The ballad of OrneryBob

In cyberspace you can get away with saying anything you like. Itís my habit to logon to EFnet late in the night and argue with the Americans on IRC (internet relay chat). For instance weíve argued about whether there was any justification for the Los Angeles police so savagely beating Rodney King. Or did productions of Beckett and Stoppard tend to be overdirected? Or is there any point in Chevy Chase?

If youíre a touch typist with a nifty turn of phrase you can get into fairly heated arguments about the stupid ending of Sergio Leoneís Once Upon A Time In America. Ops may kick you from a channel if they are on a power trip. But there are plenty of other names for an IRC channel. And thatís the way channel #Truth became a community that would rather have the argument than the trip. OK, I did once kickban somebody who rated Chevy Chase movies.

OrneryBob once said itís the community thatís real and it doesnít matter how much power you have to kick or ban people on IRC. Nobody can insist that the community wonít virtually chat in some other channel or even a different server. And Iíve had some of my most heated arguments with OrneryBob. As he said himself: "I insult all peoples equally."

He also said: "Rodney King was and is a jerk. No one ever thinks to ask what part of what happened did he bring upon himself. This is the blind eye of PC racism. And by the way those LAPD officers were following the book when it comes to subduing a prisoner who will not stay down. (I am not defending them, so don't start your PC foaming at the mouth)." That was OrneryBob right down to the closing parentheses.

But OrneryBob lived in San Bernardino County on the eastern outskirts of Los Angeles with his three geese and a house his aunt left him and he often laughed "hehehe" at my typed jokes until very late when he would generally say "I leave it to you good folks to sort out. I'm on my way to the porch with a bottle and a cigar." And then his quit message would say: "*** OrneryBob has quit IRC (You are how you behave!)"

Just before he left for Tijuana he said: "Ever been to TJ? It is like Poverty's playground. Everything is for sale, including peoples dignity. The filth and the poverty are at a staggering level. Though not as bad as other parts of Mexico." I contributed a brief analysis of US imperialism but he shrugged this off as my envious anti-American prejudice.

Besides script-editing and teaching seventh grade he had an interest in a business. "It is a construction company that I don't deal with much any more." he said, "I salvaged it when it was going under. I just have a partnership in it nowadays. I am doing a good deal that will benefit the Mexicans and the company, which will benefit the workers and the rest. Worthy of a halo. hehehe . . . and I get a free trip to Mexico . . . that as well. Though I fear they are actually going to expect me to work."

According to my log, that was Tue May 27.By Sat May 31 we were starting to miss him. In Atlanta, Gryphon typed: "I got an email from a friend of bob's!!"

It said: "From: Debbie Baker. Subject: Meric 'OrneryBob' Ussi. Gryphon, Mary has asked me to inform you that he will be unable to be on Truth for sometime. During his most recent trip to Mexico he either found trouble or it found him. I do not know how well you know Mary, but trouble and him are close friends. He was assaulted and has suffered some injuries. I assure you he is as merry (though filtered through sedatives) as always. Even wrapped like a mummy, he remains Mary (much to our (and the nurses) annoyance)."

We were all shocked. OrneryBob being known as Mary to his friends and, of course, the injury thing. Maybe he was raised in Maryland? Jocasta typed: "I see. Meric is his name. Mary must be his nickname?" Like a boy named Sue? No wonder he got beaten up in TJ. Permutations of this conversation were repeated for several days as all the far flung channel regulars caught up with the news. Gryphon got OrneryBobís address from SamSnoid in Charleston and some of us sent get well cards.

It was Sat Jun 7 before we saw OrneryBobís nick on channel again. Iíd missed him the previous night when heíd got a nurse to type for him at his dictation. This time he was on his own and having difficulties with the keyboard. "Been a long time since hunt and peck keyboarding" he wrote "You will have to excuse the slowness of my typing but my hand isn't good for typing or masturbation."

So typical for the man we knew as Mary to take back the arduous task of typing, and free the nurse to give fulltime masturbation. His broken leg was in splints but for weeks he remained sketchy about what had happened in TJ. "My lower leg was fractured and my wrist. I had blackened eyes and a split lips and some scrapes and bruises." What brought this on? "I must have really messed up on the translations. Somehow 'excuse me' came out as a rather biting retort about their mothersí fondness for dogs and their possible questionable heritage."

Is that right? Your friends call you Mary? "Indeed. I prefer Merry, but they spell it Mary surely to torture me, but what are friends for except sex and grief.?" So was this some kind of Antonia Banderas scenario in a cantina somewhere among the tumbleweeds or what? "That is my story." He said, "I ain't admitting it was a Denny's. :)"

"I was just shooting my mouth off in a not so friendly parking lot. Too much to drink and too little sleep to think, completly my own stupidity, as is normal enough for me." The friend who was supposed to be looking after him had gone missing when the group of Mexicans began to look threatening. "Was it seven? Hellfire and damnation, I don't recall it all the clearly and I don't think it was crowbars. I think it was the side of the truck they wounded my wing with and I recall boots and fists. I remember yellow, which would be Frank's truck, I don't think I ever thought about that . and I never changed my opinion on the Rodney King thing. I'm the brutal sort. I would have shot him long before the video was rolling." You are how you behave.

© Michael Burgess 1997