The bar, which closed forever after a major gunfight in which everyone inside was shot and a couple people killed, was, during our time, more reminiscent of Harry Hope's Greenwich Village saloon in O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh. Our bar had the benefits a bar receives from looking like a place where the odds of a knife fight were good, but which, in truth, rarely saw anything close to an actual fist fight.
Our mutual friend, the other Mike, had been associated with some biker gang in the past, had been in jail, had scars from a gunshot to the stomach, and had the ability to talk, without a break, on any subject for... I don't think we ever actually found the place where he stopped talking on his own and without encouragement. He once spoke about making a trip to the City County Building because of some charges that somebody in his family had filed against him and about how it took him three whole days of standing in lines and filling out forms and, as he told the story, we slowly realized that he was telling the story in real time and that the story would reach its tentative conclusion in three days.
That other Mike lived alone in a small apartment with his Beagle and with only a kerosene space heater for heat in the winter. Once, when I dropped by to make sure he had fuel for the heater, I swear it was actually ten degrees colder inside than it was outside. He was the sort of friend I would often slip a $10 or $20 to without the slightest pretense that it was a "loan." It was simply what people who had a spare $10 did with friends who didn't. In other words, it may have been charitable, but it never rose (or sunk) to "charity." A subtle but important distinction.
Both Mike's and I loved to play pool and the tables in our mock violent tavern were usually available. The game of 8-ball was born out of the introduction of shortened, coin-operated pool tables in bars and 8-ball was our game. I got sufficiently enthralled with the game that I went out and bought an expensive custom cue stick with an Irish linen wrapped flamed maple butt and a perfect shaft. I cannot remember ever being more outraged at learning that my many faults as a pool player had been my own and not, as I suspected, the fault of inferior equipment.
It is pretty though.
At some point the bar changed hands and things, as they are prone to do, changed. Any time you find yourself sitting in a favorite bar laughing with a bunch of people and taking some degree of shared solace, be sure to take a mental snapshot or two because, quite simply, nothing lasts.
We all drifted apart. A few years ago the other Mike died of throat cancer, the effect of decades of Marlboro reds and Jack Daniels. I reconnected with him a month or two before he died; someone I knew mentioned that he was in the local VA hospital and I found him there, ornery and a major pain in the ass to every nurse in the ward. I took some flowers when I went back and gave them to the nurses and told them all he didn't mean it, whatever "it" might be. I said that certain that it was true.
He moved into a hospice for a time and I would drive down with my two dogs and visit. His dog, the Beagle, had died a year or two before. The other Mike had loved that dog the way someone who only has one thing in the world to love will love that thing.
The last time I spoke to him he'd moved from the hospice to his brother's house on a small lake in Southern Indiana. He died a week or so later. My wife and I went to his wake and saw him, laid out in his casket, in some pastel 70s leisure suit he must have had in the back of a closet. In his arms he cradled the urn that held the ashes of his Beagle.
But I digress.
My friend Mike hadn't heard that the other Mike had passed away and I got the word to him through his ex-wife who worked near an agency that I volunteer for. He got a hold of me shortly thereafter and we've seen each other a few times since then. I sent him an email with a link to this blog and a month or so ago he sent me a note that he'd started his own blog. He writes very well and when I read him I am always reminded that I should try and use fewer words. But I never remember that.
His blog has been up for a while and when I looked a minute ago his site counter shows a total of 27 visits. It's damn hard to get noticed in the blogosphere.
So I want to bring it to your attention. It's called Lux Tempor and bears the inscription,
I would tell you everything I think about it because I am prone to do such things, but instead I will point you in its direction and let you decide for yourself. Click the link above. If you find you like it, add a link to your blog or tell someone about it. There is comfort in knowing that what you write and send off into cyber space is being read by someone.