Images of Gordon's Life

Don Strayer at Gordon's, July 1993.

On August 6, 1997, Don sent us this beautiful tribute, which he modified in October:

Gordon was my friend for some twenty years, beginning soon after my future ex-wife and I moved into an apartment in Richmond Virginia's Fan district, next door to him and his future ex. As our lives, jobs, homes and circles of friends evolved, some things remained constant. One of these constants was getting together for an evening of music, games and rambling philosophical discussions.

We always thought we'd end up in business together but that never happened. We came up with some great ideas but never pursued them -- and often found that a few years later someone else had made it happen: Consumer digital music media; Cable radio; Internal combustion engines fueled by water, the magic provided by an electrolytic catalyst and an ultraviolet laser -- A company called Solar Technologies actually patented that one a few years ago but don't expect to see a water fueled car any time soon.

Gordon was an avid gamer. A gamer is a person who loves competition and who loves to win. But a gamer's goal is not to destroy your opponent and amass wealth and glory at his expense. A gamer's goal is to play again and again, always getting better at the game and pushing your opponent to play better. The higher the level of competition the greater the fun.

I eventually refused to play some games with Gordon because it was an exercise in futility. Boggle was one. Gordon loved that game but none of us could even begin to challenge him. Poker was another. It became a standing joke that when Gordon called me to come over and play poker I'd tell him, "I'll mail you $20 and see you tomorrow."

Gordon and I frequently tried new games, as in this picture, seeking new challenges. But we always returned to the constants: Darts and chess where we were nearly equals, although I must admit that Gordon won more often than not.

Another of his most endearing traits was his passion to experience life's opportunities, and to share these experiences -- even to demand that they be shared. This sometimes led him to convince others to join in impulsive, sometimes rash, adventures which we might not have entertained on our own -- For example, late night road trips.

One night, after many tunes heard, mass quantities consumed and bullshit liberally spread, Gordon observed that the sun would rise in just a couple of hours and we could be on the Blue Ridge Parkway by then. "Wouldn't it be great to see the sun rise over the mountains?"

I found myself driving "The Beast", the infamous '69 Chevy Bel-Air I had in those days, along I-64, striving valiantly to stay awake while Gordon and Sara nodded off. I remember seeing a painted line in front of the hood and thinking that it belonged off the left fender. So I eased to the right, then: "Wham! Wham!" The painted line was the edge marker. I just eased back on to the road and kept on going.

Gordon, suddenly wide awake, shouted, "What happened! What happened!"

"We just took out a couple of reflector posts."

"And a good thing, too. It woke you up!"

Soon we found ourselves at the Afton Mountain Holiday Inn, enjoying a fine breakfast while we watched the best sunrise ever. The only scars were two broken door handles which I adamantly refused to repair. When "The Beast" eventually collapsed onto its rusted out frame and was towed off for junk it still had right side doors that could only be opened from the inside.

Years later, another late night. We ended up with a couple of friends around an impromptu campfire along the James River, many miles west of Richmond, waiting for the sun to rise. Gordon started slamming my "faggy disco" shirt, a green paisley, polyester hand-me-down. It was a truly repulsive shirt that I sometimes wore simply because it was there and not in the laundry basket.

"We ought to burn it."

Soon enough, that shirt ended up on the fire, melted into a shapeless glob. And then the sun rose.

Years more later, Hurricane Bob was lashing the Outer Banks. We talked about never seeing REAL hurricanes in Central Virginia. Gordon said, "We could be there in three hours. Wouldn't it be great..." That time we only went twenty or thirty miles before we agreed that it was a silly idea. Perhaps we were getting older but wiser. We drove back to Richmond and watched the sunrise from James River Park. Best sunrise ever.

It seems that this is more about sunrises than road trips -- So one more unforgettable sunrise. It was a pre-wedding party for Gordon and Sara at the old Fan apartment house -- a two kegger. We ran speaker cable between our two apartments and packed in good friends standing room only. Eventually there was a knock at the door and the voice on the other side said he was a policeman.

"What's your badge number?" Gordon demanded.

The door remained closed and the interloper eventually departed. Throughout that long night guests reported seeing police on the street. The party went on until sunrise, when I stepped out onto the balcony and saw a phalanx of Richmond's finest standing in the middle of Grace Street. Party over. Off with the music. Out with the lights. And nothing more happened except for the sun rising, flooding the apartment with welcome light.

Gordon, dear friend, I miss thee, not in the dark of night but at the sunrise. It always rises. We will play again.

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