I sit here and stare at my notes in wonder of how I can work “dwarf tossing, midget wrestling, and prison rodeos” into this piece. Michael Logan admits he’s probably not the most politically correct person to interview. But he has lived a colorful life.
He and I had a project to work on last weekend – an undisclosed venture that took about eight hours to complete in his backyard. When I first asked if I could buy him lunch for #52in52, he let me know he’d love to, but he was on a raw fruits and veggies diet. Michael has had terminal cancer for as long as I’ve known him – about six years now.
I ran to the grocery store and bought a cantaloupe, watermelon, and honeydew. I figured it was summery enough for it. I texted Michael that I had a nice set of melons for him and hit the highway toward Midwest City.
Michael opened on me with a tough one: “Where do you see the Democratic Party in twenty years?”
I didn’t know. Eight years ago I would have never seen the Democratic Party where it is now.
Michael is a progressive with fiscal conservative tendencies. He considers himself an isolationist. He thinks big industry and the rich get too many tax breaks. He sees an increasing polarization in America that sometimes makes him worry a revolution is coming in the next few decades. “I’m really afraid for the world,” he said as we lamented the current American political climate.
Michael’s family had an “American Dream” kind of life growing up. Mom stayed home and cared for the kids. The boys were hunters and fishers, enjoying camping in the woods and bringing goodies home from their travels.
His grandma did some of the caretaking and was a big fan of home remedies. Michael was once bitten by a rattlesnake, which Grandma treated by stabbing it with an ice pick and covering it in raw deer liver. He remembers taking turpentine and sugar a few times as well – apparently a cure for worms.
“What happened to the American Dream?” Michael asked, noting that it has become more and more difficult for families with lower income to live a comfortable life.
Michael spoke of the old days when classes like Home Economics were mandatory and important. Boys took Shop, too. The kids even learned etiquette and dance in a class called Cotillion. It was a different type of world then. Michael says that over the last few years, certain things he feels he’s known for his whole life have all started to click into place.
We talked politics – about how some folks vote against their own best interests. Some jobs, like coal mining and manufacturing, are unlikely to ever return to America. We’re a technologically advanced first world country that has grown accustomed to a certain way of life. Yet some still cling to the hope that these fading occupations will return – rather than pick up new skills and adapt to a rapidly-changing economy. “How do we reach them?” Michael asked me, “You have to modify a person’s thinking to modify their behavior.”
“Retirement has spoiled me.” Michael says he has the luxury of doing what he wants when he wants. His wife Peggy was out playing penny-a-point Gin with her sisters while he and I worked in the backyard.
Michael is a hobbyist like myself – we both have our hobby-hopping ways. He is also a talented musician who recalls cutting up pieces by Bach and Handel with scissors as a young man to make new music for jam sessions with friends.
Michael is a connoisseur of coffee and loves his Keurig. His preference is espresso, but he says he drinks Cain’s regularly – making it as thick as chocolate syrup. Michael used to be a chef. He still is, but not in restaurants anymore. He and I have spent plenty of time comparing notes and kitchen experiments. He will soon be making candy out of a capsaicin oil I drew out of Carolina Reaper peppers.
Michael has some of the most incredible food stories – like eating live blue lobsters in sushi rolls or mashed-up beetles in tacos. The beetles tasted like Hall’s cough drops, he remembered.
I met Michael early on after the Retro Gamers Society first started up. He’s been a gamer most of his life. He even remembers hauling hay at 3¢ a bale to buy his first Atari video game console. He loved the arcade, too – often playing LSD-fueled bouts on Tempest for hours or days at a time. Michael isn’t shy about the drug use in his past – it adds a whole other layer of color to many of his best stories.
When Michael and I first began chatting online, we connected almost immediately. He was one of my most prominent and sarcastic hecklers as the gaming group was still trying to figure out what it was and whether we wanted to rely on Facebook or our own messageboard system. But beyond gaming, we had something else in common – trading chemotherapy stories.
Something few people know about me –something I’ve long kept sort of quiet– is a battle I fought at just 18 years old. That photo is my senior picture from the Catoosa High School 2003 yearbook. Look at that incredible head of hair!
I spent New Year’s Eve of 2003 into the first morning of 2004 in a Tulsa emergency room after a long-haul ride home from a vacation in Ohio. I had grown cripplingly ill over the course of a few days and doctors feared the worst. After lots of tests and scans, the diagnosis came back just over a week later. I had testicular cancer and would need surgery, chemotherapy, and more surgery. By the end of the summer they gave me a clean bill of health and the real recovery began. I built back my muscle mass. My memory slowly improved. I started back to college.
Through all of it, I gained a keen understanding of just how problematic the healthcare system in America can be.
Michael and Peggy lost a lot of their livelihood due to the expense of his chemotherapy treatments. They had to sell their house on a short sale. They gave up their retirement savings. Michael always has and still does believe that socialized healthcare is the solution to the bankrupting crisis that plagues America. And he even admits that sometimes that means the oldest and sickest won’t get the same level of care as those who are younger. For example, Michael could use a new heart. “Give the heart to the ten-year-old,” he said.
It was nearing dark when Michael and I wrapped up our outdoor project. We only cleared through the honeydew melon, but I left the others for Peggy and him. As usually happens when I leave Michael’s house, I had picked up a new skill set that he carefully but casually taught me. I’ve learned a lot from him, be it woodworking or some more indulgent hobbies involving food or drink. He’s a great teacher with a lot of information to pass along.
When I met Michael six years ago, I didn’t know how long he’d be with us. But he has defied the odds. And I’m thankful for that. He’s had a huge impact on my life – and Aimee’s as well.
With any hope, that will continue.
I know I still have a lot to learn from him.