"Remember no man is a failure who has friends." (Clarence from the movie It's a Wonderful Life)
Today I am going to violate my rule of writing anything pertaining to my personal life beyond a few brief references. I think this exception is warranted as it is fairly important, I am fairly upset over it (to put it very mildly), and in its own way it touches upon pop culture (the reason behind this blog). At any rate, today I still find myself in a state of utter shock.
I just got word last night that my friend Al took his own life. At the moment details are sketchy, but I do know that he was going through a divorce. I can only assume that was at least one of the reasons he did it, if not the primary reason. If that is the case, then he is the second person I know who has killed himself over a woman (strangely, the other was also one of the biggest Star Trek fans in the area).
I met Al when I was only about 8 or 9 years old. He was one of my ex-brother in law's friends, as he was to this day. As it turned out, my brother and I probably had more in common with Al than my brother in law. We were all science-fiction and fantasy buffs. We were all huge Star Trek fans. In fact, Al was at least partly responsible for introducing me to both Tolkien's works and the Society for Creative Anachronism. He was fully responsible for introducing me to Vampirella and the works of Frank Frazetta. To give you an idea of how much Al was into sci-fi, one of his projects in recent years was to build the interior of a life-size spaceship in his basement (I must say I was impressed)! He and later his daughters were fixtures at all the local sci-fi conventions. Al was one of the few Baby Boomers that I had a great deal in common with beyond similar tastes in music.
First and foremost, Al was probably the best science fiction and fantasy artist I personally knew. His style was definitely drawn from comic books. In fact, his work vaguely reminded me of Gil Kane. I wish I had some of it to show you, but all of his art is packed away and I lack a scanner. But, trust me, if you saw his artwork you would be impressed. I never could understand why he did not turn professional.
He was also a skilled martial artist. He was skilled with European swords and in the Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu style of Japanese sword fighting. He was also a great archer. He was a deadeye shot with an English longbow.
As I said earlier, I am in a state of shock. If there was one person whom I would not have thought would take his own life it would be Al. Al was a tall slender fellow who never looked his own age (the running joke the past few years was that he never aged--in his mid-Fifties he looked younger than either my brother or me). He was always good natured and happy go lucky, hardly the sort of person one thinks of as committing suicide. Al was one of those people who played an important role in my life when I was growing up. Al and his then wife babysat both my brother and me at times. When my brother and I got older we returned the favour, babysitting his two daughters. They grew up to be sci-fi fans themselves, not to mention two lovely young women (gods, I feel old...). He'd moved away a few years ago and we had lost touch, but I was always guaranteed at seeing him at the local sci-fi conventions and when he'd come back into town from time to time.
Tonight I will drink to Al's memory. My brother and I will probably exchange reminiscences about him. And I will mourn losing him. I suspect a lot of people will. In fact, I imagine at a lot of the local sci-fi conventions they will be holding a moment of silence in his honour. Al was one of the best people anyone could know.