When I was in the program in the Catskills where I spent the spring of this past year, trying and failing to recover I met The Chessmaster Mike. We were in quarantine for two weeks with nothing but a huge stack of DVDs, a player and a tv. Mike knew everything about all the movies, all the stuff that my Mom usually knows (see: everything). We bonded over discussions about all of the films, and then over his (and my) vast knowledge of music (especially classic rock).
Mike was 60 year old recovering crack addict, and a chess prodigy. he said he used to hustle the chess players in Union Square and Thompkins Sq. Park for money to get high. When I attempted a match with him, he beat me in 4 moves, which i learned was called a “fools mate”. Sure, I was really rusty, but I could tell that he was at least 2 moves ahead of me, which put him at a quick victory. My grandfather taught me how to play chess, but I really hadn’t touched the game for at least 20 years, aside from teaching a kid in Santa Rita jail outside of Oakland, CA. That’s no excuse, he’d have made quick work of me either way.
I love the history of this city, especially in the 80’s and 90’s during the peak of the crack epidemic, and mike had all of these stories about it, including copping drugs for none other than Jim Carrey. Mike is an ill dude, He should write a book.
Imagine how happy I was when he called me last Friday to check in with me after all of this time, he was really worried and he really cares about my wellbeing. That's one of the cool things about life that a 60 year old NYC chessmaster, and a 36 year old whiteboy from suburban Massachusettes can have a bond over recovery, movies, and Led Zeppelin. That’s recovery and pop culture.
Of course I got Mike hip to Spotify and made him a list, I will link it: