R.I.P. Michael Hitz

I kind of struggle with the idea of ‘sharing’ personal things about my life in this new age of social media, especially if it is something sad like this. There are plenty of sad things happening in the world, and to other people. In the end I felt I would be doing Mike a disservice by not taking the time to write about him. When a famous person dies now, it is everywhere.

My old friend Mike Hitz died of cancer a few weeks ago, at age 46, coincidentally a day before Phillip Seymour Hoffman died of a drug overdose at age 46.

I was told he was going to die within a few days well over a year ago, and I wrote this post the next day, kind of in shock really. Up to that point I had remained emotionally detached I suppose, he had already been diagnosed and  he had already survived past his prognosis(which I wasn’t aware of).  I didn’t really know how I would feel about it until it happened, and I was pretty devastated.

But then something strange happened. He pulled out of it, and I was talking to him on the phone the very next day, and he seemed just fine(considering his condition). When his cancer was discovered it was already in his brain.

Somehow, Mike continued on for over year after that, he was in and out of the hospital, and he was given the “won’t live til the end of the week” death sentence again and again, and he kept pulling out of it. It actually got to the point where I could believe that he wasn’t going to die, and his hospital visits were no reason to panic.

One of the  results of Mike’s perseverance is that I got to know his family, which wouldn’t have really happened had he died a year ago. I also got to spend more time with one of our mutual friends, whose busy family life and geographical location had made difficult. It brought more people into my life, and I ended up understanding Mike himself a lot more. There was kind of  a swapping of stories, me talking about my younger adventures with Mike and our mutual friend Rick, and his parents telling me about his childhood and teen adventures. I got to see Mike from the perspectives of his Mom, Dad, his sister Tracie and  brother Richard,  and find out what interesting people they were.

While I had come to grips with the reality of the situation months ago, and had many thoughts about what it would mean when he was gone, that had pretty much reset itself  by the time he had passed and I am back at that point. I saw Mike take his last breath, but I still can’t believe it.

I was in a kind of daze for the last few weeks, and this last week I was finally able to reflect on what happened and really deal with it. There is a palpable feeling of absence in my mind, in a way our lives had become more intertwined in the last year than they ever were in the time that we knew each other. Things feel unfinished. I never wanted to talk to him as if he was going to die, I didn’t want to say “I’m going to miss you” to a person still trying to survive. I feel I could have done better at that, that my own fear of death was preventing me from facing his. I guess though, it was my job to keep his mind off things, and death makes for a pretty grim conversation, really. Who wants to talk about that?

So that’s it. People tend to only say positive things about the dead, but in Mike’s case, saying he was a great guy is not an exaggeration. I don’t think you could find a person that knew him that would have a single bad thing to say. He was a friendly and gregarious individual with a booming laugh and a kind word for everybody. He stayed that way all through his ordeal, which may be his most amazing feat. Goodbye, Mike.

Inescapable Entropy

This is a song inspired by someone I followed on Twitter who stopped existing rather suddenly. Twitter is one of many online social networks, but to me it is in a category by itself. It’s 140-character format and informality allows for a much broader range of possible connections and is really… fluid, I think,  is a word for it.

I’ve been on Twitter for over 4 years now, and it’s been quite a while since I have actively sought to follow new people, or to grow my follower count. I generally follow people back that follow me, but I don’t do much following on my own anymore. However, a few months ago, someone I had been following for a long time recommended following their brother, and I did. It’s fun following new people actually, I just tend to forget that. This person then mentioned me in a “Follow Friday” post along with some other people who followed him as a result of his brother’s recommendation. What I generally do if I am mentioned that way, is to check out the other people who are mentioned along with me, and follow them if they seem agreeable. So I did this, and almost immediately forgot that I had. Some of them, or all of them followed me back eventually. “Oh yeah, that’s one of those new people I followed.”

Since Twitter ruined Tweetdeck, my preferred way of reading Twitter, I have switched to HootSuite to do so, and I don’t like the format as much, and as a result I pay a great deal more attention to my fairly small “Follow Friday” list of tweeps than I do to my overall timeline, which includes 1300 accounts. Because of this, I haven’t been doing a very good job of learning what my newer followers are about, and that was the case with this new bunch. One of this new bunch, that went by the handle ArcticPizzas, followed me back and favorited a couple of my tweets. Favoriting a tweet is a kind of quiet interaction that is available on Twitter.  I remembered being a little confused by the account when I looked at it. It described itself as “Twitter’s favorite pizza bot”, and there was a picture of a girl from an unusual angle, as if a hamster took the photograph or something.

