It’s that time of year again for me to tip my virtual hat to my friend Mike. Over the past few years (2004, 2005) I’ve written an entry in my blog recalling some stories of our, sadly short, time together as friends.
Who reads this? – I wrote my original entries in this blog about Mike so that friends from Antioch would read them and perhaps respond with stories of their own. I was VERY surprised to get ‘thank you’ e-mails from Michael’s family a few months later. However I didn’t really think this whole ‘who might read this’ thing through all the way and thus some of my more flippant and casual remarks hurt at least one persons feelings and for that I am very sorry and thus;
Apologies – I need to start this entry off with an apology to Staci Brown, Mike’s wife. In my entry from last year I made some remarks about her that weren’t very nice and she called me this past fall regarding them. I have since edited that entry and I regret what I originally wrote. To be honest I never really knew Staci very well, I was just a geeky guy who lived down the hall from her and Michael and she and I, except for our common link to Mike, traveled in different social circles. As I believe I mentioned in earlier posts, I was somewhat jealous of her ‘taking Mike away’ though it really had nothing to do with her directly and more just me dealing with getting older and having friends in permanent relationships, not something I had had to deal with much up until that point in my life. I guess my remarks last year reflected this jealousy and the fact that I didn’t know her very well, so I guess it was easy for me to say things without taking into consideration her feelings or the fact that I really didn’t know her and thus had no right to say anything. Really stupid on my part. So to be clear, I never doubted that Stacey was a good person and worthy of Mike, I trusted his judgement in character and he loved her. Nuff said. So Staci, thank you again for calling me and talking to me directly, I know that was hard and I appreciate you showing me that much respect ever after I hadn’t shown that to you in my posts here. As I said on the phone, I am very sorry that I didn’t show you the respect you deserve, and I’m also sorry I didn’t get to know you well. Any friend of Mike’s is a friend of mine and you were certainly his best friend. I hope you find the emotional strength to post some Mike stories here someday, you knew him better than anyone else and I’m sure you’ve got some good ones.
One final ‘disclaimer’ – These are my memories of Mike from 1987 – 1992 while we were at college together. I don’t want to ‘censor’ my memories because his brother, father, mother, wife, nephew or niece might read this. While nothing I am writing here is risque’ or inappropriate it’s also not all completely flattering. Mike was a great friend, and a tremendously generous, caring and fun guy and I to this date consider him one of the closest friends I have ever had, but he was also human and not-perfect.
Photos – I’ve included thumbnails of the photos I have handy of Michael. One is from the Antioch yearbook from 1992 and didn’t scan well. The other, as I mentioned above, was provided to me via e-mail from Mike’s brother Mark a year or so ago. If anyone reading this has other photos of Mike they can send me please do, I’ll add them to the gallery I set up.
Stories – As far as my yearly dishing of Mike stories I have to say I’m running kinda low of good ones, I really played my hand in my previous entries doing a complete mental dump of anything noteworthy. So I’m going to shake the old memory box once more this evening but I doubt what I have here is as interesting as what I wrote before. We’ll see. If nothing else perhaps this will give Mike’s friends and family who happen across this page another glimpse of the Michael of the late 80’s / early 90’s which they may not have known as well as I did.
