TUESDAY TUNES: “These Foolish Things”, Ella Fitzgerald

I last saw Mike Horne on a balmy Sunday afternoon.  I was returning from SoWa, knitting, and minding my own business, when a meaty finger came between me and my work in progress.  A voice gnarled with sarcasm intoned over-the-top Communist homilies, and I looked up to see Mike’s asymmetrical smirk.  We compared notes on our doings; I was particularly excited about my new position at the Lab.  “You’re lucky,” he observed.  “Not everyone has a job they like.”

If anyone knew that, it would be Mike.  For a few months we toiled together in a call center job.  This was my first office position, and since I had gotten fired from my previous job I took this one very seriously.  Mike, on the other hand, recognized that this was a dead-end job.  While I almost developed an ulcer from not making my quotas, Mike would make horrible jokes while I was on calls and tie purloined balloons to the Hello Kitty backpack I carried as my purse.  After work one day, he and our friend Jonathan took me to the Public Gardens to surrepetitiously smoke pot from a ceramic “cigarette”.  His sense of humor and healthy perspective helped me stay sane for the time that I toiled in that cellar.

Eventually I burned out and left the job for the wonderful world of temping.  Though I didn’t see Mike as frequently, he still reached out to me to hang out with him and his buddies — go over to his house for a barbecue, perhaps, or catch a Bruce Lee double-header at the Brattle.  Mike’s generosity of spirit came through not only in his occasional gifts (like the free Spirited Away passes he helped me score), but also in his deep and arcane knowledge, and in his knowledgeable and skilled friend base.  Even though I didn’t agree with some of his positions, I valued his point of view and his ability to not see everything as the end of the world.

I ran into him less over the past few years, but whenever I crossed paths with him he seemed content.  He worked as a manager at The Compleat Strategist, he’d married his sweetheart, Carol, and he was still plugging away at things that interested him.  Seeing him on the T or popping my head into his store was always an adventure, and when I think of him I can’t help but smile and laugh.

Sadly, that afternoon at the tail end of summer would be the last time I’d see him.  While I was in DC for a conference, I learned that Mike had passed.

While Mike and I weren’t BFFs, I can’t think of certain things and NOT be reminded of Mike.  He introduced me to El Santo and to Ganja & Hess, and I told him about how important punk rock and Nancy Drew were to me.    I’m glad I knew him, and the world is a little smaller for his loss.

If you have a few quarters rolling around in your pocket, my pal Mara has created a fund for Mike’s widow, Carol.  My thoughts are with her right now, and with the many people Mike knew.

So long, man.


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