simple bookshelf and never even taken a course in architecture.

(Much later, it got back to me that he told my subcontractors I owed him $25,000 for “professional design work” but being a back-stabbing rip-off artist, I had refused to pay him the twenty-five grand I owed him. He was referring to crude, freehand sketches he made on paper napkins of poorly-thought out, usually impractical ideas. I never asked him do to them and never offered to pay him. Still later, I learned through the grapevine that he believed since I had hired him to help clear out and repair my mother’s house (she was a hoarder who had lived in the house over 50 years) after her death a year earlier, paying him $9000 for 42 days of work (about $25 an hour), he believed he was also entitled to half the sale price of the house. This amount too, I “owed” him but had “cheated” him out of.

According to Dan he spent his entire life unselfishly doing “favors” for other people who almost invariably were mysteriously “ungrateful” bastards. After all he’d done for them! His ‘logic’ was unique to say the least. Uniquely self-serving. What Dan called a “favor” was what the rest of us call a job, that is, paid employment. Employment he gained by grossly exaggerating his skills, experience, and abilities. Wheen it became apparent he was in over his head and couldn’t do the job, he exploded in rage, blamed his hapless employer, demanded what money he could extort, and stormed off, playing the victim.

His behavior on the work site was generally tolerable at first but by June 2005 and dramatically escalating in September, he became increasingly grandiose, belligerent, delusional, arrogant, and enraged. He would have short-lived but very intense rage episodes in which he bragged at the top of his lungs, literally shouting, about how great he was, pumping his fists, ranting and raving about what a superior “genius” he was and expressing sneering contempt for every other person on the earth. He would sometimes shake his fist at me and snarl, “You’re fucking lucky to have me around here! I’m doing you a goddamn favor! You better be fucking grateful!”
“Favor?! This is a job, not a favor,” I reminded him.“One of the best-paying jobs you’ve ever had. A job you practically begged met to create for your benefit. You’re living with me and off me because you were homeless and jobless, remember? You’ve been a friend for a long time, but there’s a limit to even my patience, Dan.”

He would settle down and act relatively normal for perhaps three days, sometimes more, maybe as much as a week, then suddenly erupt again in another episode of deranged rage, just when I thought he had regained his senses.

Once at the lunch table, out of the blue, Dan started denouncing Bill Gates as a hypocrite. “With his billions, the millions he’s giving away are just a drop in the bucket!” I didn’t have the presence of mind to ask when was the last time Dan gave away even one percent of his income. I doubt he ever did give anything to charity. The carpenter and I ignored him. I watched Dan quickly work himself into frenzy of agitation, repeating his denunciation over and over again, each time in stronger language. Within a minute he was snarling that Gates was Evil Incarnate, the worst human being who ever lived, the scum of the earth! He started bellowing weird, low-pitched guttural animal noises while pounding loudly on the table. “C’mon, Dan!” I said. “Get a grip! We’re trying to eat lunch here.” Dan lunged towards me from across the table but couldn’t reach me.
“D-don’t tell m-me to g-get a grip,” he sputtered. “I-I’m not the one who needs t-to ge-get a grip!” His face was beet-red, his eyes blazing with a manic intensity. He was in a blind rage, twitching, as if on the verge of snapping, going berserk and violent. There was twitch or tic in the outside corner of one eye and one corner of his mouth. If this isn’t tweaking, I thought, what is? I hesitated to provoke him further by saying anything but I was not going to back down either. I just looked at him for what seemed like a long time but was probably fifteen to twenty seconds, and then I said quietly, “You need to get a grip.” For a mere split-second I thought I saw a moment’s hesitation in his face, Then he snarled that I was a “fucking retard” and stormed off, hurried to his car, started it, and peeled rubber as he sped away.

Another time, out of the blue, he demanded I confirm his assertion that the entire British military had been disbanded, and no longer existed. “Didn’t know that, didya?” he boasted. Dan strutted around, stomping his feet, gesticulating wildly, and acting more like a cartoon villain than a real human being. This was when Tony Blair was the PM and had joined George W. Bush in the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. I reminded Dan that last night’s lead story on CNN was about British troops in Basra and other cities of southern Iraq engaging in daily combat operations, and that, as we speak, there were also British troops in combat situations in Bosnia and Afghanistan. “How then can they have abolished their military?” I asked. “That doesn’t make sense to me.” Dan reacted by screaming that he was a genius and I was a “fucking ignorant idiot”. He then stormed off and didn’t return until after the work day was over, when he pretended the incident had never happened.

