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   My friend, Doug
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mitakeet
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My friend, Doug
« on: Feb 26th, 2010, 3:11pm »
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This is in multiple posts because there is a limit to the number of characters in any given post...
 
I first met Doug in the 1994 timeframe when he was recommended as a replacement roommate by his friend Dave Reimer, who at that time was my roommate (Dave was tired of driving the 10 miles, through 4 stoplights, to get back and forth to work and wanted to move the other end of Blacksburg).  Doug seemed a nice enough guy, though skinny with rather strange staring eyes and short hair.  The intention at the time was for him to be my caretaker of my Ďestateí when I graduated with my MBA and left the country for life in the big city.  Of course, that didnít happen for me and I eventually wound up having to sell everything and live homeless and destitute for a period, but this is a story about Doug.  
 
Doug initially was a quite roommate and we pretty much ignored each other (which was fairly typical of many of my roommates at the time), but every now and again he would stick his head in and bark or say something unusual like Smith!  Since I am a pretty strange guy myself I more or less ignored that nonsense but eventually we started to talk.  He had several different jobs, sometimes a dish washer at a restaurant and sometimes a cook.  That he kept changing jobs so often didnít make much of an impression on me as in a college environment (he wasnít going to school at the time, but had done so elsewhere and after all, this was Virginia Tech) people constantly shift between the various low wage jobs that are to be had by college students.
 
We eventually became close and as I was fond of watching trains Doug accompanied me a couple of times.  There was this one location in the area that had an almost exactly 1 mile long tunnel that had the added benefit of often the train would stop with both ends hanging outside the tunnel.  Doug and I were hanging out at one end with my brother-in-law-at-the-time Nathan and we decided to walk to the other end of the tunnel (we only had one flashlight, so far from an intelligent thing to do).  I knew from extensive experience that trains only moved one-way on that track and that once a train had passed it would be a minimum of an hour before another one passed by, so I was confident that we could make it to the other side.  Then, we would just wait until the next one went through, then walk back.  Like all great plans this one had a tiny little flaw: what happens if another train doesnít come?  After sitting around for what seemed like a couple of hours we had to make a choice: walk home (we were a mile closer to the house from where we were) and leave the car at the other end of the tunnel or make a dash through the tunnel and hope no train came while we were in.  It is not like it would be fatal if a train came, there are little alcoves in the tunnel for rail workers in the event they are caught in the tunnel, but the walls are filthy and we were not wild about being seen anyway.  So after much consideration we decided to head to the other end to get the car (it was probably after midnight by now and we were all tired and ready for bed and really didnít want to walk the several miles to the house).  To expedite matters we decided to jog through the tunnel and risk turned/broken ankles, but we were young(er) and foolish (which hasnít changed much) and started our trek.  With all this lead up you probably assume that a train came and we had some minor disaster, but in fact we made it to the other end without any problems.  Later I found that Doug had recorded our flight through the tunnel; boy I wish I had a copy of that tape!
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Re: My friend, Doug
« Reply #1 on: Feb 26th, 2010, 3:11pm »
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I recall another incident that many people might see familiar.  Doug and I were heading home for the weekend or something and were both heading up Interstate 81.  I left about an hour after Doug left and was astounded to pass him just before I turned on to I66 about 180 miles from Tech!  He would always drive me nuts when he drove, so I generally was the one to take the wheel.  He would make little old ladies heading to church look like race car drivers.  He always said that it was to preserve the engine and would usually start his car sometimes 20-30 minutes before he was going to leave to warm up the engine all nice and gentle.  I recall once he picked me up at the airport in Roanoke and either offered to let me drive because he knew I was frustrated at his snailís pace or I nagged him to let me.  In any case, I drove my normal head-long fashion with high RPMs and 10-15 mph over the speed limit and I recall him with this fixed grin on his face which I interpreted later to be terrified horror at the damage I must be doing to his engine.  I have a recollection of commenting that running the engine at high RPMs helped burn out the carbon and would lead to a better running engine with better gas mileage.  It was a few days or a week later when I recall he mentioned that the car (a red pickup truck as I recall) was actually running better and maybe I wasnít such a madman after all.  I had almost forgot about the incident and it is telling that he wanted to take the time to make sure that I was aware of his change of attitude (though he was too polite to tell me what a jerk he surely though I was as we careened down the road initially).
 
After a period of time, when I started to come to grips with my inability to get employed, Doug said he wasnít going to be able to stay as my caretaker (the plan was he would live rent-free in exchange for keeping the place up, but since I wasnít employed I needed him to continue to pay rent) and was going to hie off to Las Vegas instead.  I recall he made some sort of comment about the stress of dealing with the responsibilities of being a caretaker was too much and at the time the statements seemed quite nonsensical and I figured he was just laying on some palaver to justify his abandonment and didnít give it much thought, but years later when he started to tell me about his travails with his bipolar disorder did I think that perhaps he was actually serious in his comment.
 
