Friday, April 18, 2014

Mike's Story

Jenna Orkin

   Mike left us an abundance of gifts, not least of which was his story.  As an investigative journalist, he loved a good story even more keenly than the next man.  And perhaps the one he loved most (as we all do, or would like to) was his own.

   It was indeed a fascinating story, which goes some way to account for his thousands of friends and followers around the world, both "Facebook" and otherwise.  Whether uncovering dirty dealings between politics and Wall Street that even Matt Taibbi wouldn't touch or enduring the flip side, "I'm done in; I'm about to jump off the roof," the Mike Show was a production which a certain kind of reader - a thinking man's action junkey - yearned to be part of.

   It is left to us now to piece together that story and it's an obligation which his friends and admirers are undertaking with a thoughtfulness that would make him proud.  Some of the insights on the net, particularly at Rigorous Intuition, are as illuminating as Mike's detractors during his lifetime were maddening.  (Beyond a few snarky headlines about the "conspiracy theorist's" suicide, the latter have been lying low this week, no doubt biding their time.)  By pooling recollection, we may come to understand better how he could be such a hero to one group of people while at the same time appearing to another as a lunatic.  This in turn may lead us to recognize how the whole concept of "hero" is a dangerous drug, not only for the "Leader" who becomes infused with his own importance and deaf to the insights of others but also for his followers, who sell their birthright of independence of thought.

   In fact, no one was better acquainted with his "lunacy" than his inner circle.  We got the hard-to-deal-with side of his personality in our face as long as he stayed close.  I believe this is one reason he moved so often, living with no one person for much longer than a year, a trait he and I shared, by the way.  His marriage, to a woman almost two decades younger, lasted eighteen months; his sojourn in my apartment, fourteen.  My marriage lasted twelve years but shouldn't have.

   He had long since outstayed his welcome in my one bedroom, but he was even more desperate to leave than I was to go about my business without worrying about his disapproval (as I would with anybody.)
   Not, I hasten to add, that we often argued.  There were one or two blow-up fights but mostly, in spite of profound differences of taste - (he hated New York on principle; the machismo of the West, where he felt most at home, left me cold,) - we got along smoothly, frequently slipping into a George and Gracey domestic routine complete with New York accents.  Mike was a razor-sharp impersonator and I wish someone had taped his Russian, French and German personas. 

   Re Mike's story, reading Wesley Miller's account of how Mike came by the gun with which he shot himself is one fascinating piece.  Another is Charlton Wilson Cht Ccht's description on Mike's Facebook page of Lakota traditions of giving one's body "for the children" as Mike said in his suicide note to his friend and landlord, Jack. "[I]n Native ways, we don't have money or animals or whatever to give. we have our flesh and our blood."  If Mike is going to be cremated as some recent reports said were his instructions, I don't get how the earth will benefit and will be watching for clarification.  Anyway, Mother Earth receives our body no matter when we die; in the modern society in which Mike lived, however deploringly, hastening the process doesn't help anybody.  But since he was not Lakota by birth or upbringing, though he revered Native American culture and became steeped in it once he moved out west, and since, as shown at, he'd been suicidal for years, a psychologist might opine that the Native American references were a cover for a longstanding suicidal drive.

   Here's another piece of the Mike puzzle:

   He was born DOA, "dead" on arrival.  The doctor who delivered him told him when they met 25 years later, that the medical team had done everything possible to revive him but to no avail.  Mike's mother had already had one stillbirth so a second was not much of a surprise. 

   As Mike was being carried to the morgue, he cried.  The rest, as they say, is history...

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