My Big Brother Mike

I was on the phone with my brother the other day and he pointed out that his voice was hoarse. I assumed he was going to whine about a cold but instead he explained that in his rugby game on Saturday he got clothes lined in the throat and had swollen vocal chords. This is my big brother Mike.

And I would like to talk about him today.

Now, I have two older brothers, and Brian, the middle one, will undoubtedly be offended that I am going to devote one whole blog just to Mike. But rest assured Bri, you will be mentioned on occasion here, and once you call to tell me that you’ve been clothes lined in the throat then we’ll talk.

I am very lucky in the fact that I like my family. A lot of people look at that “like” as a form of closeness, and to some extent I guess that is true. Though I live far away from them, I do make a constant effort to call and email and get updated. I will never miss a Christmas or important event with my family, and, in fact, I look forward to them as yearly highlights. The only hesitancy I have toward officially stamping the “we’re close” mark is probably my sheer lack of common interests I share with my family. Case in point, the opposites of me and Mike.

I know for a fact that my best friend understands me better than Mike does. And, likewise, I know that Andy Treharne gets Mike on a much deeper level than I ever will. Mike and I have nothing in common. This is not to say that we are not Tafels. We both have, as the rest of my family has, what I call the “Tafel Temperament.” Loud. Opinionated. Defensive. Gregarious. Hilarious. It’s a fun trait to have and it usually shines during a competitive game of Trivial Pursuit or if we all manage to be riding in the same car for something. Other than that though, I would say Mike is the most mellow of the bunch whereas I may be the most high strung. But that’s just the roles we play in the family dynamic. Because Mike and I are different, we get high strung and mellow about different things. I am completely comfortable at a costumed theme party; Mike probably gets high strung during a Broncos game.

And although our differences may have probably lead us to be the least close in the family, I don’t necessarily look at that as a bad thing. Because 1) I know for a fact we will never stop trying to get to know each other better or caring about each other or having good phone conversations and 2) it has allowed me to somewhat take a step back and observe Mike in a way other than “he’s just my brother.” Mike is a case study, if you will.

And my research has concluded that Michael Gregory Tafel is a badass.

He’s not a Grizzly Adams biting tar and spitting it out like it’s gum badass, he’s a subtle badass who does what he wants and what he loves all the time. I like Mike because I like his life. I like his life because he likes his life. His life makes him happy. Bad. Ass.

Now sure, I like my life and what I am doing, but I don’t like it all the time. My job isn’t fulfilling. I’m poor, I’m not famous yet, and my boyfriend lives in a different state. There are not many ideals working for me in my favor. But for Mike, it always seems like he has plenty of ideals in his situation. To flip, his job is fulfilling, he has money, he doesn’t want to be famous, and he’s probably looking for a girl who likes Colorado as much as he does.

I envy him.

As I have studied Mike over the years, it has occurred to me that I am never entirely 100% certain about any aspect of his life. I know what he does, but I don’t really know how he does it. This only illustrates our opposites. I don’t get the things in his life because they are not of interest to me.  But basically, I understand the cliff notes, which I will give you now.

Mike is a GIS technician for DRCOG is Denver. I don’t know what either of those acronyms mean, which is hugely embarrassing. I comprehend that he is a computer mapmaker, which is awesome because I DO know that  Mike really really likes maps. In his free time he plays rugby, a game that I don’t really know how to play but is undisputedly cool to do. Oh, and he’s good at rugby. Like, national rugby champ good. And he is one. And I tell that to anyone who I feel needs to think I am cooler. I may have a useless degree in theater, but my big brother is a national rugby champ, bitches.

He has a passion for fly fishing. I’ve tried fly fishing once. It is hard, fish smell, and I don’t get how to get the line thingy to flick on the water ever so gracefully and how fish can possibly be interested in eating fake bugs made out of tightly wound thread.  But Mike just bought a boat because of his love. My brother owns a boat because he can afford it and that’s what he likes to do. I wish I could just buy a t.v. show starring me.

Mike reads on public transit. He is a punk rock fanatic. He plays the guitar. He’s great at analyzing movies. He drinks whisky and water. He drives a Suburu. He has a beard. He’s super into this computer system that has a penguin as a logo. He has a lot of “good buddies” with nicknames like “Tank” and “Pugsly.” He works from home once a week. He was in a band. Oh, and Colorado sports are very important to him.

