This morning, I was playing videogames with Sam and my phone buzzed with a Facebook notification. It was from my friend Eric. Our friend of nearly a quarter century, Greg Scott, had died the night before.
Let me tell you about Greg.
When I first met him, I had just graduated from high school, and had started calling local BBS’s in Pekin. I was playing a multiplayer BBS door game called The Pit, and there was always a guy going by the handle The Mad Hempster in the top 3 somewhere. Not very long after, my friend Trent started up his BBS, Gridpoint, and I started seeing The Mad Hempster posting there as well. I’d never met anyone like Greg before. He had a particular way of putting things combined with an absolute zero-tolerance for bullshit. A few of the more colorful phrases I still find myself saying today originated from him. The guy was fantastic at telling stories and giving his opinions in an interesting way. It’s what got me to hang out with him. It wasn’t long before a few of us had hung out on the message boards, become friends, and formed an unruly group of young people that annoyed the crap out of the mostly-over-35 BBS scene.
Around this time, if somebody said they were going to Greg’s, it meant they were going there to get stoned. I didn’t visit until later, as I was deathly afraid of the recreational use of all drugs and/or alcohol. (Not much has changed, but I have a drink now and then.) I’d never even really been around anyone who did such things with any regularity. Even so, I’d chat with Greg quite a bit and he seemed pretty cool. There was one night in particular I’ll never forget. He called me up asking for help setting up his C*Base BBS, and told me about half an hour in that he’d done two hits of LSD right before he called, and that I might need to hang on for a minute because the letters on the screen kept moving around. Especially the green ones.
I’m not exactly sure when he got his DUI, or when he got arrested for possession of some marijuana seeds and stems. I know that the first time I ever visited his house, he had to wear a cuff around his ankle that would call the cops if he wasn’t in by 9pm, and that he was sober now and he wasn’t very happy about it. A big group of us used to descend upon his place every Saturday night, shooting the shit and watching movies while we waited hours for a 1x CD burner to copy the coolest new games of the week. It was the high point of my week in those days. Greg had the fastest home computer I’d ever seen at the time: a Pentium 90mhz he dubbed the “Tower of Power”. I will never forget the day he screwed up installing a 2.88mb floppy in it, releasing the Magic Smoke from his motherboard. “It smelled like oranges.”
For the record, I have never seen anyone do with a Commodore 64 the things Greg could do. Like hooking up Zip drives and browsing the Internets and God knows what else. It was like watching an extremely specialized high level wizard.
I used to ride to school with Greg at ICC every day for a whole year. We only had a couple classes together. One of them was Human Sexuality, which I can safely say we were not acting particularly mature about (especially the day we found out that female porcupines masturbate with sticks). Greg introduced me a lot of music I never would have listened to otherwise, including Bad Religion, and Living Colour, Corrosion of Conformity, and Rage Against The Machine, and even GWAR. We used to talk about everything on that commute, and it pains me that I can’t remember much anymore, just that I enjoyed his company.
I used to drive Greg to jail on the weekend, as part of his punishment for his drug offense. I remember when his parole hearing came up, and he was scared he was going to prison and he talked me into messing with my BBS clock to let him take about 100 turns on TradeWars 2002 because he thought he wouldn’t get to play it or anything else again for years. Everything went his way, and he stayed out of prison, and we were all relieved. I remember at one point he’d asked me to move into an apartment with him, and I thought he was crazy and that I could never afford that and turned him down. He kept pressing me, but I didn’t do it. It wasn’t until years later he told me he knew I was going to be sober and help him stay that way. Even so, he did it. I used to play poker at his place on Sunday nights, and a lot of his AA friends would come by. I’d watch the number on his coin increase month by month, year by year.
He used to tell the story of his DUI a lot, and how he’d drunk enough to make his heart stop and be clinically dead until the paramedics revived him, and how he felt like he’d cheated Death. I’d never seen anyone hit rock bottom before, much less successfully turn himself around. That alone made look up to him. Greg had a rough edge or two, but he was a pretty damn stand-up guy and if you were his friend he was there for you. From many accounts, he touched a lot of lives in a big way through AA over the years. I was shocked when he told me he was going to be the father of twins and doubly shocked when it turned out he was a really great dad to them. It breaks my heart that they won’t have him anymore.
I am 100% certain I have not done the man justice with this, and for that I am sorry. I’ve made the mistake of trying to make sense of any of this. I’m just numb. It’s like somebody popped a brick out of my foundation. I can’t shake the feeling that we’re going to hear him tell the story about all this a week from now, ending with “welp, not fuckin’ doing THAT again”. I wish more than anything that was the case. I am glad for the times I had with him, and don’t really want to think about the times I’ll never get again. I honestly believed that an old, grizzled Greg would be there after all of us were gone, screaming at the TV about his Blackhawks. I felt like he’d earned it. I wish I could have stayed up all night yesterday to give him a hundred more TW2002 turns, if only to buy a little more time.
Rest in peace, man. I hope whatever’s out there is as awesome as you. We’ll miss you.