This is going to be an extremely personal post – feel free to chuckle at the pictures and keep scrolling past if you wish.
I met Mike Sabin at the top of a tree, at the edge of a forest, in the dead of night. No, that isn’t an invention, and embellishment, or an exaggeration. It was my Senior Year at a small private school near Cleveland. Mike arrived late, about a week or so into the year and he recognized me from the summer previous. We had both collaborated in the March for Jesus, playing music and leading worship as we marched from one end of the city to the next. In this new place, I was the only familiar face to him, so he introduced himself.
I don’t have pleasant memories of high school, but one of the things I always found the most abhorrent was the yearly ritual – a few weeks back to school and the entire high school would be packed up and shipped out to a camp for a three or four day retreat. This time of August, The end of summer and early fall was a peak time for my teenage allergies. That combined with the fact that I’ve never been the outdoorsy type – writing, drawing, acting, shredding my electric guitar… These are all activities better accomplished inside. To this day I don’t camp.
That night, someone had the great idea to do a variation on capture the flag that the flags in this case, being the senior class (WTF BTW?) The underclassmen would endeavor to capture as many seniors as possible, and the class who grabbed the most would win. Mike and I took off into the night. There was a rule against going much more than three or four feet into the woods.
That rule however, said nothing about altitude.
We dashed into the edge of the forest, found a pair of trees and began to climb. As we suspected, people came out to look for us, passing right underneath us. No one ever looked up. It’s a strange way to bond with another person, and unusual way to start a friendship but from thereon we were inseparable.
We shared the same macabre sense of humor, had similar tastes in music and comic books. We had similar spiritual philosophies and had read the same books. We would hold appalling conversations just loud enough to freak out eavesdroppers – this was a favorite activity for passing the time waiting in line at amusement parks . Mike helped to bring me out of my shell a bit, to suppress some of my more introvert tendencies and be more social. Perhaps it was still just the introvert finding ways to pretend to be an extrovert – I’ve always been good at that. If you can drop me in the middle of a social situation without the work and small talk of getting to the center of the event, I’m fine, and Mike was good at that. Possibly the only person other than Johnny Em who could really accomplish it.
Mike and I were on out senior trip in Chicago and we went out to buy blades together in Chinatown. He found a beautiful butterfly knife while I acquired a charming Spanish short sword that’s still hangs above my fireplace to this day.
He got me going back into the toy isle. I was in high school and hadn’t checked out that part of the store in a long while. He showed me that collecting action figures was still part of being into comics and there is nothing unusual about an 18-year-old scouring that toy isle to try and find that elusive Gambit or Rogue figure
He was there when I met Robert Picardo, the doctor from Voyager. Heck, he took the photo. It was his first Star Trek convention and it was an experience – we both had enormous fun that day, it may have on the first time that I’ve actually gone to one of these events with somebody else. He made me promise not to tell his mom how much he spent on that yellow uniform.
When we geared up to shoot Icarus’ Flight, he was there front and center, ready to go. It was a blow when he left for Washington, his role was one of the main characters and even when Mike Brown filled the empty slot on the cast, Sabin’s character was missed. He managed to get back though and filmed so many guest shots that his name ended back up on the title credits for the last couple seasons.
I can’t even begin to remember how many nights I spent in the upstairs apartment above the funeral home, frequently just us, just as frequently one or two other people. I was at his house the night I first saw Evil Dead… that and the second one – He didn’t have Army of Darkness. I stayed up late that night as he fell asleep. There was that night right after graduation, there were four of us – his brother and his girlfriend along with me. We played Mortal Kombat 2 all night going round robin until the sun came up.
Mike introduced me to the Feve, one of my favorite places in the world, where the best Buffalo wings ever were made. We would pile up pillows in the front window and sit there, him and me and Dan – later on me and John and Sammy. The place has change a lot today, but that old dive coffee house and bar still shows up in my novels – brick and grime and dark, just like it used to be.
When The Crow first came out in theatres, we were there. Mike actually skipped out on a driving test so that he could be there and I ditched work. When Mike Brown and I went to see City of Angels, Sabin had already departed for the West Coast, and we noted how keenly he was missed that night.
Mike and I formed a band with another person – it never went anywhere, we weren’t exactly the rousing success we hoped to be but we wrote a lot of depressing music and sung our hearts out.
