[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
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...
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