After using every form of transportation to get back home (except Space Shuttle), Laura and I have returned from another successful Penny Arcade Expo! With us, we have brought back many pictures, memories, and of course, swag. We will share each of these in several posts through the upcoming week. Today, I want to tell you, the faithful reader, about our first PAXEast experience, and about an amazing friend who we will never forget.
The year was 2010, and by some miracle, the wonderful people at Penny Arcade decided to put on an exposition on the East Coast. Needless to say, Laura and I were ecstatic. We were both fans of Penny Arcade, and Laura had never been to a “nerd convention” before, so there was much rejoicing (yay). I asked several of my friends if they were interested, but so many of them had already made plans for the end of March that only two could attend the convention with us: Forsythia and Chris. And so it was that our good friend Chris would accompany us on a weekend of unbridled video game madness. Chris was a huge gaming fan, and he was always willing to travel anywhere to spend time with his friends, so he was naturally prepared for the occasion. But about a month before PAX, Chris caught a rough bout of mononucleosis, and he was sick for weeks. Things were bleak, and it seemed that he would have to miss the expo.
As the time for PAXEast grew closer, Laura and I had resigned ourselves to the idea that Chris would just have to wait until next year for a video game convention. But by some other miracle, Chris kicked the mono from his system, and he was ready to ride to gaming glory once more! Well, sort of. When he and his girlfriend arrived at our apartment the night before our trip to Boston, it was apparent that the disease had left Chris severely weakened, and he looked in no condition to travel. Laura and I did our best to dissuade him, to tell Chris that he should just rest up and we will all go to PAX next year. But Chris wouldn’t hear it. He had spent most of his life dealing with ulcerative colitis, and he wasn’t going to let something like puny ole’ mono keep him away from video games and fun. So we loaded up into my Cadillac DeVille, and hit the road to the Hynes Convention Center in Boston.
After a extremely long and trying car ride (ten bloody hours!), we finally made it to PAX on Friday afternoon, and again, there was much rejoicing (yay). Thanks to a rooming error, the hotel we were staying at even upgraded us to a suite (for free!), which was perfect after such a exhausting trip. The view was amazing, and looked out over most of Boston, but we weren’t there to sightsee; we were there to party (and play video games, I suppose). Laura, Forsythia, and I decided to head down to the concert, while Chris and his girlfriend, Valerie, elected to stay behind so Chris could recooperate from the car ride. I felt bad leaving him behind when I knew he wanted to come with us, but he insisted that we go ahead and have fun, and assured us that he would join in later. Chris was an amazing like that; he would never want his friends to miss out on a fun time just because he was sick or tired.
So it was that each of us ventured out into the exhibition halls and witnessed a truly epic convention. We all had our own fun times and experiences at PAXEast. Chris made his way down to the gaming booths, and got his fair share of swag, but because of his weakened state, he had to miss out on the concerts, and took frequent breaks to rest up in the hotel room. We checked in on him while his girlfriend was right there by his side, making sure that he wanted for nothing, but I was so wrapped up in my own stuff that I never really took the time to slow down and hang out with Chris (a major regret). I always figured that this year was a wash for Chris, but next year he would be well and ready to rock with all of us on the convention floor.
After a full weekend and an equally full car ride home, we safely arrived back at GIMMGP Headquarters. Laura and I loaded Chris and his girlfriend into their car, and they prepared for the last leg of their trip home. Before they left, Chris threw a hug on me, and told me that despite being so worn out, he had a great time, and couldn’t wait for next year. We waved to them as they drove off, and that was the last time I saw my friend Chris. Just two weeks later, Chris caught a very violent case of viral meningitis. The doctors said this was due to his body was so weak from the mono, along with his prexisiting conditions. Laura and I got the call this very day two years ago that Chris had gone to the hospital, and despite dealing with illness his whole life, Chris passed away later that afternoon at the age of 24.
Not a day has gone by that we don’t miss our friend. Chris was an avid gamer, and I have so many happy memories of being glued to a television set with him by my side. When I first moved away after college, Chris would visit frequently. He would make the two-plus hour trip whenever he could and each time he would bring some new game for us to play. I especially remember the weekend that he brought Guitar Hero: Metallica, and we beat the entire thing in one night. This was no problem for Chris, as his skills at the guitar controller earned him the nickname, “Robot Hands,”(for example: he easily conquered “Through the Fire and Flames” on expert mode. Booya). Over one visit, Chris and I even tried out for Jeopardy at a local college. This was the last time that contestants could try out in person for the game show, so Chris and I did our best, but never received the call (we were robbed, I tell ya!).
I could go on and on about how much I loved playing games with Chris, but when it all boils down, he was such a loyal and caring friend, that it didn’t matter what we were doing. Despite spending so much of his life dealing with crippling illnesses, Chris didn’t let it turn him into a sour person. That’s one of the things I admire about him: he never let his colitis, or any other illness define who he was. He always had a great attitude and normally would joke on himself about it. It blew my mind that someone who had been through so much would never seem to complain. Chris would not let his own problems get in the way of helping his friends. Whatever he could do to make somebody feel better and forget about the little nagging worries that didn’t matter, Chris would do it. He would listen to your problems, let you vent to him, and somehow manage to stay out of lame social drama by offering his best advice: just let it go so we can all play video games and have fun again.
So every year, while we get excited for another Penny Arcade Expo and all the new games and excitement to be had, I remember my great friend Chris, and all the fun we had together. I miss ya, dude, and I know I will be playing games again with you some day.