- Comp Sci – Mike and I were both computer geeks at Antioch College. We were rare birds since Antioch was not (in the late 80’s & 90’s) particularly well known for it’s science department, and certainly even less well known, if at all, for it’s computer science department. I think there were maybe 6 or 7 comp sci majors at Antioch in my time there. Mike’s FWSP job on a number of different terms was to be the Computer Lab operator which basically meant he got credit for being in the computer lab he was going to be in anyways.. and he got root privs and a set of keys too. Rough. 🙂
- Chem 1 – At several quarters at Antioch we specifically organized our class schedules to take some of the same classes together. I convinced him to take Chemistry 1 with me and be my lab partner, which turned out to be both a good and bad move since that class was exponentially harder than either of us expected it to be. Stan Bernstein, the professor of that class, was, at least that term, a real jerk. I don’t say this lightly, but he really pulled a few fast ones on us. I’ll spare you the details, this post isn’t about Stan, but suffice to say this class completely shook my sense of fairness and trust in Antioch faculty. I’m not complaining about the academics of the class but more about setting reasonable expectations and fair communication. I’m a pretty reasonable mellow guy, and so was Mike, but wow did Stan get us going. While Stan pissed me off, he enraged Mike. I had to talk him down from dropping the class more than once and while neither of us ever did anything we did often talk about evil plots on stealing Stan’s bike and returning the pieces of it in his campus mailbox with notes saying ‘Be nice to your students or you’ll never see your bike again’. I think both of us only stayed in that class because we didn’t want to give Stan the satisfaction of ‘beating’ us. Since I’m telling stories and trying to record who Mike was, at least from my admittedly somewhat fogged memory, I will mention that he wasn’t the best lab partner. He was often late, and/or not very present at the labs. This wasn’t so much because he didn’t get them, he could pick up on things faster than I could, but (and note this was circa 1988/89, before Stacey moved to Yellow Springs), there were some pretty cute women in the lab with us and Mike’s attention and energy were focused on them more than on the labs. (see flirting section below).
- Homework – He was also a bad influence on my homework patterns. I’ll state up front I am lazy and really despised homework in the first place, so it didn’t take much to distract me from it, so when my best friend who was in many of my same classes wasn’t doing homework and was asking me to go to Young’s Dairy with him, well then why should I do my homework? On the flipside I suspect I was a ‘good’ influence on him academically since I would guilt him into finishing a lab or doing homework (or in the case of Chem 1, taking a class (and thus going for a BS degree instead of a BA) that he wasn’t sure if he wanted to take). However, there were some times where he’d show up to class with a completed homework assignment that he stayed up until 4 AM working on when I didn’t have mine done at all, so he could pull ‘random acts’ of academic greatness like that. He would also often do well on tests, which I think confused Stan since he (Stan) had made some assumptions about Mike. Another friend of mine I met years later, John Winters, also a gamer, mentioned the idea/concept of ‘victory conditions’ in a game and applying that concept to life philosophy. “What are the victory conditions here?” he would ask about different situations. I think Mike, perhaps unknowingly, applied that concept to his academics. He knew where the line was regarding what was ‘too much’ slack and what would get him in trouble, and he ‘walked the line’. He knew what he had to do, the victory conditions, to pass a class and get a not-horrible evaluation.
Computers – I have a photo of his taken of him at his house in Yellow Springs lying on the floor of his bedroom playing on his computer. I don’t know who took this photo, perhaps Karmynn Kimble, but it seemed a very appropriate way to remember him … who needs furniture, just find an outlet and your all set. Got to have your priorities straight. 🙂 I imagine Stacey in the house at the same time, unpacking their belongings or sitting on their bed or in a chair looking over at Mike stretched out on the floor and giggling at him for his stubbornness/laziness. “Mike you know, you could set up a desk” “Nah.. later.. I’m busy right now, I’ll do that later”.
Mac – Mike had a Mac SE or maybe it was just a Mac Plus. I wasn’t into Macs back then and thus they all seemed the same to me, though shortly after Mike’s death I started drifting rapidly in that direction to the point where I worked as a full time Mac support person for several years and still use a Mac a good 10 – 15 hours a day on some days. I don’t recall Mike doing much programming on it though I’m pretty sure he did do some C coding on it at least one term when he lived on Willet hall with me. I think his mac was primarily used for tetris 🙂
Flirting – It’s hard for me to summarize Mike’s social/flirting since, while I had my own geeky ‘style’, he really ‘played’ on a whole other level than I did. He was a shameless flirt. I don’t mean to imply he was a ‘womanizer’, I never heard him make a sexist or degrading remark about women, he just, well, really liked them 🙂 He would go to the bi-weekly dances and meet women way outside of the geeky circles I traveled in. He had a ‘sporty’ car which I believe made him extra appealing to women who wanted to get off campus to go see a movie/out to eat. He had ‘leopard spot’ thong underwear which I got to see him wearing way more than I ever wanted to, especially at 8 AM on a Sunday morning when I was just waking up and heading down the hall to the showers (“Must poke out minds eye!”). Worse this pair of underwear would often be draped somewhere visible in his room like on a lampshade or the door to his closet when we were in there trying to do homework. To be honest I pretty much intentionally turned a blind eye to most of his flirting since, while I was flirting with a number of women myself, it’s not something guys really talk about that much, at least guys like Mike & I.
