Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Way of All Flesh

When I was 16 or 17, I started hanging out at the local game store, as so many young nerds do. Eventually I got a job there as the scullery wench; the co-worker I got on with the best was a heavyset, red-bearded guy in his 30's who looked just like I always imagined the dwarves in The Hobbit to look (only taller, of course.) He got me started painting miniatures; he ran the very first role-playing game I ever tried; he introduced me to the works of H.P. Lovecraft by telling me the story of the Cats of Ulthar from memory one night when we both worked til close. Any time someone would come into the store and say, "Hey Kurt, how are you?" he would respond, thoughtfully, "Well, I'm just perfect." He encouraged my passing interests in history and medievalism, and thus was partially responsible for my ending up a medieval studies major in college. This tickled him no end when I told him about it, and he told me that it was my duty as a writer and historian to write a paper about the Black Plague and title it "The Way of All Flesh." It's too elegant a phrase to waste.

On Tuesday I got a call from Kurt's brother letting me know that Kurt had gone the way of all flesh the night before. He'd been ill with cancer for some time, though he remained confident of his ability to conquer it right up until the end.

He became a teacher late in life, and I expect to see many of his young charges at his funeral on Saturday. But as one of his earliest students, in a joyous variety of topics during those evenings at the game store, I'd like to be among the first to say Yes, were perfect.