He definitely tops the list of people I would love to run into again on Thayer St. and chat with for an hour. I don't remember what sort of Kevin Bacon Game shortcut was the original connection between Mike and me, but we hung out now and then during the first 2-3 years at Brown. Mike's study was his passion was his forte was his life, and seeing someone that interested that early on in the bigger picture--world affairs that I never cared to pay attention to until my late 20's--is truly impressive. Besides the bounce in his step and the infectious laugh, what I enjoyed about Mike what that he was not above having the truly sophomoric dialogue (initiated and spurred on by me of course) about his other passions: U2 and khaki pants. I remember incurring his wrath once by claiming "U2's lyrics were pretentious and that pound for pound, even Soundgarden was a more interesting band". Needless, he debated his side masterfully. Or when someone pointed out that he sure did love his birkenstocks and khaki pants, he countered with a fantastic schpiel about how khakis were the best thing since sliced bread, so good that he even preferred sleeping in khakis to sleeping in pajamas. I could never keep pace with the academic side of him, but it never mattered. He was willing to talk and laugh about such a wide variety of things, and whenever necessary, humour the sophomore in me. Good memories of a great guy.
I don’t quite remember how Michael and I first met, but I have a vivid memory of my first argument/exchange with him. No, it wasn’t about Afghanistan or Iraq, IR theory or grad school, or any other obvious topic of mutual interest - we argued about Whole Foods and their outlandish prices! He purchased his groceries from there and we (my fiance, Tracey, and I) didn’t, and so Michael was determined to get me to change my ways and to start eating “better quality, healthier” food. It never quite worked (I still shop at Stop&Shop!), but it did start something of a non-academic dialogue between us. Michael was large yet attentive, humble: he had spent way more time than I in England for his studies, he knew way more people, sights, and cultures there than I ever did, yet he let me carry on with my platitudes about the place with all the inviting charms of a genuinely curious listener. Not too long before finishing his stint at Watson - over a delicious Japanese dinner at Koji Masutani’s apartment - he asked Tracey what she thought of me potentially going back to Iran for my research. It took me a while to realize the question was meant to be rhetorical: as Tracey approached what must have been her fiftieth reason for why I “should not even dream” about perhaps spending a few weeks doing research “there” Michael turned to me, wine in hand, and said “at least I know you’ll be eating healthier dishes there - no preservatives!” I must have seen Michael a couple of more times after that evening but I missed his farewell party right before he left for Afghanistan; I last heard from him just after the ISA conference in San Francisco when a mutual friend of ours from London sparked an e-mail exchange to which, much to my regret now, I never had the chance to respond. What a pity, what a jolt. We weep, dear friend, mourning ourselves in your absence.
Images from Michael's article in the Globalist http://www.theglobalist.com/StoryId.aspx?StoryId=6416
When I first arrived at Brown (as a community college transfer), I met Michael because of a random email that he sent me. He informed me of a course that he was teaching and asked me if I would like to take the class. Unfortunately, I had a full course load. That didn't matter much in my mind. I was genuinely impressed with Michael's happy and warm demeanor. I asked if I could come by and chat with him from time to time and he agreed. On one occasion, he took me out to lunch and had a heart to heart conversation with me. He spoke to me about life, education, and possible career paths. I still remember him in his mentor tone "Eric, don't worry about that right now, you've got to keep your grades up and you'll be fine..." Gosh, I wish he could see me now. I took all of his advice and I managed to survive Brown. It is people like Michael who really help the young and motivated achieve all sorts of new things. I miss him dearly because he was such a great person. He was always wiling to listen and he was someone you wanted to listen to. I hope that his family is doing well.
A man who took the struggle for human dignity very seriously, Michael was remarkable for the joy, zest, and laughter that he brought to a room. He cared deeply for the well being of people in impossible situations, but brought humor and fun to the life of his colleagues and friends. Michael was as playful and hilarious as he was compassionate and loving. He was as accessible and good at connecting as he was brilliant and committed. He played with his whole heart, and lived life to the fullest. It was as inspiring to discuss his work as it was entertaining to get a drink with him. It was an honor to know him. And, he is dearly missed.
Fred is right. Mike and I compared notes on U2 every time we saw each other in college. I even went to my first stadium concert (U2 of course) with Mike. Before the concert we went to Medway, joked about our tickets. I nabbed seventh row with a single phone call. He had called all morning and got nosebleed seats. When we separated at the Foxboro gates, he waved, as I ran to my seat on the field. Later, he wasn't a bad sport about it; he joked as Mike would do. He asked me how I enjoyed the show. He reminded me that he'd basically seen it on TV, the stage and his seats were so, so distant from each other. Was that really U2 out there? he asked as he drove us all back to Providence. I also saw Weezer with him. A great concert companion, he the translated what would become classic Weezer lyrics for me: "It's nothin' real, so I better keep a-whackin'". But seriously, Mike and I reconnected by email in late August 2007 when I was living in Sierra Leone, and he was leaving his post at the Watson Institute. I had become interested in writing about conflict zones, and we were bonding over our academic approaches to the topic. We promised we would meet up and talk when we were both back in the states. We never did. My last conversation with a very close friend was about Mike. We worried about what he was doing in Afghanistan. Could either of us do it? No, I decided. His choice to do so was highly contested, but I hope that we can understand his work with the human terrain project as a choice he made in good conscience and with great expectations about the lives he could save. Mike, rest in peace.
He was a U2 fanatic. I remember Adia Benton coming to our room, and this Olympic runner in training from Ireland, and everyone just comparing notes on U2. They'd analyze lyrics and everything....
i lived with Mike for only one year -- sophomore year at Buxton, Brown's "international house." But sharing a room with him was truly a highlight of my Brown experience. He was as fun and kind as he was smart. We stayed up late talking and distracting each other, and he introduced me to some great music, Grant Lee Buffalo was a favorite of his and quickly became a favorite of mine. We went to a couple of concerts together and shared horror stories from the relationship arena. I didn't keep in touch because I assumed we'd cross paths, us both being Boston boys. He was a great dancer, high energy and driven without being unapproachable. Always smiling and personable. A lovely man. The world has lost a hero.