Meeting Dan Cassidy

After all my stumbling around in the dark trying to gain information it’s nothing less than a breakthrough when Dan Cassidy writes, completely of the blue, that he would like to meet me. We find a suitable date: 23rd November 2009. That day I catch the 5pm Fyra train to Schiphol for a journey of less than 25 minutes. The weather is terrible, the rain is gushing against the windows in the hard wind. In Cumbria (UK) people are suffering from severe flooding according to BBC Breakfast that morning. The infrastructure there is not designed for radical climate change.

I had sent Dan my mobile phone number, but I hadn’t gotten his number. Thanks to the new high-speed track everything runs smoothly and the train enters the underground station of the airport at the right time. Dan’s arrival is scheduled at 6.10pm, but to my surprise and to my alarm the displays show that the flight from Manchester is expected to arrive 30 minutes sooner. The hard wind seems to be advantageous for flight traffic. The boards indicate that passengers will be arriving at terminal 4. Another sign tells me that terminal 3 can be used as well. Passengers trickle in from both exits, most of them businessmen. When I check the time on my phone I notice a message from an unknown sender. That must be him. ‘Hi Johan. Am at arrivals 3. Am in black coat carrying white bag. Thanks.’

I work my way around a large group of passengers, focussing on black coats and white bags. A man fully dressed in black carries a very nondescript plastic bag. We shake hands and I slap him on his back. The first thing that strikes me is how deliberately Eva’s brother talks and how American his accent still is. His flight was ‘very bumpy’ he tells me. We pass a Starbucks and I ask Dan whether he would like a cup of coffee. ‘Can I have a regular?’ Dan asks. He might be an American but he is free of pretence. Fine by me; Starbucks’ extensive menu always makes me uneasy as well. We sit down at a table and Dan explains that in Iceland most of the time he plays as a sideman in groups that musically are not really up his street. In the UK he has two bands: a swing quartet as well as a folk duo he has formed with singer-guitarist James Hickman. He owns an apartment in Shrewsbury, not far from the Welsh border. As an American it took him some time to get used to the British manners; they are easily shocked or even insulted without you realising it. Occasionally, he plays in America, but the audience for his music is more limited there. He has performed twice in the Netherlands: in Tilburg and in Beekse Bergen.

In the train to Rotterdam I notice that Dan combines modesty with stubbornness. He talks quietly but firmly and he doesn’t let me interrupt very easily. It reminds me of Eva as I have gotten to know her. She was shy but at the same time she knew exactly what she wanted. Dan’s light blue eyes are exactly the same colour as Eva’s. He looks you straight in the eye, without shying away, but he also keeps something to himself. He is a bit reserved and that must be the reason that he feels at home in that country in the far north:Iceland, a country whose residents are known for their reticence. He would like to play more often on the continent, though.

Meanwhile, the Fyra has arrived in Rotterdam and we walk the last part of the journey, from the station to my home. Dan asks me straightforwardly, ‘Would you publish things in your book that I wouldn’t like to see?’ Considering his candidness in sharing with me the dilemmas concerning the aftermath of Eva’s death I simply cannot imagine that any differences in opinions will arise between us. ‘When did you last talk to my parents?’ he asks. ‘Right up until Elana Byrd entered the stage,’ I answer truthfully. ‘It is important that you meet them,’ Dan states. ’You must talk to my mother. Write her a letter!’

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Dan Cassidy