Words: Michael Balakonis
In 1996 Michael Christopher had been dead for three years. Despite conquering his fears of large crowds, guns, and air travel, his death-vendetta against his ex-landlord was left unfulfilled. The vast majority of people are unfamiliar with his name, but I assure you that you have heard the story of Michael Christopher hundreds of times. You heard it during your sister’s “alternative” phase, at karaoke bars, half-muttered during your Classical studies of Greek tragedies, and during afternoon visits to various coffee establishments. This story permeates the psyche of English speaking peoples that were conscious during the 1990’s; but you already know this, don’t you?
In 1990 Michael Christopher lived in Toronto. He met his future wife during this time. The couple was in their early twenties; however, an unplanned pregnancy rushed things along for them. They married six months before their daughter was born. They named her Morgan. Soon after Morgan’s birth, the couple moved to Buffalo, New York. All seemed well until 1993, the year Michael’s grandfather won the lottery. Sound familiar?
Michael Christopher’s grandfather was 98 years old the day he won the lottery. He died the very next day during a pacemaker procedure, for which he had been saving up. Despite his untimely death, the lottery awarded a small amount of the winnings to Michael Christopher, his grandfather’s last living relative. With the financial bump, Michael’s wife quit her job and took Morgan to visit family back in Toronto. During this time, Michael Christopher decided to renovate the house as a surprise for his wife. While unpacking, he found a bundle of letters in his wife’s things. They detailed an old love affair between Michael Christopher’s ex-landlord and his wife. The last letter was the hardest to read.
“I want you and our child. I’m ready for that. I showed up to Haliburton Forest the day of your wedding. It was raining. They told me that you moved the wedding. By the time I got to the church the wedding was over. I lost you. I lost our baby. I just want to see our child once. Come to Toronto, please. ” The ex-landlord was Morgan’s legitimate father.
To save time and space, I’m going to streamline much of the emotions and deal with some of the finer details normally left out of Michael Christopher’s story. To get to the meat of it, we had a vendetta on our hands.
Shortly after his discovery, Michael Christopher hopped in his car and headed towards the airport around 8 P.M. A traffic jam slowed his progress to a crawl. After 45 minutes in traffic he came across a sign for a Gun and Knife Expo. Abandoning his car, Michael trekked the one mile to the convention center. Resolving himself to buy a knife, he entered the convention center only to find that the expo had ended two days prior. Instead of firearms and cutlery, Michael Christopher walked in on a tradeshow held by The Northeastern Spoon Collectors Guild.
With midnight soon approaching, our man reached the airport via cab. A police officer recalls issuing a ticket to Michael Christopher for smoking in a “No Smoking” area. “Michael Christopher was distraught and verbally combative. I could have let it slide but he got under my skin,” said Officer McAllister, who was the only person I could find who spoke to Michael Christopher before his flight. At 1:46 A.M. Michael Christopher and 132 others perished in a plane crash. Friends who knew Michael Christopher explained the irony of his death. He had been petrified of heights his whole life. He never flew and panicked when driving over high overpasses. From what I can glean, Michael Christopher was a reserved individual. “He was a rock, someone who never took many risks or got carried away by emotions,” says close friend Matthew. “I never pictured him going like this.”
When I heard Michael’s story for the first time (or what I thought was the first time), I wondered: why don’t people know about this guy? This is a modern day tragedy, a story of betrayal and one man’s break from his mundane existence. This is a real-life American Beauty, minus the repressed homosexual urges of the next-door neighbor. Michael Christopher is the unsung tragic hero of Generation X and Y, I thought. I was wrong. Michael Christopher’s story has been sung countless times and will continue to be sung ad infinitum. Michael’s story became popular during the spring of 1996 through one of Michael’s fellow Canadians, Alanis Morissette. Perpetually criticized for its misuse of the word “irony,” her 1996 “Ironic” nevertheless weaseled its way into the fabric of 90s culture.
Listen with new ears and remember Michael Christopher: the man who lived a subdued and suburban existence until he couldn’t take it anymore. “Life has a funny way of helping you out when you think everything’s gone wrong and everything blows up in your face.”
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