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Mike Fiedler, 1947-2020

November 25, 2020

Mike visited our place in Billings on his way to his brother Kurt’s funeral in Albuquerque.

Michael Lynn Fiedler, 73, died this past week.  His parents were Margaret and Leslie Fiedler.  He had two older brothers, Kurt and Eric.  Both are dead.  He has three living sisters:  Deborah, Jenny, and Memo.  My problem is I don’t know much.  But when I did know them well, we were intimates.  Eric was four years older than Mike and Kurt was nine.  Eric was a theater technician, Kurt was a brain surgeon and educator.  What about Mike?


Dr. Leslie A. Fiedler, noted literary critic and author.

What did Michael do?  As in work?  I usually encountered him between jobs, when he was unoccupied, but traveling.

Michael said my brother Tom wouldn’t speak to him for a long time because “he thought I was a wastrel.”  

Was he?  He traveled all over the world:  N and S America, Europe, Asia, Great Britain, China.  He lived on a modest stipend about which he explained patiently to me several times.  He was frugal.  He was a Macrobiotic cook, a practicing Buddhist, a Jew.  He knew how to raise vegetables and other plants.  He was a consummate poet, hippie, beatnik, bohemian.  He could build a house.  He could sing in the Missoula Mendelssohn Club.  I have a photo of him wearing a tuxedo.  

Michael Lynn Fiedler leaves me mourning and confused, but that’s nothing new.  Why confused? I have to invent some theories.

I think Danny Merchant made this image of Michael.

You know how regular people live in houses?  Michael lived in a house.  But in between times when he stayed put, he traveled by air all over the world.  Every continent.  His words had more meaning than usual, somehow.

He looked like an elf or sprite in ordinary life.  His dad, Leslie the college English professor, was also short — I don’t know — about five feet tall.  But wide!  Both Mike and his father had large heads and stout chests.  I knew Mike best.  Off and on my life long.  High energy, that.

In the late 60s in Missoula, we had some magical summers with Michael.  I think Mike had the mental illness that makes you shout obscenities at strangers.  Only Mike shouted random things he heard in conversation.  I’m thinking of Tourette’s syndrome, although none of us had a name for the behavior then.  Jerry Printz said Mike was permanently spaced out.  I disputed that then and I still do.

Look!  I’m at Kiwanis park on a June morning in Missoula in 1968.  A figure on a 1950s woman’s bicycle is peddling this way, a blue bike with tractor seat and basket on front handlebars.  It’s Michael Fiedler.  He is smiling, rolling his head, clucking.  He has some flowers from someone’s garden. That’s how he appears.  Several times I’ve been tripping along on an idyllic Missoula scene:  green lawns and a creek, a bridge, wildflowers and birds.  An elfin figure wearing a sailors watch cap appears, grabs me by my arms, hugs me.  His smile is huge, his teeth are uneven, one or two missing.  My childhood friend!  Always shaggy long black curly hair and dense beard.  Looked like a pirate!

  He’s wearing sandals, black pants, colorful shirt, colorful scarf.  Does he have any dope?  No, but it’s early yet.  He pulls up and we greet and we hug!  We barge into Peter Koch’s little house, people still asleep in there.  Hungry?  Peter is the ultimate host.

We put on some rice to cook.  Brown rice, whole grain, unpolished.  Peter said he bought the 10 lb bag as insurance against hunger.  Peter spent most of his money on marmalade and expensive coffee from Broadway Market.  You know the place, Cipolato’s grocery.  Peter smoked expensive Balkan Sobranie tobacco.

Michael could come up with some amazing street drugs to share later in the day.  First we had to navigate the crowd of hippies that are wandering around Peter’s house.  They are Peter’s age, about 5 years older than us.  Probably in from Eugene or Seattle.

An outspoken woman in a long hippie dress teases Michael.  She is evidently put off by Michael’s tics and vocal outbursts.  She says she understands him, she said she knows why he blurts out “Fuuuuuuuck!!” and rolls his eyes.  She follows him across the yard as he tries to avoid her.  “I’m alright, Frank,” he blurts breathlessly, in a bass tone somewhat higher than a distant jetliner.  

