Requiem For Bif
I think I first met Dan Biferie in the tenth grade, but I didn’t really get to know him until senior year when he sat next to me in Psychology for a semester. A gregarious “guy’s guy” with a deep baritone and a wide smile, Dan was also highly intelligent, easily among the top five or ten smartest kids at our high school. He was never really in your face about that, though, like other kids that age can sometimes be. Dan, or “Bif” as he was generally known, was very down to Earth and personable and would strike up a conversation with just about anyone regardless of their social status.
As I wore my personal tastes on my sleeve back then even more obnoxiously than I do now, one of the first serious discussions Dan and I ever had was about popular music. Dan was a classic rock guy, and the conversation stopped dead when I mentioned my distaste for the Doors.
“Jim!” he said in an exasperated tone, scrunching up his giant black eyebrows. “You don’t like the Doors? That’s unbelievable. Wow. Huh. I’m really surprised you’d say that.”
His tone became that of a disappointed parent by that last sentence. I admitted my perception of the Doors was tainted by that stupid Oliver Stone movie. Dan concurred that the flick in question was pretty cornball, and for the rest of the year we had a running joke where we’d quote the stupidest lines from The Doors until our other classmates would become visibly annoyed. “I’m a fake hero!” I’d say with my head tilted back, mouth agape. “I’m the poet and you’re my muse,” Dan would reply in an equally spaced, Val Kilmer-esque manner. We’d go on back and forth like that until the bell rang. Luckily, our teacher thought it was funny, so we never got in too much trouble.
Dan, for all his geniality and wit, was also a pretty good ball buster. If I had a nickel for every time he quickly muttered, “Jim’s Mom!” at the end of a sentence, I’d be an incredibly wealthy man today. The funniest part of that was the look of pure satisfaction on Dan’s face after each time he said it, like, Man, I got you SOOO good. MMmmm, tastes like victory. Nothing you do will ever be as good as that. Very Harold Ramis.
I think I saw Dan a total of two times after high school. Once was in a Wachovia parking lot five minutes from my parents’ house. We spotted each other and went for the handshake. Suddenly, Dan stopped in his tracks before our hands met and said, “What—what are we doing? C’mere, gimme a hug, Jim Greene!” He then pulled me in and wrapped those bear-like forearms around me. I chuckled because I thought he was being a goof, but maybe he really meant it. Dan and I then stood in that parking lot for an hour or so catching up on whatever stupid minutiae was dominating our lives (and quietly poking fun at the people who kept walking past us).
The second time I encountered Dan post-graduation was far more memorable, as the setting was the world’s largest McDonald’s on I-Drive in Orlando. This was in 1998. Lord knows why I was there; I’d like to blame my girlfriend at the time, but she was a pretty strict vegetarian. Maybe we were just out of stuff to do that day. At any rate, I was quite pleased to run into my high school pal on the second floor of that giant building fashioned to look like a box of french fries. Dan and I devoured our grease bombs while debating such topics as the artistic credibility of the band Live and whether or not our high school presidential elections were rigged (I think we decided they weren’t, which is funny because I’ve worked in two school systems since then and every class election I bore witness to from that side of the fence was more fixed than Morris the Cat).
Dan Biferie passed away last week from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which he had been battling for a few years now. Even though we hadn’t been in contact for quite some time, Dan was just one of those people who made a real impression on me, someone I was always hoping I’d get back in contact with later in life for more bullshitting and “Jim’s Mom!” jokes. Dan Biferie had a great presence and character and he’ll be missed by all who knew him.