Saturday, May 17, 2014

Mike's Story Part 24: Brooklyn, Ho!

   By Jenna Orkin  
   It was time to move again, Mike felt, before he got on Barry's wife's nerves. 

   He was coming to Brooklyn where he'd be able to meet with Ray to sort out the trust, and be with me. I had become the next goal. 
   This was a dream come true: To have Mike on my turf and show him - Wild West guy in cowboy boots - the beautiful streets of nearby Brooklyn Heights.

   But living with someone had always been something I'd been leary of; particularly when the someone was a person who thought nothing, for example, of calling at 7:30 AM.  I am not a morning person.  (Once he called at 4 AM New York time, claiming that he'd calculated the three hour time difference in the wrong direction.  That was not the sort of mistake Mike made and he later chuckled it had been a self-serving error.  Cui bono?)
   Still, he needed me, which would cast me in the best possible light.
   I did not keep notes for the first three weeks of his stay in my apartment, because he was fragile as well as self-conscious about that fragility and the subject could not be broached.  But one day, when he was coming out of his traumatized state and mentioned the possibility of a history of FTW or maybe it was of a biography of him, he mused that at one time, he'd thought Carolyn Baker the most plausible candidate to write it as she had all the files of correspondence.  However, in recent months, her attitude towards him had changed dramatically.  (They later worked out their differences, of course.)
   This opened up the opportunity to ask his permission to keep notes of the  conversations we'd been having.
   Mike recognized the impulse, for he'd also thought those conversations worthy of recording. So he agreed to the project but didn't want to think about it anymore.  I understood that I was being given permission to make notes so long as I was discreet about it.  I didn't sit with him earnestly jotting our words in real time, interview style, but wrote them up as soon afterwards as possible and without ever discussing the matter.  However, the first three weeks were intense and I regret the loss of a record.   Before he finally left Brooklyn for Los Angeles fourteen months later, when he was copying his files from my computer onto a thumbdrive, he came across the notes and copied them as well (without asking permission but I understood his sense of entitlement about them.)
   That thumbdrive or a version thereof may or may not still exist.  But in the unlikely event that someone stumbles upon it, it's missing some crucial elements.  There were certain statements he made which I never recorded, knowing I wouldn't forget them.  Or I recorded them in a watered down form to preserve the syntax, but omitted key words, again, knowing I wouldn't forget them.
   Of course, I thought it more likely that this account which you're now reading would be written while he was still alive.  Had that been the case, the vast majority of it would be the same while details like the fictitious nature of the tape recording of his dangerous liaison with his female employee might have been left out.   December 18 2006  It will be three weeks ago tomorrow that he came. Barry Silverthorne drove him in a tiny, "compact" car covered in End of Suburbia insignia. When there was no place to park the old-fashioned way, they drove into a parking space head first and fit just fine.
   Mike was exhausted, having been unable to sleep sitting upright.  Barry, too, looked shell-shocked; Mike had not been a happy camper on the way down. 
   "I tried to get him to focus on landmarks, get his mind off himself," he explained in the kitchen while Mike was passed out in the living-room.
   Then it was Barry's turn to take a nap for an hour before heading back to Ontario.  ("I don't want to get there at two in the morning.")     Having so recently left what he had thought would be his permanent home of Venezuela, Mike owned no outer winter clothes, (he'd bought pants and shirts at the thrift shop Barry had taken him to) so we went shopping.  Downtown Brooklyn offered a mall's worth of discount stores where we bought a winter coat for $20 and a fleece sweater which he exhilaratedly left behind when he ultimately moved back to sunny Los Angeles and which I'm wearing as I write this, not for sentimental reasons but because it's suitable for this stormy spring night as well as indestructible.
   A sticking point in our living arrangement was my mother who, if she discovered the whole story, would consider it the embodiment of her worst nightmare: A penniless man holing up with me because the U.S. government had seized his bank account and threatened his life.
   Thus Mike could not answer my phone. And when we went to my mother's for Christmas, we'd have to navigate carefully certain conversational shoals. Even if I warned everyone ahead of time that he'd been ill (the true and most effective tack) they could, in all innocence, still poke at sore points: "So Mike, where' you from? The west coast? Oh, where are you staying in New York? What do you do?"
   Then there was the question of public notice of his whereabouts. Would creditors show up?  (Lest there be any doubt, let it be said again that in the end, everyone got paid in full.)   For the moment, then, we decided he should lie low. Also, he had no one but me to talk to and nowhere constructive to go. So one afternoon when I came home from a meeting, he was playing backgammon on the computer with someone in Israel ("language: Hebrew") and was in despair. 
   The apartment was depressing, he said. 
    It was winter; the sky, a dull grey which underscored the grimness of the surrounding municipal buildings, particularly the jail.
   "When we live together we're going to have standing lamps that reflect off the ceiling."  We were already living together, but he insisted it was not living, but existing; he thought of it as Purgatory until we moved to a sustainable community.         I told him about light deprivation depression which I'd had for years until I read of it and learned that other people had it too. 
   Initially, coming home to him had been like having ET in the closet, known only to me and a handful of others.  But that fantasy dissolved in the recognition that without a vibrant, full-fledged, openly acknowledged life, my secret friend would die.

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