If Dan got a shorter haircut, wore a suit and initiated a conversation with someone, one might assume that he has a B.A. in history.
They would be surprised to find out that he did not graduate from high school or college and, for most of his life, has been living either on the streets, in shelters or in motels when he could afford it. Only within the last year, has he been able to consistently live in a motel in Costa Mesa.
Dan is about six-foot-two-inches-tall and very skinny, with grey, wiry hair. His eyes are set deeply between jutting cheek bones and a bushy brow. His square-cut beard aligns with his hair length. In the 1960s people would tell him that he looked like Rasputin. Unlike Rasputin, Dan has been harmless to others throughout his life. However, he has a laugh like a machine gun, obnoxious and slightly deranged to the unfamiliar listener.
Dan started working at Somebody Cares Soup Kitchen in Costa Mesa approximately five years ago. He was starving and homeless for a week because his job at the Salvation Army did not pay him enough to cover rent and food, and he no longer had a place to stay with his brother.
At the soup kitchen where he started to volunteer, he received a free meal each day. Dan demonstrated his dedication by volunteering for an entire year with only the benefits of free meals and free toiletry bags on Wednesdays. Manager of the soup kitchen, Shannon Santos noticed how responsible he was and soon hired him as a full-time employee whom ‘they can rely on to lock up.’
While washing dishes at his job in the soup kitchen, Dan got into a conversation about philosophy with Cole Robinson, a fourth-year English major at UC Irvine. It started when Robinson mentioned Plato and the books he was reading for class.
‘Socrates was the role model for many,’ Dan said. ‘I heard that Socrates died a very painful death.’
‘Yeah, he had to drink poison,’ Robinson said. ‘What do you think is lost by the way Plato described Socrates’ death?’
‘He minimized it,’ Dan said. ‘Yes, he was very disillusioned.’
Moments later Dan digressed to talk about Epicurus’ philosophy.
‘Epicurus believed that people should live for pleasure,’ Dan said. ‘Epicureans got a bad reputation because people thought they were for what makes you feel good, where you live for pleasure. But that wasn’t what Epicurus meant. Epicurus lived a monk-like existence, very austere. Because if you eat one banana you feel great; you eat ten, you feel bad.’
Fourth-year literary journalism major Theresa Condon volunteers at the soup kitchen with Dan.
‘I would not expect to find someone so self-educated working here,’ Condon said. ‘He makes it his business to educate himself. … He would be a good history professor.’
When Dan was 16 years old he was suspended from Westminster High School for talking back to a teacher. Terrified of returning home to reveal the news of his suspension to his abusive father, Dan dropped out of high school and moved to Long Beach, Calif., where he obtained his first job as a door-to-door salesman.
Throughout his childhood Dan never had a comfortable home.
‘I used to be away for three weeks at a time. I’d go to my friend’s house, the bowling alley