we all need a mentor
Dan was was a veteran reviewer who was always encouraging to the new kid on the beat and he acted as a mentor to me. Within a short time we became friends. Eventually we became close friends and our families became equally close. In the 90s our careers altered. I became an arts administrator who reviewed theater. He was no longer a school teacher and part-time reviewer. He became a tv personality who only reviewed films.
We each drifted in other different directions and the friendship became less intense. We remained friends, just not close friends. Whenever we met we asked about the family and always checked our calenders hoping to find a date we were both free to have dinner. Those dinners happened all too infrequently.
The memorial reminded me of how sad it was that we couldn't maintain that friendship. One theme that ran through the tributes was Dan as a mentor and teacher. You never get too old or have too much experience not to have a mentor in your life.
Dan was without question, one of the two brightest men I ever knew (Doug de Lisle, of the Troy Record, another mentor and friend was the other) his strength was not only his intelligence, it was his insatiable curiosity and the ability to see the obvious in a different way. He had a drive to make everyone in his life to see their own lives as he saw his - an opportunity to experience new and exciting moments. He had a passion for life and wanted to share it.
He called me once to tell me a story about his resentment over the tv station assigning him to cover the children's auditions for the NYC Ballet at SPAC. Anyone who has ever done interviews HATES interviewing kids. He told me when he arrived at SPAC he dreaded doing the same old kids story and wanted to find a fresh approach.
Looking around he noticed all the fathers in the audience. Instead of interviewing the kids, he interviewed the fathers and captured their nervousness for their kids. Their pride in the kid's talents was obvious. This wasn't fathers watching their sons play baseball. These were fathers who wanted their little girls to excel in an art form few of them would attend without a family connection. It was a brilliant, insightful piece and turned out to be the first of Dan's pieces to be shown nationwide by the network. That was Dan at his best. Looking at a subject with fresh eyes and forcing we viewers to see the story that existed behind the obvious.
But Dan was more than a bright journalist and a unique personality. Above all else, he loved his family. Before leaving the memorial, I told one of his son's that if I were to play that word association game where you have to respond to a name with the first thing that pops in you head - my response to Dan DiNicola would be "kitchen table." Roy smiled and added, "With a big bottle of red wine in the middle of it."
That's my memory of Dan DiNicola. Sitting around the kitchen table throughout the night discussing deep and controversial subjects with our kids participating. He was always a teacher.
And yesterday I realized the world lost a great mentor.