Any reminders of reality or questioning of his delusional, crackpot assertions would send him into a wild frenzy which would end in him storming off, ostensibly because he couldn’t tolerate being around such ignorant and inferior people. Actually, he was running away from reality. He would hurry to his car, drive off, burning rubber as peeled out. He would return only when he knew the work day was over and he wouldn’t be put back to work again. Then he’d pretend in his smug-mug way that nothing happened and expect everyone else to join in the pretense. His smirking face said, “If you can’t make me admit it, I didn’t do it.” I would try to talk to him now that he was calm but he would be dismissive, sneering, denying anything happened or minimizing it. “OK, so I got a little upset for a minute. I suppose you’ve never gotten upset? Well, there you have it then!” I repeatedly reached out to him and eventually I repeatedly warned him that this behavior couldn’t continue but I didn’t act on that for another six months. Perhaps for me, as for Obama, trying to always be the adult in a roomful of childish, dishonest, destructive crackpots who are trying to make you fail, was not the strongest or most effective stance to take.

Once, with a sneer, he threatened, “Maybe I’ll just stage a fake accident on your property and sue you for a million dollars. How about that?” That one statement would get you instantly fired and forcibly escorted off the premises of any construction site in the country, if not beaten up on the spot, thrown off, and threatened with arrest if you retuned. Yet Dan felt entitled to make malignant and malicious threats, to be sadistic and corrupt any time—and to face no unpleasant consequences for it.

Once he threatened to burn the new house down if I didn’t let him do the electoral wiring even though he’d already had to admit he didn’t know what a GFCI was, what their purpose was, how they worked, or what the National Electric Code was. “Sure be a shame if this house caught fire. After all this money, all this work. Yeah, that’d’ sure be a low-down dirty shame….” I turned away in disgust at his sadistic smirking and leering but he followed me around, trying to keep his face right in front of mine. “it would burn so fast. No chance to save it, ha ha!” Then he saw his 8th wife (a floorwalker from Wal-Mart he’d met at a local bar during the summer) approaching on foot. Not wanting her to overhear what he was saying, he suddenly straightened up, put on a big phony Pepsodent smile and acted all friendly—Mr. Responsible Citizen, Mr. Nice Guy. “Howdy friend and neighbor! How can I help you?” Deranged as he seemed, he could turn it on and off at will. He could control himself when he wanted to. I demanded he move out of my house then, but when he apologized (sort of) I let him keep “working”. He moved into a travel trailer on my property.

There must have been more than fifty such rage episodes during those six nightmarish months of hell.

Then one day (Thursday, February 23, 2006 to be exact) he shoved me in anger while snarling “I’ll kick your ass!” and I belatedly fired him outright.

“Then you can just pay me an extra $100,000 bonus!” he shouted, stamping his feet in anger. When was the last time you saw an adult man stamp his feet in anger, I thought. That’s something little boys do when having a tantrum.

“Fine. Would you like your bonus in Confederate currency or Monopoly money?”

No. Unfortunately I didn’t say that out loud, I just thought it. I knew by then that disputing him was just pouring gasoline on the fire and the point was to get him off my property and out of my life with as little drama as possible. I’d had all the Dan Drama I could tolerate for the rest of my life.

In the end, despite supporting my homeless, indigent “friend” for 15 months while he bit the hand that fed him, I actually had to bribe the freeloading bum to get him to leave. Overall I paid him a total of $28,000 for 9 months of mediocre, “work,” inadequate in both quality and quantity. That’s not counting the 15 months of free room and board, free laundry, free satellite TV, free long-distance phone service, free utilities, etc., etc. That’s a lot to pay someone with no more than “home handyman” skills, who belligerently lies a lot, who resents having to do anything for his pay, who goofs off a lot, who is ridiculously obnoxious to be around and who is self-righteous about behaving that way.

He announced he was moving to Ogden, Utah, where another of his former wives (#1 or #2, I was never sure) was going to finance the construction of a new suburban subdivision. Dan was going to be the General Contractor and make a million dollars a year! No longer would he have to settle for the chump change I’d been paying him!

“Good,” I said. “Go. Go to Ogden today.”

I never saw him again. Never wanted to. Never heard from him again. He and wife number 8 lingered around Delta County for a month (I regularly saw his car), then vanished. I heard through that pre-internet institution, the grapevine, that he came back to Grand Junction two months later, alone, saying the Ogden plan had fallen through and he was now broke and $10,000 in debt. I knew for a fact that he and wife #8 had left with about $25,000 between them–two-thirds of it, her retirement savings. That would mean that (separately or together), they had gone through $35,000 in 2 months with nothing to show for it. Apparently their marriage had not survived the rapid squandering of her life savings. Former wives #5, #6 and #7 were living in the area but I knew they would offer no help after what he’d put them through. Soon the word was he was moving to Florida, where, coincidentally or not, ex-wife #4 lived. (Their adult daughter and her family lived about 380 miles away in Huntsville, Alabama as well).

That is where he died, six years later.

(to be concluded)

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