Part 3 — In the wake of my best friend’s death recently, I’ve been trying to walk myself back through our many years of friendship and companionship, sharing short summaries of significant phases while highlighting a few stories along the way. Believe me, you will hear more stories yet.
Austin escapades through the early and mid-80s notwithstanding, Mike was settling into his new home city of Dallas. He resumed his longtime habit of driving out into the country outside of whatever city he lived in and started exploring the grasslands of North Texas. On one such drive, he spotted a lone buffalo in a field quite a ways from the fence. Grabbing his camera and a beer and hopping the fence, he wandered closer, hoping to get a better photo of the beast. He was sitting about halfway out to the buffalo when a fellow in a pick-up truck rolled up out of nowhere, demanding to know what the hell he thought he was doing.
Without missing a beat but knowing he’d been caught, Mike said, “Well, I reckon I’m sitting here, drinking a beer, and hoping to get a photo of your buffalo.” Mike, ever the charmer, could say things like that and pull it off. Me, I’d’ve been hauled in for trespassing.
He took to driving sports cars — even sporting a bumper sticker on one that said “LSD turned me into a Business Executive.” That one got him some good stares on the Dallas freeways. As usual, he adapted to his adopted surroundings and found places of note and interest.
One such place of interest that Mike discovered in Dallas was Poor David’s Pub, longtime haven for great music, and thus a natural draw for Mike. That’s where he met Janie. The way she described it recently, she looked over at this guy next to her and thought he looked cute. When she headed up to the bar the next time, she offered to pick up something for him. “But I did not buy him a beer like he always said — I made him give me some money before I went up there.”
As they got to know each other, Mike told he kept having the feeling that somewhere, somehow, their lives had a likely overlap. They shared a ton of common interests, including specific musicians and bands, and had so many similar experiences along the way, it was almost unbelievable they had not met before. There had to be some kind of overlap.
One day, Mike opened a drawer at his place and Janie spotted a Polaroid of our mutual friend, Mike Mullen (that’s right, yet another Mike). That’s how they discovered that the “overlap” was a someone. MacNaughton & I had met Mike Mullen back in our college days when he was still in high school. He would come up from San Antonio to visit us at Thistle for his own high-school escapades, much as I had visited his older brother, Neil, who had been my brother’s friend & roommate, back when those two shared the very same rent house. Well, it turns out that Janie went to a small college with Mike Mullen and had known him as part of a tight circle of friends for years.
This led into my initiation into the annual John Lennon Birthday Party tradition among her friends from Austin College. This was hosted every year by Mike Mullen, but never at his home —a good trick if you can work it! I wondered aloud early on, if that had been influenced by Nothing Strikes Back, the world’s only blacklight ice cream parlor, where John Lennon’s birthday, October 9, was our only official holiday. Janie insisted the tradition went way back so that was unlikely — but so did Mike Mullen’s history with NSB, and he did acknowledge that, indeed, our ice cream store holiday had been the inspiration for his annual celebration.
Having a friend in Dallas can be quite helpful if you’re flying and I could always count on McNaughton. In spring of 1989, I managed to miss my return flight from the Bay Area, not once but twice in the same afternoon (thanks, Marty–although I will admit it was worth it for the extra time to grab a couple of beers and visit longer with you). Running out of options with no funds or refunds available, I simply stood at the ticket counter looking pathetic until the guy put me on a flight to Dallas, saying it was the best he could do. I called Mike asking him to put me up for an unexpected overnight stay & morning ride to the airport to get me home in time for work the next day. Just another adventure along the way — with Mike as my mainstay support.
Another time either before or after that, I had a layover at DFW for a few hours, so Mike & Janie picked me up and whisked me away to nearby Lake Grapevine, where we had a relaxing visit at a lakeside picnic table, complete with munchies and beer. We even started scheming about setting up “Grapevine Getaways” for DFW travelers with long delays. Offer gourmet picnics with beer or wine and limo service away from and back to the airport in time for your connecting flight. Great idea — but it never happened, and with today’s airport security, it’s unlikely anyone could really pull it off.
Just another brilliant scheme from Mike that never quite materialized.
I often talk about how with close friends, time spent apart evaporates instantly when you see each other again. It’s as if your friend had just been in the other room and, smiling, re-entered to continue the conversation. That’s exactly how it always felt with Mike.
Well, I had thought to finish this series up with this post but, once again, I find myself overwhelmed with memories of my time with Mike to the point that every little sentence springboards me into another story. So, on that note, I will end this post.
To be continued…