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Thursday, November 29, 2012

MY PAL MICK, 1958-2012 [Semi-Rad]


My friend Mick’s heart stopped working last Sunday. He died at the age of 54, not knowing that the night before, I had sat around a campfire in the desert, telling a friend, Of course you can ride a bike across the country. My friend Mick borrowed my bike trailer two years ago, hitched it to a full-suspension mountain bike, and pedaled it 1,300 miles to his hometown in Michigan from his driveway in Colorado, just like that.
When people die, we say stuff like He was a good man, It was too soon, and He won’t be forgotten, and all that stuff is true. Then we turn it on ourselves, saying things like You never know, Hug your loved ones, Every day could be your last, trying to make sure we’re doing it right, hoping someone’s death will teach us how to live. And then we tell stories about that person, maybe realizing their life taught us how to live.
The day after Susan, Mick’s wife, called me to tell me he was gone, I had a million things to do and an overflowing e-mail inbox, same as every weekday. My brain kept saying I’m too busy to deal with this right now, I’m too busy, I’m too busy, I’m too busy, and then suddenly I was sitting in the parking lot of the UPS Store blinking back tears, typing Mick stories into my phone with my thumb. Then I was driving up I-25, sighing and letting them stream down my face, thinking about nonsensical stuff like Shit, I don’t own a suit to wear to the funeral. But Mick probably didn’t own a suit, did he?
I have a hundred stories about my friend Mick, and it’s hard to understand that all those stories are now about who he was instead of who he is.
He was an arborist, among a dozen other things. That was what he did for a living: climbed trees, limbed them, sometimes hanging from the top of the tree and chainsawing off an upper section as it was pulled away by a crane. I wrote the longest story I ever published about Mick, House of Trees. It was printed in a literary magazine and told the story of how he built a house out of logs over the course of eight years, without ever having peeled a log or so much as helped build a house before he started, pure balls and stubbornness. My favorite line in the story was:
He seems more proud of his most recent wildflower photo than he is of the house he built with his own two hands in the middle of a country where no one builds their own house anymore, even though most men abstractly like the idea of doing it.

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