Mike and I went AWOL in 1984. We had met a few years earlier, when he was an investigator with the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, working on economic crimes – antitrust, franchise and investment fraud and crooked doctor issues – and I was a Special Prosecutor working with the Attorney General on the same issues. Mike had too much snap to stay there, and eventually went on to complete his legal education and practice law. Hell, Mike had about as much snap as anyone I have ever met. His insight into anything was unbelievable. He saw everything as it really is, no exceptions. He was at the heart of any problem long before everyone else in the room had even read the précis.
He had special gifts and special training. His instincts had been honed way beyond razor sharp in the US Army Special Forces, two tours in Viet Nam. He never lost that edge. He was his own man, and from about 1983 until now, he has been my best friend, except for Belinda. He died years ago from cigarettes and cheeseburgers, but he and I still visit in my mind. I can see his face and hear his voice and have conversations with him in which he still shares his keen insights with me.
When he died, I thought I had lost my best friend, and it affected me greatly. I didn’t know that day when I was too overcome to finish what I had to say at his funeral that while we wouldn’t be drinking beer or running around together on our motorcycles anymore, we would remain active friends for the rest of my life. For the opening of that channel, I will be eternally grateful.
Mike’s sense of humor was very cynical. In my early days in Houston, when we were practicing law together and I could just walk down the hall and stick my head into his office, there were some moments and events that I still can’t recount with the comedic impact that occurred at the moment it happened. People from my Detroit, Michigan office would come to Houston from time to time on some work assignment for a client, one young lawyer in particular, and Mike and I would conduct tutorials on raising hell to commemorate the visit. The police used to come into the Cadillac Bar very late and bet on whether we would be able to ride our motorcycles out of the parking lot without getting killed. Those were the last great days of hell raising in Houston, before the fucking Yuppies wussified Texas. Now you can’t enjoy drunk driving anymore like you could back then. So a few people got killed. So fucking what. Everyone has to die from something. I remember one lawyer from Detroit, down for a working visit, who, at the last stop of the evening, was riding on the back of Mike’s bike from the Cadillac Bar to Sam’s Club (Sam’s Club the saloon, not Sam’s Club the discount store), fell off onto the parking lot gravel, right on his face, cutting himself up a bit. He got up, face bleeding and dirt stuck to his cuts and bruises, and marched himself up to the bar and ordered another drink – just standing there dirty and bleeding. The bartender refused to serve him until he went back into the men’s room and washed his face. God, those were fun days.
Women were his for the taking. He was just a walking mass of pure testosterone. Occasionally someone in our biker group would get all exercised because his girlfriend decided to go knock on Mike’s door and fuck his brains out. He would just remind them that she came knocking at his door, not the other way around. Once they had been with Mike, they weren’t going back to the poor bastard they had left.
You always had to keep up with the pace. It was often at 150 miles per hour on your motorcycle going down some highway racing some poor yuppie sumbitch driving his Porsche with his girlfriend in the right hand seat trying to outrun us and never being able to get us off a spot fifteen inches away from his left or right front fender no matter how fast he tried to drive. On any of those events we could have had the poor bastard’s girlfriend by the end of the encounter. Mike used to quip that we could always count on the poor bastard to back off at around 150 mph or so because that was probably the fastest he had ever driven in his life and he was afraid he might wreck his sports car. We would do the same thing with any car on the road, Corvette, Ferrari, Porsche, Mercedes, you name it. Nothing could ever outrun us. Mike used to joke that even if the damn car was inherently faster, if the driver runs out of balls, we win. That was a maxim we had both known all our lives. It’s the driver, stupid. That principle applied to how we try cases too. If you’ve been very close to death a number of times, it’s pretty hard to scare you any more. You can handle it. Most people can’t.