Yet she teases him.  He finally turns to her and angrily demands she stop.  Mike looks like he could get physical.  She is taken aback, relents.  Yet, Mike does seem to be a bit incapacitated by his Tourette’s, and for some reason, the woman is dissatisfied about its authenticity, his inability to stop the grunts, the tics, the “Jacks and no jacks back!”

Someone said Michael once fell off a bar stool at the Missoula Club.  That episode with Frank Dugan was the source of another tic and repetitive outburst, “I’m alright, Frank!”

I’ve gotten poems and writings from Michael throughout my life, publishing them in our magazine, “The Portable Wall.”   Michael produced one such issue the Summer of 1979, I think. Here’s Mike’s work.

Could draw a kind of portrait.  He is intimately familiar with a variety of modes of thought, many of them hidden away on the planet, places he visited.  Every continent, his belongings in a small pack on his back, his transportation his feet.  His feet shod in whatever local persons are wearing.

Michael’s mind was quicksilver and he could put his thoughts on paper.  Sent them to me, and I have them now.

It was considerable work for someone trained to read handwriting to transcribe a page of Mike Fiedler’s manuscript.

I’m not done with this work. Reader, thank you for bearing with me. I’m still in acute mourning for my friend. I plan to share more. Colleen Kane offered this image of Michael, probably when he visited her and Bob Gesell.

Michael L. Fiedler at Colleen and Bob’s, I think.

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  1. I m deeply touched by this

  2. Michael was a friend of mine. I loved him very much and I’ll miss him until I die. That he’s gone feels terrible.

  3. Frank Dugan permalink

    Thank you for your piece on Mike Fiedler. Just minutes ago I got an email from Gary Scales, letting me know that Mike was gone. I am stunned. I thought Mike was forever. Hello to Peter Koch and Swain Wolfe (Swain, your Boy Who Invented Skiing has Fielder stories – Thank you!). Bless you all. – Frank Dugan

  4. Marcia D'Orazi permalink

    Hi Frank & Peter – I had an encounter with Michael driving from Missoula to San Francisco. A mutual friend said Mike could help drive and share gas. It was a gas. Someday I will write it up.

    • Peter Koch permalink

      Dear Marcia, Please let me read it when you do

  5. Ian Strong permalink


    Thank you so much for sharing this! I know this might sound crazy but I was a wild hippy teenager in the 90’s and Micheal and I were best friends for many years. In many ways he was my guru and allowed me to live in his yard in a tent. The photograph above of him sitting in his chair next to his stereo is a scene I was very familiar with. We used to spend hours discussing philosophy, music, art, etc., while smoking copious amounts of the shittiest Mexican weed you can imagine, in that very spot! Micheal introduced me to some of my dearest friends which I still have to this day. He taught me a lot about music, thought, and the human condition in general. The most amazing thing about your article for me is the description of his “ticks”, or as I like to describe them: his favorite phrases. He would blurt out those exact same things to me more than 30 years later! They never seemed like a mental disability to me, but rather a very poignant way to express his emotions if one was being such a pedantic little bitch that they couldn’t understand the depth of his message. I am not suggesting that you were qualifying his “ticks” as such. 🙂 For me, Michael Fiedler is one of the most free, and brilliant minds I have ever had the honor to meet. Thank you again for sharing this obituary. He will be missed!

    • Ian Strong permalink

      Michael was my companion on my first trip outside of the United States, to Chiapas Mexico, when I was 19 years old. He saved my life when I had dengue fever and also saved my life when a riptide swept us out to sea in Nayarit. I feel like I knew Michael in a period of his life when he was very settled and comfortable with himself. Settled enough where he could be a wonderful mentor to another free-thinking world voyager such as myself. I am 44 years old now and there is seldom a month that goes by that I don’t think about our friendship and the adventures he took me on. I went on to become my own little adventurer and have lived an international life that most wouldn’t think is possible. I owe a lot to Micheal for teaching me that anything is possible if you have your heart in the right place. If you would like to know more about the later-life Michael Fiedler, I would love to share. There aren’t many people like him left. Thanks, again for sharing. 🙂

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