The first time I saw him Michael was a square smiling face tending to the other customers in Toad Hall in the middle of the day. He was husky with a natural masculinity. His father was a blue collar worker in the aerospace industry in Southern California who built the house Michael as raised in in Downey California and second house on top of a hill in the foothills near Mariposa, California where he lived until he died. We jokingly referred to him as Archie Bunker. Michael’s mother died of cancer when he was twelve. I was fairly new in town and expected Michael’s home would look like the ones I saw when I went home with men with a fair share of second hand furniture. Michael’s home was originally a garage and his living room was furnished with a green stripped silk chaise longue that evoked a grander time. The big window in his living room was a series of glass shelves all of them lined with crystal stemware that glowed from top to bottom. The kitchen floor was bricks set in sand and Michael made magnificent meals using a three burner green antique stove and an ancient sink with a wooden sloping side. Michael appreciated craftsmanship and the finer things in life. Who was I to argue?
In the life we built over the course of eighteen years we collected and used the finer things like the silver I inherited and some we found at flea markets and home shows. We brought back to life the wood panel walls and coffered ceilings in our flat on the top floor of a three flat Edwardian built around 1911. We turned a bathroom with tub and crummy washstand into a tiled shower room with a trompe l’oeil ceiling in keeping with the taste of the original owner. We ate extremely well because Michael was a natural with food, not only did the meals he prepared taste delicious but they looked perfect on a plate. When we entertained we always served Champaign. I couldn’t have asked for a finer life.
Last night my best friend, I call Michael Two, came to dinner and I got out the good silver and two Champaign flutes, one that was part of a pair I bought in Amsterdam just after meeting Michael as a souvenir of my trip and the other from the trip on the Orient Express that Michael gave me as a Christmas present. I prepared a dinner of broiled salmon with an acorn squash and a salad of endive and blue cheese with a tangerine, my take on a Michael meal. It’s the first time since Michael died in 1994, that I’ve gotten out the finer things and made a meal worthy of Michael. Honoring his memory was good for my soul.