My larger-than-life friend Mike Altenberg, gone too soon

Photo courtesy Mike Altenberg's Facebook page

Mike Altenberg and I met when we were 10 years old or so. We'd both joined the YMCA Boys Choir
in our hometown of Racine, Wisconsin, and for a variety of reasons (he was a tad chubby, I was a loner) we were both outcasts of sorts, so we stuck together in that way that 10-year-old boys do when they feel like they're a little different from everyone else around them.

We were an odd pair. He came from an affluent Jewish family, I was middle class and Methodist. He could be outgoing, even brash. I was, by comparison, the introvert. In our early days in the choir a lot of the other boys mistook Mike's confidence for arrogance, and teased him. I stuck by him, not out of any sense of altruism but because even at that age I somehow knew I'd found a kindred spirit. For the better part of the next two decades, we were the best of friends.