Nothing lasts forever
Deep Walker Lives
My good friend Richard Gurley used to make fun of people who insisted that if you were big and strong you had to be stupid. He was a computer programmer who used an over-sized keyboard. At conventions, when we weren’t involved in a game, we would sit and talk about strategy, tactics, philosophy, the relative value of different kinds of blade, etc.
So many times I saw him acting gruff and laying it on thick to trying keep from bursting out laughing. He did not always succeed.
If I had not met Richard Gurley back in in 1982 he would’ve been dead by 1984; instead, he helped develop the MRI as their main test subject. We have been gamer friends since we met at a party Jerry Collins (a local artist) threw. Not long after we met I took him aside at the party (well, actually, we were talking and went outside) and I told him, “You have acromegaly. It is a serious health condition. You need to see a doctor immediately.”
On my prompting, he immediately went to a doctor and was diagnosed with pituitary cancer. Unlike most cases, his pituitary was fully functional and the size of a golf ball. Very quickly it was found that his bones were too thick and too dense to use x-rays on him so he got referred to the people who were trying to develop a device which has become known as an MRI.
I remember one time we were at ChattaCon sitting in some chairs near the hotel elevators talking about how great it would be to get to colonize and explore alien planets when some kid came up to us and asked if anyone had a knife.
Richard pulled out a tiny penknife opened it and set it on the table in front of us.
I then pulled out a pocket knife opened it while saying, “That’s not a knife. This is a knife,” and put it on the table next to the penknife.
Then Richard pulled out a tanto while saying, “THAT’s not a knife. This is a knife,” and put it on the table next to my pocket knife .
While saying, “THAT’s not a knife. This is a knife,” I pulled out a Marine survival knife approximately 1 inch longer than the tanto and set it on the table.
All the while, the kid’s eyes just kept getting wider and wider, while a crowd began to gather.
With a hearty, “THAT’s not a knife. This is a knife,” Richard pulled out a foot long, double bladed knife that I think was a Scottish dirk but in his hands it still looked tiny and delicate, and tossed it down on the table.
At that point I reached into my jacket and pulled out my machete and dropped it on the table with a hearty, “THAT’s not a knife. This is a knife.”
Just then, the kid started waving his arms back and forth saying, “Wait a minute!” He reached down and picked one of the knives up, pulled out a string, and cut it. He then put the knife back down, looked at both of us, and said “thank you” while backing away slowly.
I know what you’re probably thinking, if you’re a con-goer. “What about the weapons policies?” First off, there were no weapons policies in those days. They were not needed. Second, both of us were probably staff and on top of that at least one of us was probably security. I say “probably” because it was a long time ago and I don’t really remember anymore.
For years, Richard and I had each other’s backs. After his pituitary grew back and he had to have it surgically removed a second time, his bones became so large that his vertebrae locked into each other and he could barely move. Since that time Richard has not been able to get out so much and I have been struggling and did I have the money or time to spend that much time with my good friend, but we never ceased to be close.
On Facebook, a lot of people have been talking about how important Richard was to them. They have been getting a lot of sympathy. I can’t really tell you how important Richard was to me and I have not been getting any sympathy. Richard was one of my two friends who have died in the last four years who I really expected to outlive me for the longest time. Jimmy Wheeler was the other one. Most of these people who have been talking about how important Richard was to them and how close they were to him would never have met him if it had not been for me.
The really frustrating part for me is that I had just figured out how to get his legs to uncramp just before he had his initial heart attack. I was planning to go up and see if I could get him walking again when he had the heart attack.
I remember one time back when he was being treated, Richard was walking across the street from Lenox Mall to the Marta train station when he was hit by a car that ran the light. I should stop at this point and mentioned the fact that Richard’s femurs by that point were already as big around as my upper arm. If you don’t know, the femur is the bone in the upper part of your leg. There was no time for him to get out of the way, so he hopped up an inch off the pavement so the car would not shatter his leg, and he shoved his elbow as hard as he could into the center of the car hood with the momentum created when it hit him. The result was that he shoved the car hood into the carburetor of the vehicle, totaling it. He then got up off of the hood when the woman stopped her car. He growled at the lady in the broken car and walked off into the Marta station while the lady cop who had witnessed the accident stared at him with her mouth open.
Massive destructive power with a twisted, sick sense of humor was in many ways a hallmark of Richard Gurley. He liked to act gruff and found it funny that a lot of people were afraid of him, but down deep he was a gentle and caring soul so long as you did not try to hurt him or those he cared about. Like me, you hurt those we care about and, well, ever seen a cat hunt and kill something?
Richard was one of the main forces helping me maintain optimism about humanity. He always had a sense of humor. He wanted me to make sure that he was remembered the way he was before he ended up in a wheelchair. I am glad that I let him know that his memory will be preserved both in the game that I’m designing and in several of my stories. Richard was always a good friend.
I keep asking myself, “What’s the point of saving people’s lives if you end up watching them die later?”