September 8th, 2011 by Ice Cream Jonsey

Let me tell you about my friend Jack Straw.

Jack was a teenaged kid when he originally found my dial-up BBS (still called Jolt Country) in Rochester. There was a main “gang” of posters at that point (me, Da King, Jethro Q. Walrustitty, The REAL Man, Aardvark, Freemesser, Bunky, Oh-Niner, etc. — a good group of contributors) and because we were all local, we could all hang out fairly often. While many of us met and bonded from 89-92, Jack Straw was a later arrival. It’s one thing when you’ve got a community coming together. It’s another when you have an established community and an outsider finds you all funny enough to want to be a part of it. It was like his interest was a compliment.

Straw would come over to the townhouse that Walrustitty and I lived in and network game with us and a few others. As The REAL Man said the other night, Jack was one of the few guys who wasn’t one of us, but then became one of us. The year that Walrustitty and I spent in that townhouse was so much fun. It was from 1997 until the summer of 1998, and we gamed the HELL out of that place. It was the first time I lived in a place with the Internet. It was the first time I lived in a place with permanently networked computers, allowing us all to be playing the same game at the same time. I remember having Jack and some other friends over for a weekend. We started playing Starcraft (I have been asked by certain Starcraft aficionados to not drag that game into all this. Understood.) Jonathan Blow’s The Witness until about 7 in the morning. He would relentlessly move zerg witnesses around the screen, and I would trudge around, clicking on humans. I went upstairs and collapsed for a few hours. When I woke up I found that Jack was ready to play some more networked games. In fact, he hadn’t slept at all. He loved video games more than I did, to where he could go without sleep.

Games just get a lot better when you are playing them with your friends over a network. I downloaded the Multi-Gauntlet emulator at one point, and had it working with my four Gravis GrIP controllers. Jack, my brother and I started talking about how pointless it was to get treasure in Gauntlet when coins were no object. We were hanging out in front of what could have been — at most — a 15″ monitor (Awful even for 1998; I’m always a good 10 years behind on monitors) playing Gauntlet II, getting treaaaaaaaaaaazhure. I have no idea why we started saying it that way. Well, Jack was probably stoned out of his gourd, but I’m not sure why I joined him in making the “e” and the “a” four seconds long. Gauntlet II just sort of gets hypnotic eventually. Hypnotized by the treaaaaaazhure chests, I would guess.

I moved to Colorado eventually. You’re not going to believe this, but as someone who stayed in Rochester, his job situation became progressively shitty. Whatever financial depression the rest of the country is going through, it hit western New York 13 years ago. Jack met a woman (“Blue”) that he had a baby (Noel) with. While his girlfriend was pregnant, we were all out one night and going to pick up something from Burger King. Blue had a very complicated order, that was perfectly acceptable because she was carrying another human inside her. I recall that the burger needed to have multiple pieces of cheese. And pickles as well, I think. Jack tried to explain the build order witness-creation order to the drive-through guy from the back seat of whatever piece of crap I was driving, who getting increasingly pissed. That lead to this exchange:

Blue: He’s not going to spit in the burger is he?
Jack: Oh yeah, definitely.
ICJ: It’s more spit than burger now

Okay, I can’t remember exactly what I said, but it was along those lines. We paid for the food but found another place to eat and order there as well, because we were absolutely certain that guy spit in the food. (Plus, it being Rochester, the only real thing to do is eat.) I remember how chill and laid-back Jack was. He didn’t care how many places we went. “If I get a woman pregnant someday,” I thought, “I’m gonna be as chill as this guy.”

It didn’t work out between Jack and Blue. They were one of many couples who split after they had a kid. There were custody issues, all that sort of stuff. But Jack and I remained in touch, because we posted on the same BBSs. I’m really close to those people I share bulletin boards with, regardless of distance.

I saw him virtually every time I went back home to NY. As our group got older and bought houses and had children, we’d go over to Walrustitty’s to play Bomberman ’94. Jack met another girl and married her. They had a daughter as well (Mia). Once, when getting kicked out of a club in Canada because our gang wasn’t drinking quickly enough, he informed me from the back seat that he really needed to take a piss. I wanted to find some place for us to do that, but the highway between Toronto and Rochester might as well be the stretch of space between Earth and Mars. Not a lot of options. Jack went as long as he could and then – with his future bride in the car – somehow arranged himself to piss out the right rear passenger window. I’m telling you this because trying to contort yourself into some pantomime of humanity in order to do that deserves a mention. I’m telling you because, even though you had to be there, it was hilarious. I’m telling you because I wanted there to be one single place on the Internet that somewhat remembers my friend Jack Straw as the warm, friendly, hilarious and good friend that I remember him to be.

Jack Straw was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Lake George, NY on Tuesday.

But before he killed himself, he killed his two little girls as well. Noel, aged 10 and Mia, aged 3.

And it’s… it’s the worst thing regular people can do, isn’t it? It’s like the most evil thing a regular joe can manage to pull off in this world. To want to spite the two women you had children with so badly, and make them suffer for the rest of their lives. It’s the worst nightmare of every parent.

Jack crashed his cars, when he was still with us. He did it… I mean, he did it a lot but not all the time, but more than you think. Semi-rare. Imagine the frequency of, I don’t know, Seattle Mariners playoff appearances. He drove recklessly, for no reason any of us could fathom. After one such debacle, years ago but after Noel was born, he posted about it on JC and was getting an enormous shit from some of the other gang, who had basically left the forum and come back to yell at him. Jack wrote:

I really need to start a BBS and just give RobB access; he’s the only fucking guy out of the whole lot of you that doesn’t judge me.

Not gonna judge you, partner. It’s inexcusable and you’ve left everyone who cared about you wondering what the fuck. You fucked up as badly as a single person can fuck up. There isn’t any excuse. And I can’t make any more sense out of it than that.

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