We stayed in touch via letters while he was in Vegas.  The Internet was coming into its own, but email was not yet ubiquitous so for quite a while snail mail was the order of the day.  He told me about several of his long walks along rail roads and hiking out in the desert and I never got an impression he was unhappy, but perhaps he only communicated when he was feeling up.  I am pretty sure I saved all his letters and pictures (I am quite the packrat in that respect) and will one day have to dig through my stuff and see if there are any nuggets of gold in what I recall was largely pedestrian updates back and forth.  
 
At some point Doug got an email address (skyohm I believe, possibly at AOL (he also went by torporchair later on)) and we started to have a more regular dialog.  He would send me his writings from time to time and I offered to put together a web page for him to show off his stuff and that is here:
 
http://sol-system.com/dcloud/index.html
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Re: My friend, Doug
« Reply #2 on: Feb 26th, 2010, 3:12pm »
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Some of his stuff is quite Ďout thereí and difficult for me to find amusing, but other stuff I found quite entertaining.  At one point I suggested to Doug that he contact my aunt-in-law who used to work in the publishing industry to see if she had ideas on how he might get published.  I donít recall if I saw the feedback personally, but my impression was that she said there was a niche for his sort of stuff, but that it would be challenging to find it and get in.  I always tried to encourage him to submit his material someplace, but to my knowledge he never got that far.  He would vacillate between being willing to publish on my web site and wanting to remove it all and I was generally able to talk him out of removal but not always to publish.  I imagine what I have on my web site represents less than 1% of his output.  He told me several times that writing was a compulsion for him, not something he could turn on and off (as is the case for me).  
 
One of the things that always impressed me about Doug was his ability to critically consider information that went against his strongly held opinions.  For instance Doug really got into the 911 conspiracies and challenged me to explain several perceived inconsistencies.  I actually thought that I had lost a good friend when he started that discussion as I know several people who will not consider any information that conflicts with their cherished notions (conspiracy or otherwise) and 911 was (is) such a big thing that I wasnít sure we could talk about other things and step around the conspiracies.  Anyway, he would challenge me on some topic or another and I would do some research and come back with the conflicting evidence that showed that any conspiracy was highly unlikely (at least for the specific instance under discussion).  Very surprisingly to me and what I felt was a huge credit to his thoughtful personality, Doug would consider what I had to offer and while there might be several rounds of too-ing and fro-ing over details, he would open mindedly consider what I had put forth.  I was actually able to eventually convince him that most of the conspiracies were total bunk to the point that he evidently spent a lot of effort trying to convince the un-convincible and told me he was certain that at one point he was having an impassioned on-line argument with Charlie Sheen, who, it seems, is a conspiracy buff.  Presuming Doug stuck with the handle skyohm or torporchair, I imagine his arguments would be easy to find for those interested.
 
Over the years Doug and I have had many interesting and eclectic conversations.  I often wanted to ask other people to get involved, but sometimes the email conversations were scattered and not so easy to assemble or they were phone calls or even snail mail.  Doug and I talked about it and decided we would move our conversations to an on-line forum where we could attempt to involve other people in our conversations.  We decided to name it the Waxology web site (likely, if you are on-line, you are reading this at the Waxology web site, if not, it is here: http://www.sol-biotech.com/cgi-bin/waxology/YaBB.cgi).  We picked waxology as we had adopted the word Ďwaxí for our conversations.  I consider it an extension of the use in Ďwaxing poeticí and our love of verbiage, or study of words, so wax-ology is the study of speaking.  I always felt challenged by Dougís writing and so had to bring up my game a notch or twain and I enjoyed that immensely.  Anyway, we rehashed a couple of old conversations and then started several more.  We tried to get our friends interested and there were a couple of posts, but it was mostly just Doug and I having our same email conversations, just in a bit different format.  Doug got so frustrated he took to adding another personality just to have some conversation.  Most of his work is under the handle torporchair, but he argued occasionally as whirledpeas.  I was suckered for quite a while and Doug was surprised that I was surprised when he owned up.  When I heard about his passing, it was the Waxology site that I felt would be the most appropriate place for a memorial.  Hopefully Dougís friends and family can join in and talk about the impact he had so we can all share.
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The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
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Re: My friend, Doug
« Reply #3 on: Feb 26th, 2010, 3:12pm »
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Doug tried many things by way of employment and once tried to be an insurance salesman.  I am not sure how well he did otherwise, but in our case he was able to sell us a couple of life insurance policies as I had become aware of my mortality since my dad had recently died.  I was always impressed with Dougís depth of knowledge on various subjects (when we lived together we sometimes discussed finance and the stock market for hours) and insurance was no different.  We visited him and Brandy (they had been married by then (this was probably in 2005)) and while Brandy entertained Dondon (or vice versa; she seems to really like little kids) Doug, with the assistance of a colleague, went through his presentation and we wrote up the policy.  I was struck with how nervous Doug seemed.  He was quite sweaty and his hands were shaking, but he otherwise seemed at ease (a nonsensical statement, of course, but that is how I remember the situation).  I thought about that since then, but at the time put it down to nerves, though I was confused why he would be nervous since I had known him for so long.  As it turned out, since we lived in Maryland and Doug was in Pennsylvania, there was some quirk that, I believe, kept him from getting the full commission or something.  Anyway, we had to sign papers again and Doug drove down to visit us in MD to get the papers signed.  We talked quite a bit, of course, and my wife had gone to bed before he left.  Just before he left, as I recall just as he was walking out the door, he somewhat casually mentioned (I have the impression it was somewhat apropos, but donít recall the details now) that he had considered suicide many times but was always worried about how friends and family would feel.  He commented that he considered freezing to death the Ďbestí way to go about it as it would just be like going to sleep.  We wound up talking for quite a while after that.  I knew he was manic depressive, I share that trait to a certain degree and we had talked about it off and on over the years.  I recall commenting that I hadnít considered suicide, but did often consider chucking everything and wandering the wastelands of Alaska (or some such), which I commented was probably a passive form of suicide as I am sure winters and wild animals would quickly sour my fantasies of being a mountain man.  
 
