Daniel Baxter is the friend everyone wants to have. He is kind, thoughtful, funny and incredibly loyal to the people who are wise enough to include Daniel in their social circle.
Daniel and I first met back in January of 2004, as he just arrived in this town, a few months after I did. He had just completed his M.S. in Structural Engineering and was all set to take the bridge world by storm. Cleveland just happens to have the Cuyahoga River and, as a result, upkeeping all the local bridges is in significant demand. So Daniel found the right home and I found a wonderful friend.
I work as a bridge engineer, and I have a lifelong interest in bridges, highways, and other infrastructure…I’ve been part of the design teams for several new bridges and bridge rehabilitation projects for Ohio River and Mississippi River crossings, but the bridge I’m most proud to have helped design is the new Fulton Road Bridge in Cleveland, OH. It includes six post-tensioned concrete segmental arch spans over a valley. It won a national bridge design award, and the judges remarked on the slenderness of the arches, which was one of the more difficult aspects of the design to work out.
At first, we were both neighbors at The Statler, a once famous hotel that served as the honeymoon destination for the late George Burns and Gracie Allen. Allegedly, Al Capone was to host a family meeting there, too, but got wind of a cop raid and thwarted authorities.
Transient in energy, The Statler attracted all kinds of residents and despite many lacking a sense of stability, Daniel and I eventually met and connected with some amazing souls and, for a brief moment in time, before most moved their separate ways, we referred to ourselves as The Statler 7. We celebrated all our birthdays together and when times were tough offered each other the kind of support that grew into a familial bond. A few years ago, part of the group even indulged me in a musical quest and together we wrote and composed the song “Cleveland Rising,” and even made a music video. It was a labor of love and Daniel, who plays piano and organ, showed up to each rehearsal and recording with energy and ideas.
To all of us, Daniel was the little brother that with a smile on his face and a big heart inside him accepted all our life and love advice as though we were actually experts on any of these topics. Truth is, we wanted to feel wise experienced and Daniel obliged us in our quest.
As the decade progressed and Daniel and I both went through our own personal heartache, one thing remained the same: we both knew we were there for each other, no judgement, just friendship.
In the Fall of 2009, Daniel returned from visiting his parents in Minnesota and suddenly he had a spark in his eyes. Turned out, he went to a friend’s birthday party and at the event, met a woman that he really liked. And it turned out that she really liked him, too. In fact, Hannah liked Daniel so much that within just a few months of meeting him, she left her family, friends and job behind and moved to Cleveland, moving in with Daniel and adjusting to a new city, new people and a new life.
Suddenly, we noticed that our little brother began to change. Daniel had a new-found confidence that comes with the love of a good woman. And Hannah, very quickly, merged her life with Daniel’s, which included finding a great job and making friends of her own, as well as integrating Daniel’s Cleveland siblings into her own social circle.
About a year after their first meeting, on a Thanksgiving train ride that never quite made it to their desired destination, Daniel proposed to Hannah. She happily said, “Yes!”
The following summer they got married and bought a house together. And, since they both love music, they had a very special thank you gift for their wedding guests.
My wife Hannah and I, along with our cello playing friend Malina, collaborated on writing and recording a five song EP. We gave it away as a party favor at our wedding, and have called our band The Concessions. If you like music that is somewhat reminiscent of early-nineties-era folk rock, you might like this. You can download the music for free here.
These days Daniel and Hannah spend their free time making music, traveling by train to visit friends and relatives and, especially, tending to the needs of their parrot Louis, who has been in Daniel’s family for twenty-five years. Last year, Louis got a parrot companion, Penny. And a parallel family was born.
Daniel and Hannah live just about a mile from me. With this proximity, we can still continue to have family meals together and discuss the state of relationships, bridges, birds, Cleveland and anything else that comes to mind. It’s also not lost to me that the very reason Anita asked me to be part of the journey was because I had written two books before and it was Daniel (as well as close friend Danielle) and his family that first offered me support and the green light to take my books public. Life has a way of coming full circle like that.
When asked why Daniel was interested in contributing to our book, he shared with us:
I feel very lucky to have met Hannah, and it feels good to be part of a project that will, hopefully, aid other people in finding fulfilling relationships…I think that the book will help people to get less discouraged when dealing with the inevitable challenges and setbacks of dating, and it should help to make people’s existing relationships stronger.
Daniel’s heart is big; his compassion towards others struggling in their personal lives is bigger. His words and insight will inspire our readers because they come from a man who overcame his own struggles and eventually found personal happiness. It just took one very smart woman to recognize what a great catch Daniel is. Because when it comes to our personal lives, even if the train doesn’t reach the station, having the right passenger next to you makes all the difference.