Mood: Pretty good.
Music: Blow Me Away, Breaking Benjamin.
Game: World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, Guild Wars.
Book: Hell’s Angels, Hunter S. Thompson
Punchline: I dunno.
Well, after I fixed the leaking AC unit in the server, I was sitting at my desk, reading mail and vaguely thinking about server configurations for the office, when my mobile phone rang.
My mobile phone probably gets the least use of any of my gadgets…and this is because I can be found sitting next to a phone in most circumstances, and when I’m not, I don’t carry my phone. It should be noted that I carry my personal mobile phone along with my work Nextel, and while I get chirped on my Nextel a bunch of times a day, it’s never a personal call. I don’t give out my Nextel number to friends or family, and I don’t give my personal number to people at work. I just prefer it that way.
In fact, there are really only two people who call me on my mobile phone: Colin, since he can’t ever remember to put my home phone number in his mobile phone, and Jenai, because she only calls me when she and I are at work, and usually to arrange dinner or something. Adam insists that he calls me on my mobile all the time, but records show that he’s called me exactly once in the last 4 months on my mobile phone, and that was over a month ago.
Occasionally, I get calls from Jenny Lee to let me know that she’s running late to (dinner, the movie, the place we’re meeting) but she’ll be there shortly.
Basically, it’s a seldom-used device.
Yesterday, I picked up my mobile phone and answered it like I answer my work phone…with my name. Odd thing to do on my personal phone, but whatever…I was sorta in work mode.
Whereupon I got asked if I was interested in going to Hop Kee. Glancing at my phone, the area code was 406. 406…familiar…sorta.
Mike Finkel. He was at the airport in Montana, was coming to town, and wanted to know if we’d recreate the ritual we created oh so many times while we were living on 19th Street. I said “of course.” He explained that he was in town for a reading of a book he’d just finished, and he was also going to be on a morning show of some repute, and so on…but he really wanted to get together and catch up.
Mike was, and most likely still is, one of the great human beings of our time. I could dismiss him as an adrenaline junkie, which he certainly was…but it was more that he was a man in search of adventure. Mike was a writer…sort of. He travelled around the world to do things no one had done, then wrote about them for Skiing, Times Magazine, National Geographic and others who would foot the bill. He got more free junk from gear manufacturers than anyone I know…mainly because he was crazy, and if crazy people use your gear, it carries cred in the world of adventuring. In short, Mike was Hunter S. Thompson, but less drugs and firearms and more activity and outdoor adventuring.
Anyway, Mike wanted to catch up. He asked if I knew anything about the book…I replied that unless it was one of the books he was writing when we were living together, I didn’t.
He paused. And then explained that no, it wasn’t one of those…but that it was truly the strangest thing that had ever happened to him.
That gave me pause. And I replied “That’s a pretty serious statement.”
While I was living with Mike, he had run off to Iceland, found a crazed Icelander named Orn who had built his own airplane from a bathtub and a large motor, and convinced Orn to fly Mike and his skis to the top of a pristine glacier. Orn agreed, landed on the glacier, and managed to keep from pitching off the other side by throwing a boat anchor from the bathtub, which caught in the ice and snow. Mike then got out of the flying bathtub, strapped on his skis, and skiied down the glacier, which no man had ever stood on. The ultimate freshies.
We used to have various and sundry kindred spirits sleeping on our couch, bathtub, or floor…people who Mike had met on his many expeditions, and said “Hey, if you’re ever in NYC, come crash on my floor.” Our dishes were always done, and the assortment of trinkets, bottles of wine, and photos in thanks grew to epic proportions.
Mike once skiied down Mount Kilimanjaro because he thought it was a nice twist on literary history.
I once bailed him out of a border arrest while he was coming back from Canada. Long story.
When it stormed in NYC and we were living together, Mike grabbed me and my camera, and had me shoot a photos of how city dwellers could cross-country ski in Central Park. It was published in Skiing magazine.
We covered the World Pinball Championships together for Sports Illustrated…me with the glass, him with the words.
He was currently living in Bozeman, Montana, raising chickens and writing when the mood struck him, last I heard…still travelling around the world.
When Mike says it’s the strangest thing that ever happened to him, it definitely had reason to give me pause.
We had a brief conversation, and I promised to have dinner with him on Wednesday, and we’d catch up…whereupon I felt obliged to find out what I was in for.
It took about 30 seconds…the web is good like that, if you know where your towel is at.
It seems that Mike was fired from the New York Times Magazine’s staff quite unceremoniously for fabricating details in an expose of child slavery in the African chocolate trade. I shrugged at that. You could argue that Hunter S. Thompson lied and fabricated details all the time…when it suited his basic premises, and when it amused him to do so. But this was 2000, and this was the New York Times, not Rolling Stone in the late sixties, Mike was not Hunter, and the NYT was not amused in the slightest.
I suppose it could have been that he was just trapped in a story without facts, and decided to push it…but Mike knows the trade, and had to know that he’d be caught. I prefer to think it was just Mike’s way…he’s not a liar…but he IS a storyteller.
This would have been pretty straightforward, and wouldn’t have surprised me but for the rest of the story. It seems that some insane man went out and slaughtered his family, then went on the run…which is sad…but where things get truly Mike-Proportioned is that the murderer then decided to pose as Mike Finkel, reporter for the New York Times.
Mike found out about this when a reporter called, asking Mike for details, and Mike said “About the New York Times?” and the reporter paused and said “No…about the murders.” It only got stranger as Mike got in touch with this murderer and carried on a long correspondence with him.
Anyway, that’s what Mike’s book is about. It’s called True Story…and I will be picking up a copy. He always could write well.
Now…I expect dinner tomorrow night to be VERY amusing.
I’ll let you know how it goes.