I got to know a lot about him in that first encounter.
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I learned, for example, that he was two years older than me, almost to the day: I was born on February 17, ; he was born on February 23, I also learned that he hailed from Massachusetts, and was a rabid Boston Red Sox fan. Back then, that was almost a non-starter for me. After all, I was and remain a New York Yankees fanatic. We jousted and dueled over the Curse of the Bambino , and argued about who really deserved the American League MVP for the baseball season: And, I argued, no man was more valuable to that team than Guidry, who had pitched back-to-back two-hit shutouts against Boston down the stretch, and won the deciding extra rd game of the season, enabling the Yanks to advance to the AL Championship series against the Kansas City Royals, and ultimately to win their second straight World Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Michael was going on and on about Rice's hitting.
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But that homer lifted the Yanks ahead for good. I guess Michael was still a little bitter. Even this diehard Yankees fan reveled in Boston's loss that year! Oh was it fun locking horns with Michael on these issues. Animated baseball disagreements aside, it was clear that Michael and I had a lot in common; we were both avid fans of Ayn Rand, devoted readers of Nathaniel Branden, extremely interested in politics and culture, lovers of film and of music from jazz to progressive rock.
All he had to say was that he had seen my favorite jazz pianist Bill Evans perform live, and that he had fallen in love with the emotional depth of his music, and I just knew that there was something very special about this man. Over time, our friendship deepened; he'd tell me about some trouble he was having with a girl he was dating, I'd tell him about my own dating woes; we talked about our families, our friends, our goals, our triumphs, and our tragedies.
He had extraordinary qualities about him; he was perceptive, intelligent, gentle, kind, compassionate, and had a great sense of humor. By holiday time in December, that sense of humor manifested itself on both sides of the baseball divide. Such was the nature of our developing affection for one another.
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He had taken a waiter's job at the Cheese Cellar on East 54th Street in Manhattan , which became a regular stop for me and my family. The waiter's service was terrific, I might add. As he got to know my jazz guitarist brother Carl and jazz vocalist sister-in-law Joanne, and saw them perform at so many jazz clubs in Manhattan, loving their music, he eventually offered to do a website for them as he would eventually develop my own website all for free.
But something was troubling him deeply, early in that first semester, as the class with Kirzner continued. I'm paraphrasing the conversation from memory, but it went something like this. He said to me: You just have a way about you.
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It's in your walk. It's never timid, but it's not overbearing. It's just the walk of a man comfortable in his own body, walking purposefully to his destination, wherever that might be. The way you walk is a bit of an inspiration to me. I just don't walk that way. I don't feel that way inside. I'd never even given a second thought to the way I walked. And here, my friend was telling me that there was something in my walk that inspired him, and that made him focus on the things that he felt he lacked. He had attended weekend Intensives in New York run by Nathaniel Branden and his wife Devers Branden, and felt that they had tapped into something that needed greater attention.
I was no professional, but I was becoming a very dear and trusted friend. I tried to help him through it, with long phone conversations into the wee hours, but he seemed stuck, unable to get through a term paper for Kirzner's class.
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It was then that he made a momentous decision that I figured spelled the end of a friendship; he decided he was too overwhelmed by the course, that something deeper was at work, and that he needed help. His Work and Legacy ":. To my surprise, Michael and I never lost touch.
He was in therapy with Nathaniel Branden, and making strides. Every so often, we'd speak, not so much about the details of his therapy, but more about how he was challenging himself to keep moving.
Sometimes a month would pass, or two, and he'd call, and it was as if the last conversation had occurred only an hour ago; we picked up where we left off, never missing a beat. And during this period, as I faced my own trials and tribulationswith everything from relationships to my health problems an outgrowth of a congenital intestinal condition he was as present and tuned-in to me, as I was to him. This was never a one-way street; the friendship that I thought would be lost by distance, had intensified. And the feeling that he was a "brotha from another mutha" only deepened.
It was clear that we loved one another as only brothers couldsomething that geographic distance did nothing to alter. As Michael explained in that wonderful essay of his, he was able to work through so many of his problems; he credited Nathaniel Branden and Devers Branden with saving years of his life. He'd go back to school to earn a master of science in management from Lesley College and a master of science in information systems from Boston University.
As a technology specialist, he did wonderful work for Fortune companies. Through all the years, our friendship only grew. In fact, he was a member of the JARS family from its beginnings in , as we unveiled the website on the day that our first issue was published.
He was never so far away, however, that he didn't participate once or twice in my cyberseminars on "Dialectics and Liberty. There were bumps along the waythough never between us. His marriage didn't work out, his work took him out of New York again, and his interests, especially in the history of the Holocaust, took him to other countries. But again, geographic distance never seemed to interfere with our friendship. Eventually, he came back to the states, and his software expertise gave him many job opportunities, including business with a company in Detroit, Michigan, where he worked for several years.
Indeed, his software expertise was certainly highly valued by JARS; the two of us worked hard in as he created a brand spanking-new website for the journal, which made its debut with the Nathaniel Branden symposium, to which he contributed that enormously revealing and enlightening essay. In many ways, writing that essay was, for Michael, a catharsis of sorts; while it served the greater symposium's purpose of understanding the work and legacy of Branden, it also served as a profoundly personal statement of how Michael stood up courageously to the challenges he faced. It was a commitment to a life of promise, of so much more to come.
Immediately after the debut of the new JARS site and the publication of our Branden symposium, Michael began working on a prototype to finally revamp my website, which, he said, "embarrassed" him because he'd become so much more sophisticated in his software development. We had so many plans for so many projects.
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But, of course, life always seemed to get in the way of smooth transitions. As my own health problems became more difficult to bear, he spent as many hours on the phone with me in , as I had spent on the phone with him in , except that now, we both knew each other so well that we could complete each other's sentences, anticipate each other's thoughts.
Thirty-five-plus years will do that.
We last spoke in early September about the website and a few other issues; Lord knows, we still had our differences with regard to sports teams though I was enough of a good sport to congratulate him back in , when his Red Sox finally beat the Yankees, and went on to win their first World Series since We even had developed a few political differences. But nothing ever affected our mutual love, admiration, and respect for one another. When I'd call him on the phone, he'd answer "Chris! There was always joy in his voice when he heard mine on the other end of the phone. And if I needed to cry because of a slew of unending medical or personal problems, the gentility with which he treated me was just the medicine I needed.
We last corresponded on September 11th. A few days passed by, and I hadn't heard back from him, so I wrote him again. I figured he was busy or traveling, but it was unlike him not to reply to an email. So on the weekend of September 23rd, I called him on both his personal and business lines and left voice mail. It was comforting to hear his voice, even if it was automated, telling callers to leave a message.
So I left messages. And still, no reply. She told me to give her a call. I knew that this meant something had happened to Michael; maybe he was in a hospital.