I had a boss named Mike Gribble.
He was as close to a wizard as I've ever met.
He is the Mike in Spike and Mike's Festival of Animation. Dale Gribble on King Of The Hill is named for him. He is the one who put me on stage, literally pushed me out there. My first stand up performance was me impersonating Mike, including having the audience join me in wiggling our fingers above our heads and then slowly lowering them down to magically start the cartoon show.
When I wasn't performing magic under Mike's tutelage, there was much debauchery as an employee of Spike and Mike. Many girls were kissed, many drugs were consumed, so many laws were broken, with occasional breaks for falafel and reading.
I went from spending a night in jail in Chicago to helping trash a hotel room in Seattle and getting busted for it to getting caught by Mike sitting on my ass on a college campus where I was supposed to be working all in the span of 48 hours.
Mike drove me up into the hills where I thought maybe he was gonna kill me, or more likely knock me around a bit. He was really mad. I was fired at least, I was sure.
Instead he gave me an impassioned talking to about him and Spike's business/dream and about how to live and how not to live and he implored me not to waste this life that was so precious. He told me there was no reason to waste his time or mine unless I wanted to be part of this magic thing. He invited me to be part of the magic, or to go find some magic of my own. Life wasn't for getting one over on someone.
Back at the corporate apartment we were staying at he repeated this speech for the other flyer guys. Mike stood there, 6' 4" tall, long purple beard, in front of a wall of window with the sun setting beyond the Puget Sound behind him and he gave this beautiful sermon. He was bigger than life. Then he bought us all pizza and we picked a movie to watch.
Later, in Riverside, CA, Mike and I went out to see a flick and after he drove around aimlessly talking to me about women, and love, and how getting laid may be great but really loving someone and having an amazing relationship was better. I told him I agreed, and that I wasn't the player he knew me as, that I was just getting over a broken heart. A couple days later I was excited to introduce him to my best friend Bryna who'd just recently become my girlfriend.
We were at a party after the last show of the Riverside run. Bryna told me she thought Mike was sick. I told her he was just tired. She said, "No. Look at his girlfriend's face. Something is wrong." I didn't think much of it.
A short time later I was living in Sacramento and my brother Erick called to ask me if I'd heard that Mike had died. I hadn't.
I think of Mike daily. I try to live his words, because they were good words. I wish I could tell him, I wish I could show him, and make him proud of me. I thought of Mike as Peter Pan to a big crew of Lost Boys and even a few Lost Girls, but Mike wasn't afraid of growing up, he encouraged it, because he knew that it didn't have to mean giving up.