Further examination revealed that ArcticPizzas was an Australian girl named ‘Alexa’ who was the  equivalent of an American high school senior. I am a bit on the old side to be getting  chummy with teen girls on the internet, but I thought that since she was paying attention to my tweets that I should make a point to pay attention to her and see who she was, and added her to my Follow Friday list.

This list is not particularly large, and the time I pay the most attention to it is during the week before I go to work in the afternoon. I generally check in around 9:30 in the AM, and keep general track of it throughout the next few hours, which is really easy, because there is not a huge volume of tweets coming from my Follow Friday group. There are people that are at work(US and Canada), and some people who have just gotten off work(in the UK/Europe).  ArcticPizzas was up late(in Australia), and tweeting in the morning when I got on.

There has perhaps been no time in my life when teen girls were not akin to space aliens to me, but I’d say at this time, being pretty far removed from my teen years myself, the tweets of this teen girl amongst adults were pretty interesting/confusing( the reason I like twitter so much is the experience of other peoples minds and thoughts, it’s surprisingly vivid). I became quite fond of ArcticPizzas, and enjoyed thinking about her future. She was about to go to college and have what would probably be the most interesting, exciting years of her life, and she had no real idea how cool it was going to be, as she stared at her phone and tweeted about pizza. Thinking about this somehow filled me with these mostly forgotten feelings, like ‘hope’ and ‘optimism’. I was glad that I sort of knew her, and that, in a small twitterish way, I would get glimpses of her exciting, unfolding future.

This all happened in the month of May. In June, I lost track of Twitter a bit, and ArcticPizzas wasn’t staying up late and tweeting during the time I was on. Now, in 3D life, I have an old friend who is very sick, and on the 8th of June I helped him move into a new apartment. He was doing pretty badly that day, and had been looking progressively worse throughout the last couple of months. On the 10th of June, he went into the hospital. He’s been in an out of the hospital a lot in the last year, and I stopped reacting to it at some point, as it was usually nothing(he is understandably suffering from a lot of anxiety, I don’t know how I would react to this thing myself, so I can’t really pass judgement on it). My assessment of this latest trip was that he hadn’t been taking care of his diabetes, and he just needed to eat right and get his blood sugar under control and he’d be fine, relatively speaking. I resolved to get on his ass about his diet when he got out.  On the 12th of June, our mutual friend called me late at night to tell me that he wasn’t going to make it. The fact that we knew this was coming did not make the news any easier. So I’m kind of a mess for the rest of the week. In spending the day at the hospital on Sunday, I learn that he is not going to die(soon). So that’s great!  This would be the second time mourning his death that he pulled out of it. What a crazy rubberbanding of feelings that is.

The following weekend he is out of the hospital, and I spend my 3rd consecutive weekend doing Mike-related activities. I’d been kind of reeling all throughout the month of June so far, between Mike and  two crazy dental appointments and the heat, etc, my ADD addled mind had about all it could handle. It was not until the final weekend of June, and through the Fourth of July that my mind got the quiet and reflection time it needs to assess where I’m at.

On the 6th of July, after spending a couple of low key days with my family,  I wake up, have my coffee, and think about ArcticPizzas for the first time in a month, and realize that I haven’t seen her in my timeline for a while. If I notice tweeps have been absent for some time, I’ll sometimes take a peek at their timeline to see if everything is alright. So I typed her handle into search, which actually just brings up tweets that mentioned her, and I read a tweet that says something like “I can’t stop thinking about Alexa(@ArcticPizzas), Rest in Paradise!”  WHAT!!!???  Even though, rationally, I know this means she’s dead, what else would it mean, I manage to pretend like this was not true until I could verify it and find out what happened. It was not very easy to do, and I spent about an hour of searching around twitter until I found out what happened. What had happened is that, the same week that Mike went to the hospital and almost died, Alexa was in a serious car accident which put her in a coma. But she woke up the following weekend, and was on twitter! She really enjoyed twitter a lot, it seems.  But I missed that. And she shortly after died of a brain hemorrhage. The only thing I could have done was to say some encouraging things to her before she died, and I didn’t, because I wasn’t paying attention.

 

This song sums up how I felt about this horrible news better than any prose description of it, so I will let it speak for itself. It seems to me to be like the opening song of a musical about someone who becomes obsessed with trying to go back in time to reverse an event.