One of my early girlfriends here in Houston was a tall, artistic type of Tennessee country girl who thought sexual intimacy was just the best thing in the whole wide world. Every evening was like a hot dog eating contest. She would consume everything, leaving nothing untouched or unconsumed. She would be waiting at day’s end like a hungry lioness. One day I stuck my head into Mike’s office and told him that I needed a weekend out of town without having to win a gold medal in bed. He knew the situation and, of course, agreed at once that we would just take off for New Orleans and do a search and destroy mission. On these New Orleans trips we would leave Houston just before sunup and be sitting at the bar in Felix’s at lunch time. Lunch would be a couple dozen fresh oysters and a few very dry martinis, or, in Mike’s case, Budweiser. Then we would walk around the block to Mr. B’s for the main course and a few bottles of wine. Not this trip. When we went to check in at the hotel, my terminal velocity rack mounted wool driver girlfriend was sitting there in the lobby. Mike had invited her along on the trip and she had flown in. Lunch for me was late that day.
Mike’s take on all this was simply that they should be expected to want to make love all day every day. Hell, we had to do all the work. All they had to do is show up. No matter what we did or how we did it, we could never wear it out. He said it’s like a pig’s snout. It never wears out, no matter how much grubbing and rooting around the pig does. And, of course, he’s right. Hell, he’s always right.
Mike immediately sized up every situation and everyone, and he was always right on the mark, every time. We had a table at a window in a bar called The Bull on Duval Street in Key West. The bar owners were smart enough not to put any glass in any of the windows facing the street. We would enjoy the music and hustle the babes who were there as well as the babes walking down Duval Street. We always enjoyed chatting up new women. We could use all our old material over and over again that way. Aside from tourists, Key West’s population consists of artists, gays, body builders and junkies. And this amalgam of humanity would walk down Duval Street in front of our window, inviting comment, criticism, analysis, snide humorous remarks and seemingly detached commentary about the obvious charms of any woman we might find appealing. Touching any of the women would be epidemiological Russian Roulette, so we stopped at talking to them. We did this on every trip to Key West. It was how the evening started, right after we watched the sunset to bagpipe music.
One night a body builder type came parading down Duval Street right in front of our window, and he had this body builder walk and had pumped himself up and oiled his arms up so that he looked like people of his ilk are supposed to look when they are on display, with that on stage body builder movement. We had a field day remarking about what a perfectly ridiculous presentation of pseudo manhood he was. This pissed him off royally, and he launched himself at us through the window. We simply moved quickly out of the way of his lunge, and he went flying over the table and onto the floor on his face. We, of course, couldn’t catch our breath from laughing.
The fool’s name was Pooser, and we dubbed him Pooser The Boozer. Whatever his body may have looked like, it was obvious that similar improvement/enhancement efforts were not being directed to his intellect. He was dumb enough to challenge Mike to an arm wrestling match, and Mike quickly dispatched him, almost breaking the idiot’s wrist in the process. Mike, being the charitable soul that he truly is at heart, did bestow upon him a word of wisdom just before throwing him back out the window he flew in through. “You obviously can’t fight, and somebody’s gonna stick a knife in you if you don’t pull your head outa your ass.” With that we went back to ogling the babes parading past. But Pooser came back and wanted to join us for the evening. It was the most excitement he had ever had. Mike told him to forget about it.
I never saw Mike actually hit anyone. He didn’t have to. He had a way of giving a potential adversary a “look” that anyone could tell was the look of a person who didn’t care how a fight came out or who lived or died. The look also included a seemingly crazy little smile or snicker, like someone who loved pain and was looking forward to a seriously agonizing experience. I never saw anyone who experienced that “look” fail to move on, mumbling to himself in despair.
I had always hoped that Mike would become seriously interested in trying lawsuits and that he and I would become the ultimate trial team. I have often thought of reasons why that didn’t happen. There are several and they are all valid. He would have been the partner I would always be able to trust. There would be no mission that couldn’t be assigned to him with confidence. On the other hand, if that had come to pass, we might both be dead now and not just him. Whenever we were together, the throttle was always wide open. There was no such thing as normal speed, normal intensity, half way measures. The attitude was always that if we were here it was for the purpose of doing everything we could do as enthusiastically and aggressively as it could possibly be done. The attitude is illustrated in a story he once told me about coming out of the hospital after back surgery for a herniated disk. Two days later his unit was scheduled to practice jump. He wasn’t going to go on that one, but was asked why he was not chuted up for the jump. Explaining that he had just gotten out of the hospital from back surgery two days ago, he was asked “Sergeant Tulloch, are you collecting jump pay?” When he answered in the affirmative the response was, “Then get on the fucking plane.”