Then there was that terrifying night, turning onto East Bridge Street, going under the overpass when the guy in the motor cycle – no headlight, slammed into the car. One inch further back and I would have been dead. An inch further up and the other passenger (Josh? I don’t think it was Dan or Jerrod) and they would have been dead. The bike skittered away and the rider was thrown onto the street, landing face up. The rider was a bloody mess, blood pouring from his ears, nose and eyes. I lept from the car and sprinted the two blocks down to Mike Brown’s house to get help – his mother was a nurse. She brought a blanket help with the shock and called for an ambulance.
The biker with no helmet actually brought a civil case against Mike after he left for the Seattle area, his lawyers had to pay to fly Mike back out this direction, we got time to visit with him in between testimonies – the case eventually got thrown out of court. The biker was clearly in the wrong
There were evenings full of talking stretching late in the the night or morning, even if it was just in the cold of the fire escape behind the funeral home. It was an age where anything could happen, and we could solve the entire world’s problems in two hours discussion if only the they would just listen.
He got me in over at the Chronicle Telegram and there were long nights at the newspaper working together. He saved my fourth graphic novel – one of the most esoteric pieces I’ve ever written down. That night I was so frustrated that I threw the manuscript in the air and stormed off. He stayed behind, grabbing every page and rescued the book. I don’t know that it was worth the care he took in saving it, but that’s not really what he was trying to rescue now was it?
There was that brilliant New Year’s Eve flanked by Billie and Jerrod watching the fireworks go off in North Ridgeville for first night.
Mike faked my death once.
I kid you not.
The thing about guy relationships, is that they don’t exactly end. They just get put on hold. You can not see each other for days, weeks hell, years but once you’re back in the same room you pick up as if nothing had happened – right where are you left off . These days, a lot of distance separates me from my oldest friends… And I let it happen. I let them vanish and and scatter to the corners of the earth… and all but a couple stubbornly refused to quite fade into the past. And I should hang on harder, but a big part of me just doesn’t quite know how – there’s the introvert talking again.
I flew across the country to Washington to stand up for Mike at his wedding. His father and I stood next to each other and hid handkerchiefs up our sleeves to deal with the tears. A couple years later he flew back to Cleveland did the same for me. I had three bachelor parties, he was at two of them – There was a quiet dinner that Johnny Em and Mike threw at Houlihans, then another was a night of laser tag and multi player first person shooters at the nightclub I was working at. The very night before my wedding there was our final role-playing game night, an Earthdawn campaign.
As we left for the church, I was driving us all in my car and Mike leaned up between the seats and asked if I was sure I knew what I was doing. He then suggested that we could always turn this car around and head straight up to Canada.
He gave me a short Katana for a wedding gift. It’s still sharp, one of the few Battle ready swords in my collection.
Mike got stuck with the runaway bridesmaid. That’s why, if you look in my wedding pictures, he enters the Church with one girl, but then enters the reception hall with a diffrent one. Not that it wasn’t perfectly appropriate for him to show up to the same event with multiple women….
My wedding was last time I saw him.
We occasionally spoke on the phone, we would touch base on Facebook. He drifted into some things that I feared were dangerous for him (and when I say dangerous, those who know us realize I’m talking about paranormal, spiritual and the like) and hanging around some people wern’t great for him and I told him so. In the end, it seems all that was a phase, and in a lot of ways he got his life back on track but by that time we were talking a lot less. That may be my fault.
I knew he was sick. Hell, I knew he’d been in the hospital around Christmas – it was scary, but then it was like it just passed and he was back to normal that effervescent personality, sneaking down to the sushi place, posting a few pictures and cracking silly jokes.
How did I let you get away from me? I was just thinking about you this weekend I watched that indie version of the crow – thinking how much you would love this that remembering that night we went to see the original. It wasn’t that long ago that we were just talking to some of the current funeral home personnel about your dad – his name is still on a ton of the records there. I almost think I’m living your life… Because when we were younger I was sure you were the one who is going to grow up, find a successful career, get married and have kids. And I was certain I wouldn’t live past 30.
And that’s the thing… why this is hard for me, why I’m having a difficult time finding closure here. I may have hit forty this year, but as far as that relationship goes, I’m still 23. We’re still 23…and you’re not supposed to die yet God damn it!
There’s a moment in Aria #3 that captures it. I feel adrift at a Faerie funeral.
There are only about four people throughout my life that I could truly refer to as my best friends. You know who you are. Three of you now.
This blog will go dark for the rest of the week.