Unfortunately the insurance gig didnít pan out for him and he went back to what appeared to be his standby: being telephone representative (sometimes telemarketer, sometimes help line).  He hop scotched around several of those sorts of jobs and never seemed happy.  Sometime around this period he told me that he had had himself committed to a mental ward several times.  I never pried enough to find out when it started, so had no idea if this was something that was decades old or much more recent, but we talked about his inability to manage his feelings a lot.  He and I had a lot in common in many regards, but while I will rant at Ďmoronsí on the road with vein popping excess, he goes further and will actually get out of the car and confront people.  He told me about the various medications he was trying to use and implied that he had had a thingytail that had worked for some period of time (I got the impression of many years), but recently it was no longer working for him.  He started to find it impossible to hold a job and it even got to the point where the travails of Brandyís children were so stressful that he wound up moving out.  To my knowledge Doug and Brandy stayed very close and often spent days together, but Doug needed to have as much control over his circumstances as possible to try to keep an even keel and so needed his own space to decompress.  I know he eventually was able to get disability from Social Security and I had hopes that would allow him to reduce his stress enough to reintegrate with society.  I think the last time we spoke was early in January 2010, probably around 6 weeks before the end.  He seemed quite upbeat, but perhaps he only called when he was feeling up.  I do recall talking once, I guess toward the end of 2009, and I donít recall if I called him or the other way around, but he seemed quite out of it and almost drunk.  I guess it was the drugs he was taking to help moderate his mood swings, he often complained that they made him feel spacey.  In any case, in that strange conversation (which he didnít recall the next time I spoke with him) the subject of suicide came up again.  Again he was worried about how the people left behind would feel, but it was an important subject of that conversation.  I am not sure I said anything helpful (and if he didnít recall the conversation it might not have mattered), but I didnít get any impression he was doing more than talking about the subject.  Since he was seeing a doctor regularly (or so he told me) to adjust his meds, I presumed he would talk about those feelings with a professional anyway.  I did get the impression these last couple of years that his cycles were getting closer together and he was spending more time in down cycles than up.  
 
I had been thinking about calling Doug the last couple of weeks but let one thing after another drive the act out of my noggin.  As I said about my fatherís death, it was shocking but not unexpected (my father didnít take care of himself).  I knew that Doug had lots of problems and I knew he thought dark thoughts, so Brandyís news was not unexpected, but the shock was no less and the sadness is undiminished.  Our irregular, but generally intensely interesting and wide ranging conversations will be sorely missed.  The world is more grey and plain without Doug around!  May he find the peace he sought for so many years.
 
Keith Oxenrider
February 26, 2010
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The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
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Re: My friend, Doug
« Reply #4 on: Jun 28th, 2010, 1:33pm »
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My name is Paul Rimple. I lived in West Chester long ago and went to high school with Doug. For the past 20 years or so, from time to time, Iíd wonder what had ever become of him, what was he doing with his life. And today, sad to say, I found out.
I moved to PA from CA and was a fish out of water as I had come from a tolerant environment and landed in a milieu of bigotry and had to adjust to this new reality. My neighbor friends were crude and judgmental and our friendship did not extend past the neighborhood. I was a loner for the most part at school and donít recall exactly when I met Doug, but it was no doubt via our shared passion for photography (and our teacher, Mrs. Brown). We both loved hiking too and did some backpacking on the Appalachian Trail, somewhere near New Ringold PA, and took pictures like crazy, staying up late experimenting with multiple exposures of the full moon.
 
Doug re-introduced me to California via The Grateful Dead, a band I had known about back home, but wasnít hipped to. He took me to a Dead concert and for the first time in two years I wasnít surrounded by rednecks. It was a revelation. I started wearing a bandana and all that junk.
 
When my step-dad died, my mom and I had no reason to stay so far from our roots, so we packed up and returned to California. The only real friend I made Ė Doug Ė was surely missed. I loved his wit, sense of irony, tastes, interestsÖ Even our birthdays were the same.
 
We exchanged a couple letters and photos and promises and then life did its thing. I was certain that he would not conform to the herd and would find a way to incorporate his creativity into his life, and live it on his terms. I am so sorry to hear he was tormented by the demons of depression.
« Last Edit: Jun 28th, 2010, 1:35pm by PJR » IP Logged
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