I met Mike in the first grade. He came to my birthday party that March. I turned 7. One of the kids set the thermostat’s dial up so high on our home aquarium, the guppies fried. It would be last my home birthday party. As for Mike and lot of other kids, they wouldn’t come back to my parents’ house for years.
We reconnected in the eighth grade when my best friend Danny and I asked Mike to be in one of our Super 8mm films. Not too far after that, Mike came over to Danny’s house when television’s PM Magazine came over to do a story on us. After our television appearance, I barely saw Mike throughout the rest of junior high and most of high school. We didn’t have a falling out. We weren’t in that many classes together, so why bother? -- just chalk it up to adolescent boys going their own ways, I guess.
Mike and I reconnected during our senior year when we had a few classes together. We started to spend time at his apartment. My friends and I couldn’t figure out why his family moved to an apartment nor did we question it. Things seemed to be OK with his mom and sister. We barely saw his dad. During that time, he asked me to direct his Super 8mm film project, a short titled My Mother’s Driving Me Insane. The film was set to the music of The Police’s “Mother” with Mike lip synching to the band and featuring, you guessed it, his very nice mom driving him “insane.” I think Mike entered the film in some type of contest and I’m not sure if he won. Around that time, we planned to room together at Ohio University the following autumn. About a month before we went to college, Mike decided to go to Manatee College in Bradenton, Florida. I never knew the reason why he didn’t attend college with me, but then again, I was a teenager and didn’t question his motives. My friend Rick and I went down to Florida to visit his aunt in Tampa. We drove down to Disney and somehow, Mike found us. He was just that savvy at age 18. He seemed incredibly independent -- so adult as he had no problem driving, jetting around the country and setting himself up for college in Florida. I on the other hand, was slowly transitioning to adulthood with a lot of help from Dad and Mom back home in suburban Cleveland, Ohio.
During our freshman year in college, we corresponded by old fashioned snail mail. He described the Sunshine State's climate and sent us photos of his humble living quarters near the Sarasota-Bradenton airport. Later in the year, he drove up and visited us one day. Mike stayed with me and my roommates in our quad dorm room. After that visit, I would rarely hear from Mike and when I did, he always had a surprise. By junior year, he moved from Bradenton to finish his studies at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta. Atlanta? To my then-untraveled soul, Atlanta was a world away – not terribly far from where the band REM sprouted up and the then-recent Hosea Williams Forsyth County march occurred.
Little did I realize that I would end up about a year and half later living in Atlanta. Mike was still here, but ready to jet off into the world to explore opportunities. He returned to the area with a girlfriend and no car. He asked for her hand in marriage. They married at Oglethorpe, lived here for a few more years and moved to San Diego. I wouldn’t hear from Mike for years. I learned through other friends that he lived in the UK working a bit and going back to school.
About two years ago, we reconnected on Facebook. We corresponded a bit and before I knew it, Mike came to visit Atlanta last year. I showed him around work and then we chatted at a bar. We caught up on everything. He lived nine lives working in places like China and Singapore. I had been in one place for over two decades. I marveled at Mike’s diverse career moves and Mike was impressed at my professional stability. At that moment, he was in the restaurant business in Thailand and was passing through town having business meetings with some folks here to work up a venture, which ultimately did not come to fruition.
Just after Mike’s Atlanta visit last year, things in my life were unraveling. We hooked up through Skype and had long conversations. He was a major help. We both learned about our struggles with family, relationships, marriages, separations, divorces, euphoria, depression, world events etc. This past week, we conducted another hour long Skype call. Here I was at 9 a.m. EDT on a stifling Saturday in the Hotlanta area with my 13-year-old daughter in tow and there was Mike, once again, a world away in Phuket, Thailand, helping to run a resort on a balmy Saturday night. Wow. Whoever would have thought that over 25 years ago, we would be reconnecting again through the miracle of such a modern technology? I have no idea what tomorrow brings, but here’s one thing I do know: I hope that me and Mike can always reconnect.