A quietly joyful noise will be raised to celebrate the all too brief, but rambunctious, adventurous, and at times difficult life of Mike Chase contractor, wine-tour-guide, reporter, writer, free-thinker, father, friend, story-teller, musician, husband, brother,curmudgeon and great lover of the-even-greateroutdoors—this coming Saturday, October 30 at 1 pm at 64 Paradise Road.
Friends and admirers who may have lost touch with Mike over the years are invited to join in. He died on August 28 at the age of 62 after an especially swift and savage onslaught of cancer.
Mike Chase was infused with both an innate kindness and an essential wildness of spirit long before the likes of Robert Bly arrived on the scene to encourage males of the species to beat drums in the woods or follow their bliss. Chase grew up in Santa Barbara’s Trout Club, where as a child he jumped off rooftops onto mattresses down below, swung like Tarzan from vines and dove into creeks, boxed with his brothers and explored every nook and cranny of every nook and cranny his immediate great outdoors had to offer. Nature was not something Mike read about; it was life. It was fun; it’s what you did. Long before tattoos became cool and trendy, Mike had a tattoo of a large sprawling oak tree tattoo inscribed onto his back. He would laugh about it later with his characteristic Mike Chase laugh, describing himself in jest as “The quivering oak.”
Over the years, Mike worked countless jobs; bartender, oil field worker, lumber worker, and contractor. In the 1990s, he worked as a reporter and writer for the Santa Barbara Independent where his passion for Santa Barbara’s unique environment far exceeded and superseded the paper’s typical governmental focus on matters of growth and development. He was all about what sprouted out of the ground, what creatures swam in the creeks, and what forces put them in peril. When the United States Forest Service started charging people for the right to visit their own forests—the Nature Pass program–Mike was morally incredulous.
As a reporter, however, Mike was scrupulously balanced. But when it came to highlighting the richness of life hiding in plain sight, he was voraciously detailed. As a writer, Mike tilted more towards John Steinbeck than Edward Abby though both spirits found refuge in his heart. He worked hard at writing as he worked hard at everything he did. As a human being, Mike could be pig headed, stubborn and obstinate. It does not appear he was capable of going along to get along. He spoke his truth, no matter how wrong others knew it might be. On the flip side, Mike was forever curious and always open. He was not mean. And he was also blessed with a genuinely great laugh and wonderful absurdist sense of humor. He could laugh at—or about—most anything. But he was the quickest of all to laugh at himself.
Mike was forever pushing himself out of his comfort zone. One wondered if such a zone ever existed for Mike. In one such venture, he decided to take up singing lessons with the end result being that he would have to stand up and sing in front of a live audience at Soho. As a contractor, Mike would find himself too often caught in the crossfire between unscrupulous developers and unreasonable bureaucrats. On more than a few occasions, he would find himself having to fight way too hard to ensure that his crews got paid on time. They definitely got paid. Mike told a story of dangling one developer upside down outside the window by his heel. He always told it as if someone else did it. But the way he laughed in telling it, his friends always wondered. On the other hand, Mike got to enjoy a truly epic creative collaboration working with vintner Richard Sanford to help Sanford bring his truly epic dreams for his winery on Santa Rosa Road to fruition. The results were truly awesome.
As with many people, Mike’s personal life was rarely simple or easy. His own father left the family household when Mike was just born. On the few occasions Mike would encounter his father, paternal discipline of some sort was involved. As a father of two children, Ryland and Kendra, he had to chart his own course. As Mike would readily acknowledge, he was far from perfect. But few fathers anywhere have been more present—delighting in and demanding of his kids–than was Mike Chase.
The loves and labors of Mike Chase are far more complicated and compelling than this scratchy summation. To find out more, please show up for his last party, where Mike–we hope–will be there in spirit. Maybe bring along something to eat or a story to share. Mike ended all his e-mails with a line he stole from Woody GGuthrie, which I’d like to steal from Mike. “Take it easy,” he would say. “Just take it.”