Champaign-Urbana continues to mourn the loss of Daniel Harry Schreiber. He was the mastermind behind Flatlander Chocolate, a chief perpetrator of Dine in My Back Yard, a graduate student in theoretical computer science, and an all-around awesome guy. Please visit www.rememberingdan.org to share your stories, pictures, and memories of Dan. Presented here are two perspectives from two of his closest friends.
Dan, you marvelous maniac. From our earliest days, where you dreamt only of a Perelman-esque existence of picking mushrooms and proving theorems, through the ridiculous conversations about starting a grocery store that eventually led to your reinvention as Daniel Harry Schreiber, Chocolate Maker of Urbana, you viewed life in an uncompromisingly romantic light. And we loved you for it.
You dreamt of living amongst a vibrant community of artisans, committed to quality and camaraderie above all else. And you weren't just a dreamer. Your moral enthusiasm and the unique panache you used to express it were contagious. Urbana-Champaign is quickly becoming an example for the country because of you and those you've inspired.
And to speak of your signature gusto! It seemed every week you would throw open the door to our apartment already halfway through a juicy line from a book you were reading, like some sort of literary Cosmo Kramer. You'd spend the next hour telling us about a heroic character ("The Steppenwolf!") or just making us laugh as you recited some favorite lines. Then you'd declare that you were tired, put on your shoes and be off as quickly as you had come in. All Tommy and I could do was give each other a look and a chuckle. "Dan."
Some of the best times in my life were borne of some scheme or other we had concocted. Some might have called us adventurous, but misadventures might be the proper term to use. Take that time we swiped a plank to try to board some paddle boats at night, only to find them locked. Or when we decided we'd become day traders. Or just this winter, we decided we'd camp our way through the Southwest. How cold could the desert be, at night, in the winter, right man? Turns out the answer is right around 10 degrees. Yet somehow we made it through three weeks. You used to refer to these tales as "the many disappointments of Dan Schreiber" with a half grin. I count them as among my favorite memories.
Dan, the long hours we spent developing our outlook on the world together affected me more than you can know. You've changed the way I think and changed the way I live in ways that will be with me for life. I'm honored to have been your friend and I'll never forget you. Champaign-Urbana will never forget you. Go in peace, brother.
It was over one year ago when I bet Dan three hundred dollars that he couldn't memorize the first chapter of Ulysses by the end of the spring class term. It was a joke, of course. To my surprise, he began writing the book down by hand and reciting the first few lines after just a couple days. If he ever had a free moment (and he wasn't already trying to explain set theory to me), he would always offer to perform the latest page he had committed to memory, exuding a rare sense of glee. A few months later, he invited friends and acquaintances to the amphitheater on top of the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts to witness a one-man Joycean show like none other, complete with costumes, props, scripts for the audience to follow, and bottles of Guinness and Baileys. He didn't even ask for his three hundred dollars!
Anyone who met Dan knew that he was never in it for the money. Even when it came to business, his interests were always much more altruistic. Flatlander wasn't just about good chocolate, it was about rediscovering what it means to taste, feel, and to be human. Dan was more than just a food nerd — he was a pioneer, a scholar, and an advocate. He was one of those rare beacons of hope in a bleak and self-destructive world, constantly urging me and the others around him to believe in our ability to provoke change:
"You are always more powerful than you think you are."
Last December, aided by a minuscule amount of foresight and limited supplies, Dan, Cyrus and I decided to descend into the fathomless depths of the Grand Canyon to camp at one of the last places in America that still receives mail by mule: Phantom Ranch. On the morning of our last full day at the campsite, Dan and I embarked on a hike up north to Ribbon Falls.
The morning sun cast a slowly-moving shadow across the western canyon wall, giving us the opportunity to bask in its rays as we ate our cheese and cucumber sandwiches behind the waterfall. Noticing that we were completely alone due to low seasonal traffic, Dan abruptly stripped off his clothes and climbed on top of the massive rock formation and into the unyielding flow of frigid water from above. "Come on," he shouted, "it's not that cold!" The next thing I knew, I was completely naked, my hair was completely drenched, and Dan was reading passages to me from Thoreau's Walden as we dried off in the daylight. This was by far one of the most exhilarating and heartening moments of my life, and I could never have experienced it without him. The thing with Dan was that you always became somewhat of a different person when you were around him. If you believed in him, you would start to believe in yourself, too.
Thank you, Dan. You showed us how to live by ambition, to ask ourselves, "What if we did this?!" and to take it and run.