Sunday, 4 April 2010

This week I lost a friend...

Yesterday I found out I lost a friend - someone who I probably only ever spent a week of physical time with, but who I knew for almost 15 years.

I first met laggy online, on an IRC chat channel, back in 1996 and we hit it off.  He was quite possibly the most quirky and eccentric person I've ever met online, but not in a scary way - mostly he was really funny and he made me laugh (when he wasn't being weird!) :>  He was also really technically smart and he taught me a hell of a lot about IRC commands and bots and the Internet in general, and how to do nasty stuff to people who pissed you off.  He also campaigned to get me into the channel management, which was kind of a big deal in those days, and succeeded.  Ahh, the good ol' days!

I met him IRL for the first time in 1997 during my North American backpacking extravaganza, where he kindly threw a party at his house and invited a whole bunch of other IRC folk.  A couple of years later when I visited another friend in Michigan again, he lent me his car for a few days so I could get around, even knowing that (a) I'd never driven in snow before (and there was a LOT of snow that trip) and (b) I came from a place where we drove on the "wrong" side of the road.  Whenever I got back to Michigan in the intervening years, he always made the effort to catch up.  When he discovered Facebook a year or so back, I think I was his 2nd FB Friend.  Sadly, I never managed to convince him to come visit Australia.

The last time I saw him was the last time I visited Michigan, in August 2008.  He was already quite ill by that stage and I was working so I didn't get to spend much time with him.  But there was a party, and he still made the effort to get there to see me.

I cried when I heard of his passing yesterday.  Today I read through his FB profile with all the funny, witty posts and comments, and dug out some old emails from 1996, and reminisced a bit, and got sad all over again.  It's fascinating to me, this Internet thing - it allows you to have friendships that a generation ago you wouldn't have even considered.  I can't physically be at the local bar with the Michigan-ites today, but I'm thinking of them all.

R.I.P. John Newton, 1957 - 2010
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