I had some good news to post, but today isn't the day for it.
Scott Haring is perhaps the single individual most responsible for my entry into the gaming industry.
A long time ago, he produced a magazine called The Gamer. I met him at GenCon, and liked the magazine. A lot.
Being a writer for the Wisconsin State Journal at the time, I offered to do some reviews for the Gamer. Frankly, it seemed a top-notch way to get free games.
These reviews were my first "professional" pieces in the biz. (Even longer ago, when studying astrophysics at Queen Mary College, London, I did a comic strip for a Traveller fanzine called "Alien Star." But that's another story entirely.) The gig at the Gamer led to work for "The Unspeakable Oath," and also provided the connections that would eventually see me picking up the reins of Murphy's Rules, at SJG's Pyramid magazine.
Scott's not just one of the best editors I've ever had the pleasure to know, he's also a hell of a good guy. Though we haven't worked together for a while, we've kept in touch on and off over the years. We'd jaw, when we'd come across each other at cons. Or he'd drop me a comment on a particular cartoon from time to time, and when he'd write to say he enjoyed something I did, well, that would make my week.
I thought of Scott and his love of baseball and ballparks on Monday, July 4, when, at the last Madison Mallards home game for three weeks, I found myself wishing I could drag him up here for a really great time at the Duck Pond.
Today, on Steve Jackson Games' Daily Illuminator, I read the following:
July 7, 2005: Scott Haring In Tragic Accident
We're very sorry to report that Scott Haring, our e23 editor, was in a serious traffic accident while returning home after July 4. His youngest boy was killed, and Scott required immediate surgery. Our thoughts are with Scott and his whole family right now. When we have more information, we'll share it.
Words can't express my deep sorrow for what Scott and his family are going through right now. His love and pride for his kids really did shine from him, and this is simply terrible news on an already bleak morning.
I feel gutted, and our family's thoughts and prayers are with Scott and his loved ones on this terrible day.
Those I know and love in London all seem to be OK.
Good God, am I proud of the city, and how it's coping and reacting, right now.
To quote an old Londoner who lived through the blitz and got caught up in the Canary Wharf explosion: "I've been blown up by a better class of bastard than this!"
London is a tough old town, and will bounce back just fine. Which is not in any way, shape or form to diminish what happened today. Indeed, I wish I was there now, to be with friends and family. Or just as a defiant "in your face" to the killers who did this. I recognize all the areas from the clips American television replays (and replays, and replays), and I want to be with my city while it's hurting.
If the Luftwaffe couldn't bring the city to it's knees, these pathetic penny-ante cowards certainly won't. I lived in the Commonwealth Hall dorms just off of Russell Square at the height of the IRA campaigns. It's surprising how quickly one adapts, in a way, to life with bombings. If the IRA decides to bomb Harrods every Christmas, you just don't go to Harrods at Christmas - no matter how good the flapjack is.
One of my friends at Queen Mary College was Anthony Allen. Not "Tony" - AN-thony. Though slight of frame, he was, to my mind, the quintessential Englishman: the True Brit, in a stiff-upper-lip, sophisticated, Etonian kind of way. I'm quite sure he didn't go to Eton, but dammit, he should have.
A crystal-clear memory from college was when Anthony and I popped into the McDonalds by the Tottenham Court Road tube station for a milkshake.
This was in the day when a McDonald's was still a novel thing in London, so it was a bit of a treat. I mean, up to that point in time, ordering a milkshake in Britain meant getting a glass of milk with a little froth on the top that might - might - taste vaguely of strawberry, banana, chocolate or whatever, depending on the mood and generosity of the server at that moment..
Now, you must know this: to eat food in a British restaurant, you had to pay a Value Added Tax. Somewhere between five and ten percent, I believe it was. It could have been less. This was before my economics degree, you understand. If you wanted the food to take away, though, that was easier: there was no extra charge.
Well, Anthony and I decided to take a break from the summer heat and pay the VAT on a couple of milkshakes and fries (a significant decision, when you're on a college budget). We took our trays upstairs, to the second floor seating area, and grabbed a table by the window. Not that the crossroads of Oxford Street, New Oxford Street, Charing Cross Road and Tottenham Court Road offer spectacular vistas, but there you go.
We were a few bites into our fries before we noticed police outside slowly but surely cordoning off the McDonalds.
I look around, a little nervously, bomb squads not being a London sight I had any prior close-hand familiarity with.
A woman came up the stairs.
"The IRA phoned in a bomb threat," she said. "They said they're going to blow up a fast food restaurant on Oxford Street. Everybody should leave."
Everybody left in a very English, orderly kind of way.
Except Anthony, who chewed calmly on his fries.
"Uh, Anthony," I prodded. "We really should get out of the building."
Chew, chew, chew.
Antony picked up his shake, and took a drink.
"No," he said, in that particularly reasoned and responsible voice the English do so well. "I paid to drink my milkshake in, and I am going to drink my milkshake in."
There really was no arguing with that.
As it turned out, the IRA blew up the Wimpy's, further down Oxford Street. Nobody was hurt, but the restaurant was destroyed.
If you, like me, had ever eaten at a Wimpy's, you, like me, might consider that a mercy killing, also.
I think it was ten years ago or more that I found out Anthony had died of cancer.
With luck, if an afterlife exists, it has really great milkshakes. I'd love to share a couple more with him again.
And should there be such an afterlife, one can't help but hope the Onion's famous, utterly brilliant "Hijackers Surprised To Find Selves In Hell" article holds true for all terrorists.