Our motorcycle “group” was an amalgam of Americana. And it was confirmative of my analysis of Mike’s “presence” that he was automatically, without the requirement of any formalities, the chosen and acknowledged leader. Some of the group were also ex military, some were just good old boy fun guys who loved to ride, drink beer, tell stories, cuss, talk about motorcycles and fucking, country music, “western” music (No, not Aaron Copeland’s Grand Canyon Suite), camp out, hang out in saloons and cantinas, screw, and participate in motorcycle races and rallies while drunk out of our minds. Charlie Daniels, God bless his wonderful soul, knew every good place to eat on every country road in Texas. Charlie and Ann would ride with us, and always added a certain sweetness to the group that would have been missed without their presence. Charlie hit a rock on a mountain road one night, making his front wheel turn violently to the right and the handle bar on the right side go right through his chest. Somehow the doctors in a country hospital managed to put him back together, but the accumulated effects of eating greasy food had made his heart unable to continue.
Old busted up, buzzed out of his skull from industrial fumes Cal could drink beer while unconscious. He could stand at the bar, carry on a conversation, tell jokes and stories, order more beer and drink it, while in a coma. You couldn’t tell that he was unconscious. Poor Cal died in prison because he actually closed his eyes one night while driving his truck home from some Houston beer joint after one of our parties, and killed a pedestrian. Mike wanted the two of us to be Cal’s lawyers, because he had a theory that, if the person Cal ran over was an illegal alien, then as a matter of law, his presence at the spot where Cal ran him over made him a trespasser in America to whom no duty of due care was owed. He had another theory that, if the guy was an illegal alien, then he really wasn’t there as a matter of law and couldn’t have been run over by Cal in the course of any law violation. Both these theories were jokes, of course, and Cal got himself a “real” lawyer to lose the case for him. But I recall some folks who, when they heard Mike’s defensive theories, were truly impressed that Mike was “thinking outside the box”.
There were Dickie the follower and Noel who loved nothing better for lunch that a large loaf of soft bread, two pounds of bologna and a jar of mayonnaise, and there was Chuck, the youngest. There was a Charles Manson type who kept snakes and gave everyone the creeps. Years later, Belinda, Muffy and I were in a feed store in Houston looking for exotic garden “stuff” and bird seed in bulk quantities, cheap. We were wandering around the place when a motorcyclist pulled up to the store and came in with his full face helmet still on so that he was completely incapable of being identified. He wandered around the store for a while, and we were absolutely certain that this Darth Vader looking person was there to rob the place and rob the customers as well and God only knows what else. I reached inside my shirt for my “hide out” gun and was ready to do my duty. He eventually selected whatever it was he had come in for and simply went to the counter and paid for it, never removing his helmet. He walked past us on the way out and said “Hey there, Seamus”. Dr. Muffy almost fainted. She knew her daddy knew some weird folks, but this was really off the wall. It was our own Charles Manson. Apparently the feed store also handled gerbils and guinea pigs and hamsters that he fed to his snakes. You don’t usually find a feed store in a major metropolitan area. They are a rural phenomenon. But this one was smack dab in the middle of the hippie district where, I suppose, you could expect to find all sorts of diversity of interests. Its inventory catered to as many of those interests as possible. It’s a very interesting place.
There were about a dozen or so others who rode with us sometimes and whom I never got to know, the fringe group so to speak. After I met Belinda I guess I must have moved into a fringe relationship to the group, as I preferred doing things with her to raising hell all over Mexico and the southern United Stated with a bunch of wild men. I had done a lot of that and was ready to move on. Belinda loved Mike. She instinctively reacted in a very positive manner to him, and I was very happy about that. Belinda has really good instincts about people. Actually, all the women with whom I consorted had appreciated Mike, except that they knew there would be times I would simply saddle up and ride off on a search and destroy mission, as we used to call our trips. Belinda was the first who never had to worry that I might prefer raising hell to being with her. Nothing on earth compares favorably to time spent with Belinda.