And although I am incredibly different than all of this, I can’t help but notice how the distance we have in age, location, and hobbies has influenced me greatly. I think subconsciously I’ve wanted to be like Mike ever since I was young. I read on the El, mostly because I want people to think I’m smart. In 7th grade I went through a Less Than Jake and No Use For A Name phase and since I am poor now with no cash for music updates, my Ipod still plays “History of a Boring Town” on loop. My favorite drink is a 7 and 7, probably because Mike made it for me one Christmas Eve at the Horsfall’s house and told me it was Grandpa’s favorite. I’ve dated someone who drove a Suburu. My boyfriend has a beard. I’ve partaken in giving my good friends nicknames like “Big Dick Witek” and “JB$.” And, coincidentally, I like penguins.

It’s safe to say I am closer to my other brother Brian. I know I confide in him more; I get a little more personal in our conversations. I also get mad at him more often and I am more subject to his criticisms. We have the same wrinkly hands and sense of humor. (Brian, I promise someday I will write at great length about my pride in you too. Promise.) But Mike has always stood true as being my idolized big brother. And anyone who has the cooler big brother knows that you don’t confide to them, you live up to them.

I think the most badass thing about Michael Tafel is just that everybody likes Mike. He is the most likeable cat I know. He’s never been too cool for school, even when he was in school, and that little trick is what has made him this constant cool today. He really grew up to be a nice guy, and has tons of nice guy friends to prove that, (except maybe Andy, who I hear is kinda a dick sometimes).

Growing up, Mike really wasn’t that mean to me. I think he had Brian to wrestle with so I was easily sidestepped. On occasion I do remember times that he would pull me real close to his face with his teeth tightly clenched and yell “STOP IT ALISON!” Usually I’d cry and Mom would yell at him, but other than that I have no reason the think he really harassed me. Plus, knowing what I was like as a kid, I probably deserved the face pull.

I don’t have many adult stories involving just me and Mike. Usually the boys are paired together, or I am not there at all. I sometimes feel like I am missing out when I hear crazy party stories or wild nights, but perhaps those are just times a little sister doesn’t get to experience with her brother. I mean, it’s not like I would want Mike to join me on girl nights at clubs, so why I should I expect him to jump in to a dudefest? There are a few nights I recall being with my brother, just me and him. And those times make me smile.

When Mike was a freshman in high school, he took elementary aged me to see a production of Grease. It was a very sweet gesture on his part, and I remember feeling so grown up going with him. I kinda wish I knew how much shit he got for it. In middle school, Mike took me to a Good Charlotte concert at Red Rocks, bless his fucking soul. I thought it was totally punk rock and that it was Mike who could relate to my deep passion for them, when in actuality he probably cringed the entire time. I’m cringing right now just thinking about it. Seriously, bless his soul for standing through Motivation Proclamation.

There was also a late night when my family went to Vegas (all of us kids where finally over 21) and me and the boys had to share a room. It was way late, and Brian was half passed out while Mike poured me another Jim Beam and Coke and we dove into a convo about religion and drunken philosophy. Brian kept flipping over and telling us that we should go to sleep so we didn’t waste our vacation and Mike rolled his eyes and said, “I’m bonding with my sister, this is how I want to spend my vacation.”

Mike has always been incredibly supportive of me too. And when he takes an interest, it’s fun to realize that he likewise has no idea what I am talking about. I’ve tried to teach him how singing works in terms of music theory and how to format a sketch structure. It’s not the fact that he gets it or that he gets me, what counts is that Mike likes that I like it. I feel like Mike wants me to be as happy as he is with his opposite life. And that makes me feel good. It makes me proud.

People out here say that when you get into comedy you are always trying to get someone specific to laugh. Like it could be a silent crowd but if you got that one person you wanted to to laugh, you were successful. Most people have daddy issues and claim parent. Some claim spouses. Many claim kids or friends from college. Mine has always been my brothers.

If I can get Mike and Brian to laugh, I know I am funny.

Because Mike is a badass.

One time Mike and Brian visited me in Chicago and we went to Wrigley Field to catch a Cubs game. Mike wore his Rockies cap to “represent” even though Chicago was playing against Cincinnati.

This is my big brother Mike.

–         One El

“ If people chalk off Twilight’s awfulness to the fact that it’s just teen fiction, it not only is a weak excuse, it insults the capability of literate teens.”


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