Getting Personal: Michael Miller


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Each week, we offer a Q&A with a local personality. Today, Paul Wood chats with 54-year-old Champaign resident Michael Miller. He is a singer, songwriter and rhythm guitar player for the Boat Drunks.

So ... what's new with you?

I am adjusting to my first prolonged taste of winter in quite a spell. I spent the last five years living and traveling aboard a sailboat on the East Coast. In doing so, I would spend the winters in the Bahamas, South (mainland) Florida or Key West, thus (mostly) avoiding cold weather.

What time do you typically get up? What do you do the first hour of the morning?

I'm usually out of bed between 8 and 10, and my first destination is always the coffeemaker. Then drinking coffee, checking email and watching ESPN eases me into the day.

What do you consider your greatest achievement or accomplishment?

I would say being a father (and now a grandfather). Nothing else I've done really compares to that.

What do you regard as your most treasured possession?

My memories.

Do you have a guilty pleasure and what is it?

Watching many of my favorite movies over and over again.

What book are you reading now? What is your favorite?

I'm reading "Swan, The Second Voyage" by Jim Moore. It's a book about living and cruising on a sailboat. Picking a favorite book would be very difficult. My sentimental favorite would probably be "Summer of '42" by Herman Raucher. It's a book that I first read as a confused teenager, and it made me realize I was not alone.

Where on Earth are you dying to go? Why?

The South Pacific. Tonga, the Marquesas, New Zealand and Australia in particular.

Tell me about your favorite pet.

Well, it wasn't really mine, but I would say my brother's dog, Calvin. It was a sheltie with an amazing personality and intellect. I miss that little guy.

What's your favorite sports team?

Both of my parents were born in 1925 and grew up in southern Illinois. My dad listened to Cardinals baseball on the radio from the time he was a youngster. Even though we had TV, he would turn off the sound and listen to the radio broadcast when he could. We reached an understanding early in my life. I could root for any team I wanted, but if I wanted to sleep indoors, I would root for the Cardinals.

What would you order for your last meal?


If you could be reincarnated after you die, what would you like to come back as?

A fighter pilot. I would love to have that kind of horsepower at my fingertips.

Who are your favorite musicians and why?

Music has always been one of the biggest influences in my life. My father was a musician, and I started playing music at a very young age and went on to major in music in college. My favorite musicians are the ones who also write music. Near the top of that (long) list would be John Prine, Harry Chapin, James Taylor, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Eric Clapton and David Gilmore.

What's the happiest memory of your life?

I would say the first time my daughter and I communicated. She was a few weeks old, and her eyes were just starting to really focus on things. I was holding her and saying "ooooh," and her eyes focused on mine and she suddenly got a very serious look on her face and said "ooooh" and when she saw my reaction, she started laughing. This went on for about 30 minutes.

When she was in high school, I used to joke that this was also the last time we communicated.

If you could host a dinner party with any three living people in the world, whom would you invite? What would you serve?

I would invite John Cleese, Paul McCartney and David Gilmore. I would put Laura Huth in charge of the menu. She's the best cook I know.

Which historical figure do you admire the most and why?

I would say George Washington. He was living very comfortably when the Revolution was getting underway. He put everything, including his very life at risk, and held a very shaky army together through impossibly tough times.

Most people don't stop to think about the fact that if Britain had been able to capture him, they would have hung him immediately.

After becoming president, he could have had absolute power in his grasp had he wanted it. He turned it down and quietly returned to private life. I wonder if they make politicians like that anymore.

What personality trait do you most hate in other people? Most hate in yourself?

For others, I guess it would be an apparent need to create drama and hardship in their lives and the lives of those around them. For myself, I would say my lack of patience.

What's your best piece of advice?

I would say to value your life and those around you. This may be all there is so enjoy it, love it and do what you believe is right.

What was your first job and how much did you make an hour?

It was probably walking beans or detasseling corn. I think I made about $2 an hour.

What was a pivotal decision in your career and how did you arrive at that decision?

I was offered what I thought was my dream job in San Diego. I was a single father, and my daughter and my mother were very close to one another. I knew my mother would never relocate, and I couldn't bring myself to separate them, so I turned down the job. It was absolutely the right thing to do.

Do you have any regrets in your life? What are they?

Like anyone, I regret the times that I have thoughtlessly hurt or disappointed those that I love. I think most of us try to do what's right, but we all fall short sometimes. I know that I have.

How do you handle a stressful situation?

It depends upon the type of stress, whether it's a rapidly unfolding crisis or a prolonged bad situation. I'm pretty good at crisis management. Single-handing a sailboat on the open ocean honed those skills pretty well. It takes a lot to freak me out.

Prolonged stress is another matter. I try to find solutions (if there are any) and, if I can't, I try to make the best of things. Or I just write a song about it.


Reporter (retired)

Paul Wood retired as a reporter in 2019 after 38 years with The News-Gazette.

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