I Miss Mike

 

This column was originally printed in the Davis Enterprise, Davis, California.

 

Philosophers the world over agree, in order to lead a complete and satisfying life, you must fulfill two basic conditions.

The first criterion is simple enough. Find yourself a steadfast companion to spend your days with. Be that man, woman, dog, cat, horse ranch, or iPad, one of these should fit the bill. Once accomplished, and dutifully checked off your list, the second, more difficult task awaits.

The challenge? You must search for, locate, and by any means, secure the services of a good auto mechanic.

Let’s face it, dogs die, cats abandon you for the neighbor’s Meow Mix and divorce has reached epidemic proportions. But discovering a first-rate mechanic is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

And that is why I miss, really miss, Mike Argo.

Now, if in your personal quest for transportation, you succumbed to local edicts and purchased the obligatory Volvo (the unofficial-official ride of Davis), you might not know who I’m talking about.

However, if a Honda ever huddled in your garage, Mike was your man.

For twenty years, he owned, operated and damn well was, Mike Argo’s Car Clinic.

Two decades ago he started in a tiny shop catering to tiny cars. In a town occupied with codifying its IQ, he had the business sense to realize that even eggheads needed the means to get from A to B.

If memory holds (and my clutch is slipping as of late), he first opened shop on 4th Street. The building still stands there, decked out in the same color that landed ugly somewhere between blue and green. As years passed, and the Hondas he worked on grew in size and popularity, Mike relocated down the alley to 5th Street. He hung his new sign at the north end of that passage, the front window of the shop reflecting the Dairy Queen across the way.

For two decades, my family and I placed seven cars under Mike’s watchful eye. He kept them purring just like Soichiro Honda intended. The cars that survived my sons’ teenage years went on to service other owners long after we moved on, no doubt due to the magic practiced in that garage.

Mike is a hell of a mechanic, and a great guy; a salt-n-peppered bristle brush of a man, with fast eyes, fast disposition, and a faster mind. He was honest to a fault, an oasis in an industry that sometimes falls short of that virtue. If your car needed fixing, he’d tell you what the car was saying, not what his wallet whispered to him.

Depending on the day, he would be all business, or if your timing was right, he’d take a moment to shoot the bull. You would think the last thing that anyone who banged knuckles for a living would want to talk about was something mechanical. But over the years he and I discovered a shared passion for automobile racing and motorcycles. What should have been a cursory business exchange would turn into hour-long conversation.

Mike recently pulled up stakes with little fanfare, and to my great disappointment, no opportunity to say goodbye. His departure has left a void that I have found hard to bridge and my hunch is there are more, just like me, stumbling around town.

There was a time when I believed, that even in Davis, someone needed to get a little dirt under their fingernails to keep things running. To my mind now, Mike closing-up shop marks a way of life that is coming to an end around here. In a town that trades in brains, Mike and other mechanics seem a vanishing class; fading blue in an endless sea of white collars.

Mike Argo provided a service and set a standard for two long decades. Truth be told, he was cosmopolitan enough to know where West Sacramento was, and more importantly, he could, by the gift of his hands, put a well working set of wheels under you so you could go check it out yourself.

Thanks Mike, and goodbye. You will be missed.

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