Thursday, October 18, 2012

FTT Off-Topic: The Measure Of A Man

As always with FTT O-T, not entirely about sports and if that offends, move along.

Today, we learned that Andy Reid's son, Garrett, died of an accidental heroin overdose when he passed a couple of months ago. Now, I'm not sure what an on-purpose heroin overdose would look like, but there's no reason to really spend more time on this life. The younger Reid made a series of bad choices, and found one of the worst things that anyone can find, really. He was 27, and while you and I might feel bad for his family, the only takeaway is, well, what a waste. From all accounts, people were made worse for knowing him. I don't know of a more damning thing to say about a person, really.

Someone else that you don't know who battled some poor choices to a very different outcome, a friend of mine who lived in California, passed this weekend, following a long battle with ill health. Mike was about 5 to 10 very hard years older than me (the man enjoyed life, very often by the can), someone I have maybe seen twice in the last 15 years, and yet incredibly influential. Back when music was analog and expensive, Mike was a friend who I'd used to go visit during college spring break, as he lived in Florida and was also in my baseball fantasy league. We'd go to games, and then I'd go through his library of nearly a thousand albums, many of them fantastic, and tape to my heart's content. Many of them were wildly important to my development as a music fan, and eventually, a songwriter. Thanks to Mike, I learned why the Rolling Stones were more than the overplayed radio hits, how Frank Zappa was the end of music (and what an end), who Mott the Hoople was, why Zeppelin and Pink Floyd were better on bootleg, and how dozens of lesser-known artists were well worth my time.

Mike had two conversational callbacks that he'd rely on, and out of context, both sounded like fighting words... and yet, never were. The first, he would use when he disagreed with you, whether it was about music or politics or whatever. He'd simply fix you with his clear eyes, filled with the knowledge and certainty and twinkle of humor that he was about to infuriate you, and say...

Your Opinion Is Wrong

Now, the really nice thing about Mike was that while he could argue with you for years, really, he never made *you* wrong -- just your opinion about whatever it was that he disagreed with. He'd rarely, at least with me, lose his cool or composure about your wrong opinion; he'd simply note its existence, like a prehensile tail, and give you, perhaps, a small note of sympathy for how you had acquired it. This made him, improbably, both impossible to argue with, and actually kind of fun to argue with. He showed me how to disagree without being disagreeable, a talent I need to acquire, over and over again. Honestly, the man had some kind of magic to him.

The second conversational trope was limited to music, of which Mike was, honestly, an expert. He had the gift of listening, to the point where he could turn you on to bands and artists that he knew you'd like, and was inevitably right about whatever it was that he sent your way. And if you liked a band that he did not, you'd get the simple declarative of...

You'll Grow Out Of It

And, well, inevitably he was right. But I never grew out of liking the man. A lot.

He leaves behind a very good woman, some very good kids, and many grateful people for the time that he spent with us.

The planet is worse for his absence. And there's no bigger compliment that I can give to a person.

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