Yesterday I had a spare moment and so I got caught up on XKCD and the other webcomics I follow. Not following tv, radio, or any other news, I've only just learned about Gary Gygax. I'm not sure why it's touched me so, to me Gary's just always been a name in the field. I was never enthralled by his work, I joined the game too old, after other names were bigger.
The idea of the reaper being held up for days, noone dying because of a game, deeply fills our wishes that somehow, somewhere, there is the hope of escape. The idea of death as bungling and incompetent, as bound by rule and tradition, is deeply amusing in the "ha ha only serious" manner usually reserved for geeks. Dark humor is a rare breed. It touches on the things we fear most, but people these days don't use humor as release, as self mockery, most use it only for denial.
Death, is everywhere, is in every thing. I've had more brushes with it than I care to talk about, more brushes than I often think about. I still hold out hope that transhumanism will arrive before I'm gone, but as I grow older I grow more accepting that death too will one day come for me. I do not fear death, it is missing the rest of the great story that I lament, not seeing the next plot twist, not seeing how it ends, how all the loose threads get tied up.
I sorely miss Portland, the city, the people there, the zeitgeist. Though I'd flirted with it before then, Reed was when I first got into roleplaying. After so many years away from CTY, Reed felt at long last like coming home. The year I took off from Reed most of my friends and gaming circle graduated and flung themselves to the ends of the world. Junior and senior years and the time since then I made new friends, found new gamers, but there was never that critical mass anymore and people seemed to leave Portland and leave my life as quickly as they entered it.
I worked at Reed for a year after graduating, and in that time I broke my ties to all the beauty and wonder of college. By the time I quit working at Reed I was completely disillusioned. Years afterwards I went back to the campus for some transcripts and I could feel the glimmerings of magic beginning to return to the place. Not my magic anymore, but a nostalgic magic, the magic you can see for other people and their first discoveries of life outside of their parent's houses. Though Reed was the greatest place for me at the time, I've outgrown that home just as by the time I left CTY I had outgrown that home. I still miss the magic of those years, but that's not the magic I need now.
In my time since Reed I would get fluctuations of friends and happiness. The Plum Tree was a fabulous home and I miss Karen (and Jasmine, Ryan, Lonnie...). Free Geek was a fabulous home and I miss all the spin-off groups of friends with their isolated interconnected dramas. The CAT was also a home to me, though it was always more distant, more professional, than I think of home being. And then there were the unnamed groups —with Eric, Amos, Antonia, Arlo, Serenity, Zeo, Candy, Schwern— the ones often more personal than the others. Portland's a small town, and yet, somehow I couldn't help but feeling lonely.
And now, this last year, I too have left Portland. Not having a car and being too overwhelmed by school I've not had any real chances to get out and explore Baltimore. Even still I've already noticed that Baltimore is a city of death. Baltimore used to be a big port city, but unlike Portland it's never figured out what to do now that shipping has changed. Baltimore's been in a state of decline for decades, the streets are riddled with potholes, the urban schools are destitute, the racism between the large poor class of blacks and the pockets of middle-class whites is overt. The liveliness I've found is like the liveliness of a town once the battlefield lines have moved one town back.
After a year here I've started forming new friendships, but like the CAT they're not the emotional friendships I miss. I'm still on mailing lists for Free Geek and the PIG list, every now and then I log into the CAT's irc. Somewhere I still hold hope of one day moving back to Portland, of finding all my friends again but somehow without the loneliness that always seemed to grow into longer and longer stretches. I'm an alien in a philosophical wasteland. Free/open-source software, ecological sustainability, social engineering, technological enlightenment, goth/punk social commentary, political activism, polyamory, childfree, gender/sexual deviance, —in short being revolutionary— all of these are foreign concepts treated at best with cautious skepticism here. Gary's death is in some way a death of gaming, and for me gaming has always been tied up with my deepest friendships and all those ideologies, has been tied up with the spirit of Portland itself. His death reminds me that I can never go home,
but I haven't found a new one yet.