Chris Locke, 1947–2021

Chris Locke died yesterday afternoon. He’d been living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease for a long time, an especially long time considering how scary the diagnosis was when he first got it. For the last couple of weeks he’d been in hospice care; for the last week, those of his friends who knew were checking in frequently as his family sat at his bedside and mediated the love and concern to him. Today we got word; yesterday, he had died.

People who knew Chris longer will have a lot to say about his life before he entered the blogging lists as Rageboy. We exchanged some Pittsburgh- and tech industry-anecdotes concerning his work at Carnegie Mellon and related institutions, my years in Pittsburgh first as a schoolkid, then working in a computer graphics start-up with CMU connections, but I didn’t hear much from him about all those years. We talked most about philosophy and theology, metaphysics and spirituality, and the dire messes people get into when they take the wrong things (almost everything is a wrong thing) too seriously.

Although David was the person who first welcomed me into blogging conversations, and Doc and the gang of old school Blogtank types shortly after, I was leery of Rageboy; the clue is in the name, and even in 2002 I saw the potential for misery if I tread on the toes of the wrong wrathful blogger. Sooner or later, though, anybody who was linking conversationally to David was bound to interact with Rage, and it was my good fortune to make a favourable first impression on him (I believe), by correcting the typography of his ‘Being On Time’ Heidegger parody image. Chris appreciated my concern for visual detail, was piqued to learn I was a clergyman, and reassured that I might be someone worth talking to when in an early email to him I spoonerised my ordinary valediction to ‘Grease and pace’.

After that we linked back and forth a few times, exchanged emails, met up two or three times, stayed in moderately consistent communication even through an interval of fury and grief that interrupted his flow of gonzo cultural commentary and marketing counsel. When he re-emerged at Mystic Bourgeoisie, Margaret and I followed his search for intelligent life in the spiritual intelligentsia of Colorado (especially), California, and everywhere else someone was trousering rolls of high denomination bills by writing/talking/giving presentations about simplicity, past lives, higher planes, and the various other appurtenances of soul-searching capitalism. We traded ideas about book projects, about ways he might scrape together a few pence, and when everything got too much for him, we joined in with many internet friends and a few local (to Chris) volunteers to help pick up some of the debris of his conscious uncoupling from the world of business consulting to the world of double-wide ramen cuisine.

When you’re gonzo, you inevitably put your foot in unwelcome piles from time to time; if you’re a gonzo superbeing, you can float above that on the strength of bestsellers and cover stories on Rolling Stone and certain friends, but mere mortals get sucked into a more mundane world of rent and bills and their collectors. ‘Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds nought and six, result misery.’ Chris wasn’t miserable, but he got through the last fifteen years or so with pulmonary disease and very little income, and I doubt there are many who’d have changed places with him.

This much I know, and Margaret and Josiah and Nate, and maybe even Pippa as well: Chris loved truth, hated sanctimonious pretence, admired candour, and wasn’t abashed by his chosen role as Diogenes to a generation of Aristippus-es. Chris joins Michael O’Connor Clarke as alumni of mortality from among our tank of bloggers; I will light a candle or two for him, and raise a glass, and maybe leave a few more blog posts than I have been in the habit of doing. It’s the least I can do for Chris.

Grease and pace, Voltaire!

Three Weeks Later

Just falling out of the habit of blogging, again. Two miles a morning except last Saturday, when it was freezing and raining (so I only ran a half mile or so). Working hard, pressing on.