[Harp-L] Subject: Chris Michalek as I knew him....

I didn't know Chris all that well at first, although I loved his posts on  
Harp-l. From the beginning I caught on to the fact that he was half-kidding 
when  he provoked people into responding. It was his way of 'Raising the  
Bar' both musically and in playing harmonica, and I found it astonishing  when 
some people took offence ...not recognizing the genuine and quite  gentle 
spirit which lay behind his Agent Provocateur persona.
Upon our first SPAH meeting he let loose with a string of real profanities, 
 telling me those were the names his wife called him, which left me  
breathless with laughter as I could not remotely imagine that sweet, lovely girl  
using those words. He then laughed and admitted he wanted to see my 
reaction. I  guess I passed his test. I'd break up every time we ran into each other 
for the  rest of that convention, as he'd quietly mutter the same long 
two-word 'curse'  while nodding and reiterating 'yes, she calls me that'. I 
laughed all through  that SPAH. I thought his personality delightful and not 
remotely acerbic.
Later I decided I had to order some Buddha harps during a long recovery  
period from a shoulder injury. The time was right, and they were my  
birthday/Christmas present that year. It took Chris a while to get them to  me since 
I initially suggested he should put his gigging customers ahead  of me 
because I was certainly in no rush. He took me at my  word..to the point even I 
began to worry a bit. Then he redid them completely  because he didn't feel 
they were exactly right, going so far as to involve  a Reiki healer because 
he explained they should fit and suit ME and help me  get better. 
I never quite knew if he was 'having me on' or if I should just smile and  
accept. I smiled and went along. One tended to do that with Chris. I 
thoroughly  enjoyed the several back and forth emails we exchanged, talking about 
his life,  his dogs, his love for cooking ...and Laurie. Yes, his avocation 
was music and  he surely loved his dogs, but how his voice changed when he 
talked about cooking  for 'my lady' and in the descriptions he posted below 
her photos on his facebook  page spoke more to me about the person that was 
Chris Michalek than anything  else. His wife was the shining star in his life.
When my 4 Buddha harps arrived they were unplayable much to my surprise and 
 disappointment. Chris was unperturbed, suggesting I send them back for  
regapping. Since SPAH 2009 was in the offing, I decided to bring them there  
instead. He then took an inordinate amount of time with me, gapping them just 
 for my particular embouchure (a severe TMJ problem which affects my 
ability to  play). Chris was calm and patient, resetting the reeds until they 
finally held.  The instruments are stunning.
During that particular SPAH I found myself outside one day in pain, in  
tears and physically unable to climb the outside stairs to my 2nd floor room  
with my heavy bag (harps, cameras, etc.) Jason had found me sitting at a 
table  in distress and offered to help but I'd sent him away after a 
while,knowing he  wanted to hear a particular performance then taking place. I waited 
until I  thought I could tackle the stairs, then began to force myself up 
them one at a  time. 'Someone' reached over me, picked up my bag and simply 
hefted it up the  stairs without a word. Chris Michalek. He already had 
something in his other  hand but had noticed me struggling and didn't think twice 
about helping. He  brushed off my thank yous. I'll never forget that.
Later on in time we had a slight disagreement about a mutual friend. Our  
approaches differed. It didn't change my respect for him as a person. I 
always  knew he meant well and his heart was involved in helping his friend. We 
simply  looked at it from two differing points of view. This preceded this 
past SPAH,  2010, yet he specifically introduced me to Laurie, who was just as 
lovely in  person as I'd seen from her photos on his facebook page. 
We all talk about Chris the harmonica player and customizer, but her loss  
is immense. Adoring husband and partner, and from some of the names I've  
seen on his facebook page, brother too. I'm not sure many of us know Chris  in 
his private life other than the few who had the privilege to know his 
family  and spend time at his home. Zhin has written about this on facebook,  
with a video showing some of his time spent there learning at the feet of the  
Master. This is a loss felt very deeply by so many of the 'younglings' who 
saw  Chris as a brilliant mentor as well. 
I'm still floundering..hoping it's a Michalek joke and he's off beginning  
another version of Buddha's Garden somewhere, ready to pop up with a 'hey  
guys, joke's on you!'.
I'm still so hoping... 
If only...

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