Games – Mike was a gamer, primarily a ‘strategy’ gamer, whether that was the board game Risk! or, more often, computer games.
- Tetris – He was the first person I ever saw playing Tetris and wow, was he into it. I don’t recall his high scores but I never got anywhere near them. He made cameo appearances on my computer, an Amiga, just to get his name on the top of my list. MAG, his initials, seemed to be all over the high score lists of all my games, but especially Tetrsi. I’m not too shabby myself, but Mike was a whole other level beyond where I was/am. When visting his room we’d often be talking about Chemistry labs or other subjects and he’d be carrying on, telling stories, even gesturing or writing with one hand while his other hand was tied to the keyboard of his mac playing tetris.
- Delta Tao Games – Mike was a big fan of games from the small game company Delta Tao. He introduced me to both Spaceward Ho! (http://deltatao.com/ho/) and Strategic Conquest (http://deltatao.com/stratcon/) He was exponentially better at these games than I was, which made trying to play a game against him not terribly fun. I never really got that into these games until I finally owned a mac but he had good taste, those games, and that company, are good stuff. They focus on gameplay over graphics & eye candy. They also have a warped sense of humor.
- Risk! – Mike really liked this board game and after he moved off campus his ‘come over and visit’ line often involved an invitation to come over and play Risk! In retrospect I wish I took him up on this more often. He was all of 3 blocks off campus. This was also one of the few games I had played alot in my youth too and could hold my own in a game with him, at least sometimes 🙂
- Blackjack/Roulette – Just a quick note, Mike had this theory about some casino games, where you bet an amount on, say, black in roulette and if you lose you bet twice as much the next time. Odds are eventually you’d win your money back plus your original bet. He demo’d this on his mac games and it worked. However when I really questioned him about this he admitted that occasionally in his ‘tests’ he was betting sums of money way more than he’d be able to afford in real life and also I remember him telling Warren Watson, one of Antioch’s computer science professors, about this who promptly mentioned that casino’s had betting limits which completely ruined this plan. Credit where it’s due though.. it’s a great way to ‘beat’ a computer casino game if they dont limit your betting amounts. See my reference to ‘victory conditions’ earlier, he had found the weakness in these computer games.
- Instant Mashed Potatoes – Mike always had a box of Instant Microwavable Mashed Potatoes in his room. When we were up late working on a Chem lab or other times he’d just randomly whip this out and pour some in a mug with some water and microwave it long enough to be edible. Always seemed rather random to me and I still think of him when I see these boxes in the supermarket.
- Taco Bell – Mike REALLY liked Taco Bell. I have to admit before I met him I avoided Taco Bell like the plague, the place just scared me. We didn’t have them in suburban NY when I grew up and I had just made some assumptions about cheap mexican food enough to where I would have never considered eating there if left to my own accord. However since there was a Taco Bell in Xenia near Blockbuster video, a place we travelled too way too often, since it was his car we inevitably ended up there eating ‘cheesy fries’ and bean burritos etc. Turns out Southern Ohio is a ‘test market’ for Taco Bell (or at least was) and thus they had things there that weren’t in other ‘normal’ Taco Bells (like cheesy fries, since discontinued) Since I’ve become a vegetarian it turns out Taco Bell is one of the only fast food restaurants I can eat at and while there aren’t any too close by where I live now, when given a chance I still go there. So I blame him for this weakness of mine 🙂
That’s all for now. I’m sure I’ll think of something else later. If anyone reading this has a ‘Mike story’, even short silly ones, please post it in the comments if you have a moment.
Here’s to you Mike. 14 years, and I still miss you.