I started my day making a playlist for my cousins Dan and Nicole, drawing inspiration from their unconditional love for each other through a battle with cancer that no one should ever have to endure. I ended my day watching the sunset over the Adirondacks, across Lake Champlain from the same beach, where just two years ago during the first #Mulvasion, we all stood eating sandy tacos. Tacos that tasted like love. In between these bookends to my day, I went through a box of tissues, burned down three candles, and felt my heart crack in an unfixable place.
Today, the universe picked the needle up off the record and welcomed my cousin Dan Mulvaney to the other side.
I wish I could have seen him played in by Bowie and Prince, seen him warmly embraced by his mom, Claudia, our grandparents Jim and Anne Mulvaney, and all the rest of Dan’s squad who passed before him, and then seen him go right to the DJ at the front of the room and tell them to play more damn hip-hop.
In between my tears today, I spent the day doing Dan things–things that spark joy and the awe in nature. We painted a Dallas Clayton piece on a wall in our house. We played music really loud. We ate dinner in our yard and watched a flock of red winged blackbird fly over head and a never before seen hummingbird feed just a few feet from us. We took a paddle board down to Lake Champlain and watched the sunset, jumping in way out and coming up for air to see a monarch butterfly flit gently over our heads. Tomorrow, we will do more Dan things including a full production day of recreating the Justin Timberlake “Can’t Stop the Feeling” video (because, fun) and I will do my weekly radio show, with my final #KeepinDMV100 set–airing the one DJ DMV set that I have.
Dan, the head Mulvaney cousin and resident DJ.
My cousin Dan and I only began to know each other as adults and only became closer thanks to this age of social media and Dan’s commitment to making the haul to the east coast nearly every year these past many years to celebrate family milestones and manifest the family experience of the Mulvasion. To Dan, family–born into or chosen–was not just worth it, it was it. I idolized Dan as a DJ. I thought his taste in music and sets were on point.
He knew I was a long-time radio DJ, eager to expand my live DJ game, and he lovingly took me under his wing (even from separate coasts) to be my DJ mentor–encouraging me to trick out my gear, up my game, do a deep dive into music scouring for the funkiest mashups and remixes, and to always, always play more hip-hop.
We had just one gig together–my mom’s 60th birthday party, in the historic Old Labor Hall in Barre City, VT. I was so nervous to go head to head with him, but he was ever the hype man, bopping to the beat, cracking that Dan smile, and giving me that affirming point from the dance floor for every song I played. I will cherish that memory.
18 months ago I was at work when I got the news–Dan had stage 4 esophageal cancer. I went out to my car to cry. This was so unfair was all I could think. I was mad at everything.
Living so far away, I knew there was little I could do to offer comfort, so I decided to design up a knock off of the Run DMC iconic logo, using the #KeepinDMV100 blog name that Dan’s wife Nicole had created to keep us all updated.
This hashtag became so much more than a way for us to keep tabs on Dan, it became swag, facebook groups, and a digital family. Hundreds of us from all over the world became connected through our shared love of Dan and Nicole. We rallied weekly for Dan through group meditations, to celebrate milestones, to offer encouragement in tough times, to post pick me up songs or photos of good memories.
When things got tougher, I went back to designing swag for my cousin, making videos with the help of #KeepinDMV100 nation, and always keeping the healing energy of music broadcasting his way from my weekly radio show.
To #KeepinDMV100 nation, I found purpose and healing in creating art and media for Dan and all of you. I am forever grateful to you all, it has been a privilege to be part of this.
To cousin Nicole, you are a class act, not just a rock, but the verb too. Every time I was sad about Dan’s fate, what gave me solace is that he had you. You are the best kind of human and I am honored to call you family.
To cousin Jason, our hearts are one with you and Dan will be with you during every moment of grace and pause you face. Just look in Slyvi’s eyes, he will be there shining back.
Now we live in a world without DJ DMV. It is going to hurt like hell for us, for a long-time. What gives me solace is knowing that Dan’s spirit is going to be right there beside me, sparking joy for me in our shared love of music, nature, and family.
For those of you in #KeepinDMV100 nation, the final heart video project will be finished and shared. If you wish to participate, check these instructions and let your love rip.
Dan Mulvaney, you were a one of a kind human being and will be deeply missed. Thank you for all of it. Now, excuse me but I gotta go play more hip-hop.