drwex (drwex) wrote,

This has been a bad week

Yesterday my former GM from the days when we gamed in Austin wrote to tell me that our friend Mark, another of the gamers from that era, had been found dead. I know no other details at this time.

When I first started to write this I thought I'd tell you about Mark the funny gamer - he was the prototype for the Jester class that I still use in my house rules. I don't remember his character's name, but I remember his description, which included a "magic" beard that changed color or length every few days. We never were sure if his beard really was magical or if the character had costume bits he changed when we weren't looking. It helped that Mark could say the most outrageous things while keeping a totally straight face - we never were completely sure when he was putting one over on us.

Or maybe Mark the friend. He grilled a fine steak, wrote well and thoughtfully, and didn't shy away from hard topics. He was fun to drink with and always knew how much was too much, both for himself and his friends.

But this morning in the shower I remembered one more thing I'd like to share with you. Mark was the first person I ever knew personally who suffered real loss for doing what was right. Not entirely by choice - he was just in the wrong place at the right time. Mark was working on his PhD in history, you see, and he happened to be walking to his advisor's office when he heard the Chair of the department tell his advisor, "She's not graduating until she sleeps with me."

(This was the 1980s. People really did say that kind of sh*t out loud then.)

Mark could have pretended not to hear it, could have walked on or turned around. Instead, he told the woman about whom the sentence was uttered what was being said behind her back, and she initiated legal proceedings against the University. Mark was subpoenaed to give a deposition against his advisor and the Chair of his department. Under oath he told the truth and sacrificed any hope he had of graduating or getting his own degree.

While discovery was still going on his advisor resigned. The University showed its backing of the Chair by reappointing him, and then settled with the woman for an undisclosed sum. As often happens in small departments, students whose advisor leaves are given to the Department Chair to supervise. A year before I left Austin, Mark was forced to take leave of absence. He was working as a security guard when I lost touch with him. History is a small field and a student may find it difficult to get accepted elsewhere when the Chair of his current department has already written to the handful of scholars in the area to warn them about a 'troublemaker.' Can't prove it, of course.

Roll well, Mark, wherever you are.
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