It's a Sunday morning. On a Sunday morning 3-4 years ago, probably around the same time as I sit writing this blog entry, I would have been at Carmon's Creperie in downtown Champaign, enjoying a savory crepe concocted by Chef Kerry, served by either Grant or Bridget, and in the warm company of host/owner Mike. The sausage gravy crepe was my favorite. As it disappeared from the plate, I would have conversed with Ashley, perhaps heard a joke or two from Grant, and engaged in some light banter with Mike. Kerry likely would have waved at us from the kitchen a time or two.
The weekends (and some week nights) spent at Carmon's Creperie were filled with such warmth. I remember Mike saying to us one time, "You're family," and he was right. At least, that's how we felt when we were there. Much of that was down to Mike. Yes, Grant, Bridget and Kerry certainly were part of that atmosphere and experience, but Mike, as owner and host, was the outward glue of such a fine establishment. He knew how to mingle. He knew how to make his work seem effortless. In short, he was the perfect host.
I remember the first time at Carmon's Creperie. It was a cold evening and, honestly, Mike came across a little odd. Well, he was kind of odd. I write that with a lot of love. Sometimes, he'd tell strange stories, like the one about a certain famous singer who tried to pick him up years ago while cruising in a limousine. Or how, when we were discussing old movies (a nice interest that we shared), it soon became clear that he was still watching them on laser disc. Or how he'd disappear into a little room for short periods. Not sure what he was up to in there.
Mike's quirkiness was part of his charm. I remember him using the phrase "On wings of Mercury" to describe how he might make it from Carmon's to Krannert Center one evening to attend a performance. Very few people talked like that. Quirky. Charming. Delightful. He was someone who made life better for those in his presence. In the end, isn't that what we're (supposed) to do while we're here? Judging from online comments before and after his passing, he excelled at it. I wish I'd gotten to know him better.
Mike Nelson died on February 22nd. He was 57-years-old. Gone too soon, but remembered oh-so wonderfully. Rest in peace, Mike.