Muffy liked Mike too. Whenever she would come to visit in Houston she would just be on the back of my bike and one of the gang. By age 12, she knew all the biker joints in Houston and had experiences that her contemporaries back home in preppieville simply couldn’t match. She still remembers the time in Dickhead’s Saloon when someone offered to buy her from me.
I never knew how deeply Chuck had been affected by his relationship with Mike until Mike had passed away and Chuck and I had a conversation about it at Muldoon’s one night. This story tells you a lot about the positive influence Mike could have on people.
Chuck was a heating and air conditioning technician who had always worked for someone else and, as such, was never going to have much in this life by way of material wealth. Chuck liked to tell and listen to jokes and drink beer and ride motorcycles and screw. He was young and strong and good looking. He could have women with little difficulty, but they never stuck around long. He finally came upon a really good looking woman that he liked a lot. She decided that she just had to go knock on Mike’s door and fuck his brains out. She also decided to move in with Mike and was his girlfriend up until Mike had his middle of the night heart attack and died. She then claimed that she was Mike’s common law wife and that, as his common law widow, she was entitled to participate in his estate. Three years later, the fight over the estate got sorted out. Chuck took a long time getting over her departure, seeing her all the time whenever the “group” was together and she would show up on the back of Mike’s motorcycle with her cutsie look that said to everyone “guess who just fucked my brains out”. Mike made it all the more set in stone by getting her her own motorcycle. This statement emphasized more explicitly how great the screwing had to have been, as Mike would never buy a motorcycle for anyone under any circumstances. This made Chuck madder and madder. He stopped speaking to Mike for a while and even sent Mike a whiny letter of complaint/lament. Mike, of course, straightened him out simply by reminding him that she came knocking at his door, not the other way around. Chuck and Mike were friends again, fully reconciled by the time of Mike’s death.
This conversation was a few years after Mike’s death, and I hadn’t realized how deeply Mike’s passing had affected Chuck. He just couldn’t seem to get past it, and the loss persisted in his heart and soul. He was really depressed at losing Mike’s friendship. After listening to him get this burden off his chest for a while, I told chuck that Mike and I had always believed that he had a great deal of potential, and that we had hoped that one day he would find the inner strength to use that potential to improve his lot in life. Finally I suggested that if he really wanted to honor his friendship with Mike and feel good that he really deserved the relationship that had been so dear to him, he would stop working for other people for small change and go into business for himself. He did go into business for himself, and because he works hard, is really smart about what he does, and gives folks an honest and competent quality job, his business is thriving. No one is prouder of Chuck than Mike and me. Mike and I discuss it sometimes in self congratulating tones. Mike and Belinda and I just went to Chuck’s latest wedding last week. I told Chuck that the three of us were there, and I signed his wedding gift card “Love from Seamus, Belinda and Mike”. There are times when I just feel like Mike is there along with us, along for the ride and the fun. It was tough deciding on a wedding present for someone like Chuck. It must have been his umpteenth relationship and God only knows what number wedding. If he or his “bride” had registered anywhere, it would have been Wal-Mart or Home Depot. My first thought was to get them a case of 10W40 motor oil, gift wrap it and bring it to the wedding. Belinda thought that was insulting and boorish. We settled on a gift certificate to the local discount liquor store.
How Mike was as a man is explicit in the fact that he was a triple volunteer, Army, Airborne, Special Forces. Only the best of the best get there. He was the best of the best. He belonged to that group of people to whom we owe the ultimate debt, the debt that springs from the fact that we are free. We are the land of the free because of the brave, and Mike was the bravest of the brave. For the uninitiated, being brave does not mean being unafraid. It means being afraid and controlling your fear and doing what has to be done even though you are afraid. Bravery is the management of fear at those ultimate moments when the management of fear is the difference between success and failure, between life and death. Mike was that kind of man. Every person in America owes Mike and those like him respect. In addition to the respect, he always has my love as his brother and friend.
I still, in my mind, walk down the hall and talk with Mike about cases and issues that I have to deal with week in and week out. I am certain that I will always do this and that I will always enjoy doing this in my thoughts. And I sense in a very real way that on the other end of these conversations, Mike really is there taking part. I wonder how many others to whom he was dear have similar conversations and visits with him.
By Seamus Muldoon, Himself
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