Today was several birthdays: L. Frank Baum would've been 139; I meant to try to get in touch with Sally C., but forgot, and I don't know if I have current contact info for her anyway; and today would've been Alex W.'s 36th birthday.
I decided last night that it was about time I went through some of Alex's papers and added some more stuff to the memorial website. He sent me a bunch of floppy disks with files on them, and asked me to be, more or less, his literary executor; I wasn't really up to the job at the time, especially after I went through his hard drive later and got a couple hundred megabytes worth of additional files that he may or may not have intended to delete.
So the size of the task has been daunting, and then there's been the not-wanting-to-think-about-it factor. But it was time to get moving on it.
I finally realized that I could make the task more manageable by imposing some order on it. DEVONthink continues to be a tremendous boon: having software that's specifically designed for taking notes seems to help me think in terms of taking notes. So I wrote down some guiding principles, and started a catalog to list all of Alex's files and take notes on their contents and whether I want to post them. And started a list of identities and who they belonged to.
Alex was really into issues of identity, multiple identities, online identity and the disguising thereof, roleplaying, and so on. He had several distinct personas and character names he used in a variety of online roleplaying games; a bunch of his files are transcripts of chat sessions. Sometimes it's not clear which of the characters in the chat are Alex, if any. Everyone involved is using names they made up for the context, so doing web searches for them isn't very effective. I sometimes wonder if I should try to track down some of the people he was clearly close to online and let them know what happened to him; I know that word was spread in at least one of his online communities, but probably not all of them.
A lot of the files are not things I can post; in fact, I shouldn't even be reading some of them. Some of the chat/roleplaying transcripts involve sexual situations; some are just emotionally intimate. (I try to stop reading at the point where it becomes clear that someone else's secrets, other than Alex's, are being revealed.) There are a couple of very personal letters that talk about Alex's own personal issues; those, too, are things I'm not going to post, though I'm still not sure what balance to strike in terms of what to say and what not to.
For example, I think Alex was kind of conflicted about how out to be; he posted some pages about being bi, but he hid them deep in his site. In person, in his last year or so, he had a very flamboyantly gay public persona; I had different impressions at different times about whether he was or wasn't interested in women at all. One of the things he was distressed about toward the end, certainly, was his inability to find a partner. He once told me about going to a gay bar in the UK and feeling somewhat unwelcome. (IIrc, they looked at his long hair and silk shirt and said, "Do you know what kind of place this is?") But as he indirectly notes on that about-me page ("I don't think I'm 'purely' anything"), it would be a mistake to define Alex solely in terms of his sexuality, so I don't want to emphasize that stuff too much.
Anyway, it's been interesting last night and today, going through these files in a slightly more organized fashion than I've managed before. I've added some stuff to the memorial page, including a couple of photos (if any of you have more photos of Alex, I'd love to get copies), lyrics to a song Alex wrote, some more roleplaying notes, and a link to the Weirich Graduate Prize given by the Composition and Cultural Rhetoric program at Syracuse University, which I discovered while Googling today; I'm not sure I knew about that prize before.
Dunno how much more I'll get done this weekend or anytime soon. But at least it's a start.
I still miss you, Alex. Someday I hope to be able to tell more of your story in a more coherent way.