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May 29, 2009

Extra Pizazz on Dr. Kevin Dann

This week, Seven Days contributor Kevin J. Kelley interviewed Dr. Kevin Dann for an article about Dann's Quadricentennial-themed walk. I went along for the ride — literally. On May 21st, the warmest day of the year thus far, Kelley and I took the Grand Isle ferry from Vermont to New York and rode our bikes 18 miles to Northeastern Clinton High School. Why ride our bikes? I think Kevin Kelley just doesn't like to drive.

We went to the school to hear Dr. Dann speak about his walking tour — he is spending an anticipated 46 days walking from Montreal to Manhattan — to several ninth grade history classes. You can catch a glimpse of our New York excursion here.

Kelley and I arrived at the high school sweating through our shorts and t-shirts in search of Dr. Dann. We found him in the main office where he has seemed to have kept himself busy entertaining the assistant principal. 

With genuine hand gestures and swaying limbs, Dr. Dann spoke about the reason for his walk, occasionally interrupting himself by changing the subject to a less important matter such as the white flip flops he obtained from a current high school student, which he was wearing, along with a satin pink scarf, bright neon green t-shirt, and a turtle necklace. No kidding. Check out the video.

Dr. Dann is definitely  one of a kind. Erik Graham, the former SUNY Plattsburgh professor's companion for the day and his former student, told me one of his favorite stories about Dr. Dann.  "Once he told me that he and his first wife were lying peacefully in a field and when he closed his eyes, fairies transported him to another dimension."

I wanted to inquire about these fairies — are they stereotypically dainty or perhaps unexpectedly plump? Do they grant wishes? Can I order one? ...But when the whimsical doctor abruptly made eye contact with me (at least I think he did but high pollen induced blurred vision prevents me from confirming this) all I could think to utter was, "I like your necklace." 

In class, Dr. Dann captivated ninth graders with stories of his walking adventure thus far — "walking is freeing" — and with playful in class activities. But the historian in him is very apparent as well.  Aside from Champlain, Dr. Dann seems quite attached to several historical figures including Henry David Thoreau.  He also touched on other historical and supernatural concepts he has previously written about or taught. 

"What people don't understand, Kevin," Dr. Dann explains to Kelley, "is that magic is real."

Hmmm. Sure, I'm just the intern, so I listen instead of throwing in my two cents.

After a few classroom experiences with Dr. Dann, as well as this brief excursion within the town of Champlain, New York, it is obvious he has quite the agenda and to-do list. Although this historian and on-foot explorer will be making several speeches throughout his journey, there will simply not be enough time during these intermissions to listen to all of his theories and ideas. For the most authentic Dr. Dann insight, [and perhaps some fairy sitings], read his blog, Beyond Main Street. Or check out some of his books.

I have come back from the past to tell you that you are an idiot. But that is a nice necklace he is wearing.

I am disappointed in both this article and the author. Especially after Dr. Dann personally told me how nice of a person Ms. DiNapoli was. I found her satirical tone quite rude... Many people may doubt Dr. Dann and his beliefs. I'm not sure I totally agree with everything myself. Dr. Dann was one of my professors at Plattsburgh State University. One of the best darn teachers there! He is full of character and insight and only if you actually listen to what he has to say- you would understand... believe... be enlightened! His attire had always been interesting but it just adds to his character. At least he can 'be' without worry of who disapproves of him, I admire that! Dr. Dann really knows how to LIVE. The faeries of course were my personal favorite part of the course. It's about believing. About being open-minded and accepting what we cannot see. You take the material he presents and delve into another universe- all within the limits of your mind. How you use that information is your choice. I am forever changed because of this particular professor and only hope that many more will continue to be enlightened and "entertained" as I have... I know one silly article won't get him down! Again I wish him luck on his journey and encourage all whose paths cross his- to get to know him. You will be glad you had.

I have been heartened to read the last comment posted about Dr. Kevin Dann by one of his beloved students, since this student obviously got to know the Kevin Dann, I have known and loved these 49 years of mine, as his "little sis".
Kevin is not only one of the most brilliant people I have ever met in my life, but he is truly also one of the most kind, loving, interested/interesting, charismatic, spiritual, idealistic, free thinkers I have ever have had the privilege to know and of course love, because to truly know my brother Kevin, is to love him. As I continue to age and meet many types of people in this life, I have come to treasure his courage for being such an independent thinker, who puts thoughts to action, hence his Pilgrimage.
Thankfully, Kevin can laugh at himself, so he doesn't need to be "defended" and I know I am biased as his sister, but I needed to chime in with my own truth.

I have to agree w/Kevin's sister Melissa. I've known Kevin for over 30 years - he is a wonderful, funny and fascinating man and very much his own man. His intensity of ideas are always delivered w/humor and warmth, and not in an overbearing way. Remember, the author of this article is a young intern and still finding her authentic writer's voice.

I am sure that when Dr. Dann read this article, he probably smiled and shrugged. After all, Ms. DiNapoli is probably the nice person he says she is. She simply missed the whole point. Any enrichment of one's own life involves a leap of faith. Kevin isn't pushing anyone off a cliff here, but it's up to you to take the leap. If you don't, too bad for you.

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