This is one of a series of stories we are sharing to show what’s inside CubeSmart. You not only get a peek inside our customer’s storage unit, but also a peek inside what is important to him. Thank you to Danny and Juan, customers of our CubeSmart store in the Bronx, for sharing their story with us.
Update: we are very sorry to share that Danny passed away on March 7, 2018. Thank you, Danny, for sharing your story, your spirit, and your zest for life with CubeSmart.
Juan Marzan and Daniel Cepeda's friendship began more than 15 years ago at Juan's niece's birthday party where they learned they shared a mutual interest in building radio control cars.
That friendship is now perhaps stronger than ever as Daniel deals with the trial of his life — terminal stage four prostate cancer.
"I'm in good spirits," said Daniel, as he joined Juan on a visit to CubeSmart, where Juan keeps parts to radio control cars, among other hobby items. "I'm here with my best bud. It's all good."
Juan, 51, has worked as a doorman on 83rd St. for the last nine years. He lives in Tribeca, but on Tuesdays and Wednesdays he visits his girlfriend and stays with his 70-year-old mother near the CubeSmart store in the Bronx.
Juan, who has two sons, ages 28 and 25, described his mother, Carmen, as "Short. Quiet. Full of life. There's nothing wrong with her (health)." She taught him to "be a good person. Right from wrong. Morals."
Juan also keeps camping equipment — a sleeping bag, grill, tent, umbrella, beach chair and more — at the store. Juan, who moved with his grandparents from Puerto Rico to 118th St. at age 6, drives a 2007 Nissan Xterra that he customized — "the wheels, everything."
"I take it to the mountains. Hit the trails. I go explore. He follows," Juan said, nodding toward Daniel.
Daniel, 49, drives a 2004 Toyota Forerunner with a V8 engine.
"With my tires, I follow up the mountains in case I get stuck. He helps me out," he said.
Their favorite destination is Rausch Creek Off Road Park in Pennsylvania.
After picking up some radio control car parts from their storage unit, the two planned on building their latest project together. They like to joke with each other. Daniel teased Juan: "Everything's gotta be perfect. Everything has to be on point." Juan replied: "Look at this guy," he said before describing what he finds annoying about Daniel. "Everything." They both laughed.
They laughed again when Juan said the last time he cried was when Juan's father died and he will cry again when Daniel dies. Daniel's health is not off limits for both of them when it comes to their humor.
But it's not all laughs. Daniel admitted he gets depressed at times, which he partly blamed on the medicine.
When Daniel was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in September 2012, he delayed breaking the news to Juan. "I didn't want to panic anyone," he said.
Doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center told Daniel that treatment could prolong his life another 10 years or more if it worked. But the treatment didn't work and the cancer spread throughout his body. Juan was with Daniel when the doctors broke the news in 2016. "They gave him the bad news," Juan said. "Went from 10 more years to 5 years. I saw the tears coming down. That's when I got up. Hugged him. And we both started crying."
Daniel, who has a 20-year-old son, Christian, said his life expectancy is now about three years. He retired in 2013 after 15 years working for Schindler Elevator Corp. His work involved everything to do with an elevator — the motors, controllers, buttons, platforms and more — and took him as high as the 68th floor of 3 World Trade Center. He also worked at Madison Square Garden, Rockefeller Center, and Radio City Music Hall. He was last assigned to Hudson Yards, a large-scale redevelopment project.
"After everything I've learned and knowing what's coming, people shouldn't take life for granted," he said from inside CubeSmart's store lobby. "You should cherish every moment with your friends and your family. Don't let the little things (bother you). Ask, ‘Is it worth me getting angry?' You could wake up tomorrow and be in my position and then what?"
Inside the Friendship of Danny & Juan Transcript
Danny: When I worked in skyscrapers in Manhattan and I would look past the horizon and id see past the buildings and the only thing I would see would be nature. And being able to see past all the hustle and the bustle and knowing that one day I'm gonna be out there relaxing and retired. Inside it makes you feel at peace.
Juan: I met Danny at my niece's birthday party. My sister's uh friend was Danny's girlfriend at the time. They were sitting on the other side of the table so went over to introduce ourselves. And me and him started talking and I don't know how It lead to the hobby but I started talking about RCs and he was like "What?! Are you kidding me? I've gotta show you something- You gotta come to my truck…"
Danny: And we've been hanging out ever since
Juan: We live in New York, space is tight so we store some of my RC cars, my camping gear, you know sleeping bags, tent, mostly outdoor stuff.
Danny: You're perfect with all your stuff. I'm more like wreck-it-Ralph, I don't care. As long its running and I can keep up with him and we can hang out together, we have a good time it doesn't matter. So once you crash it smash it then you end up fixing it. And make things better than his stuff.
Danny: That's the important thing it's to get your things better then what his stuff was.
I never took time off, it was just horrendous.
Juan: I tried calling him all the time – Dude lets go do something. ‘ Ah nah I'm working. Its time and a half or its double time and a half.
So everything was work, work, work, work.
Danny: It was all about the money
Juan: We meet at CubeSmart, we get our stuff and then we'll escape the city
Danny: That's it
Danny: Haha Gone. See Yah!
Juan: See yah.
Danny: Out of the city
Danny: Go far and Enjoy life. If you would've just paused your life for a minute and took that time to get that hug or to spend that time with your family member or your child. It means all the world difference because you can take that with you. When you're at the end of your life, like I am. You realize. How much all that stuff means to you. I have ah, 4th stage terminal prostate cancer. And now it's just about enjoying myself, yah know.
Danny: Yah work's important, and having a career, and having life. But there's other things more important things than that. Believe me.
He's there for me. I could make a phone call and maybe he'll answer the phone
Danny: Maybe. But No, yeah he'll answer. He's there for me. It's a great thing
Juan: We've got a good friendship. I'm glad we met.