Michael Jeffrey "Fuzz" Friend was a good friend to me back in my college days at Innis College in the University of Toronto. I just got the news today of his passing away last Friday, August 24th, 2007.
My first encounter with Fuzz was hearing him growling an expletive like "turkey shit" or "You look just like death warmed over" or "there goes some sex on the hoof..." at someone in the Innis College Student Society office in the "old building" of Innis College on St. George St.
I soon learned that Fuzz spoke this way all the time, but only to those he knew and liked or were in some way close to him.
I was good with my hands, and pretty soon I found myself doing handy work and house renovations with Fuzz during summer vacations, winter breaks, and any other free time I had when I could help out.
Fuzz taught me all the little professional secrets and tricks of the trade, as well as imparting much of his grass-roots life wisdom - and he had plenty life wisdom and plenty experience to base it on.
Mike was 13 years my senior, and had been a professional auto mechanic and a Narcotics Detective on the Toronto Police force before arriving at U of T. so, you can imagine how worldly and experienced he was in contrast to students who had just left home for the first time and/or were fresh out of high-school.
Many of the skills Mike taught me carried me through a renovations and handyman career for many years, safe work habits kept me from harm - it was Mike's insistence that we secure ourselves with strong rope that saved my life once when I fell off the side of a three story house we were painting.
Mike and I became good friends, and within the space of a year we were also a good work team that was in demand six months in advance each summer to fix, renovate, or re-build homes in the Toronto area.
On one particular job, we were putting up new drywall, and I had scribbled the words "Fuzz 'n' Eli" on the wall as a sort of signature of our "masterwork", well from that day on, Cathy - the wife of the family who's home we were renovating, referred to us as "the Italian firm of FUZZANELI".
Mike also knew how to enjoy himself with simple pleasures, like sitting at the Old Brunswick House bar in the main hall downstairs with friends, and drinking those little 40 cent glasses of beer that they would serve us by the dozen.
I can recall one very peaceful and quiet Christmas vacation weekend at the Innis College "InnisFree farm" out in the country, where Fuzz cooked a nice pot roast for us, and enjoying the company of a Fuzz and Sue and a few other friends out there.
Mike loved animals, from dogs (like the legendary "Guppy"), to birds, to reptiles. Through his live snake and reptile collection, Mike taught me and others to understand these reptiles, to not fear snakes (at least not boa constrictors), as well as providing himself with a hobby that he dedicated so much of his life to.
Mike loved Country music, but also appreciated many contemporary Canadian Folk and Rock artists. He certainly was not shy about speaking his mind or telling us what his likes or dislikes were.
On my recent two visits to Canada, in summer of 2001 and last month (July 2007), I was very glad to have had the chance to visit Mike and Sue and spend the evening with them.
Under that growling rough exterior, long hair and fuzzy long beard, Mike had a heart of 24 Carat gold.
"You Turkey Shit!!! You look like death warmed over!!!"
Rest in peace Mike - you've done your part, you deserve the rest!