Name: Charles H. Dickson III

Nickname(s): C3PO, Robotboy, Goldenrod, Frohicke

When/How I met Vygis: 1982, in Explorer Post 1275.

My Vygis Story (Written March 31 2013): Like most people who knew Vygis, I have been pondering over the past couple of weeks about he influenced my life. One of the fascinating things about knowing him was how he and I were already so similar, and stayed that way even as we both changed over time. There was very little that I had to explain to him, or that he had to explain to me. Impossible quests were just a given, our obsessions were compatible, our philosophical goals to make sense of the world very similar. We've gone on incredible trips, we've traded music back and forth, we've helped each other out in innumerable ways. There are just endless stories that I wish I could tell all the other people who knew him, but perhaps it is most useful try to enumerate what lessons I've learned as a result of having known him.

He taught me a lot of little things. He taught me that I "like to use things down to the molecular level". This was one of those gems of the type that he always seemed to come up with to describe me and others; he didn't invent stuff like this to be cute, it was part of a poetically continuous effort to understand everything in the world and see beyond the veils. He had a knack for figuring out the relationships between things and people and it would come out as long late-night discussions, and in nicknames that were actually much more than that. In this regard, I realized many years ago that when he called me "Robotboy" or "C3PO", he was telling me something that he had figured out about my core. As a result, taking into consideration my robot nature has helped me better understand myself and my own way of interacting with the world.

He gave me some great music. It was just a fraction of the stuff that he had and liked, but he curated it, making it a mix of his absolute favorites and stuff he knew that I would like. He gave me Boards of Canada, Bola, Aphex Twin, Fields of the Nephilim, and of course all the 80's stuff that he was into and stayed into. The Aphex Twin music was actually just a tape I'd been hearing him play in his car that one day he accidently left at my house. It had no label except that name; I still to this day don't even know what album it is (Edit: It turns out that it was "Selected Ambient Works 85-92"). I copied it to a CD, which I've taken with me along with a lot of the rest of the music I got from Vygis on my work trips to Cape Canaveral, listening to it all on a thousand warm nights of driving into the historic launch site and manning a test data console overnight.

He taught me that a trenchcoat is an essential wardrobe item, and I still wear the one I bought for myself a couple of decades ago.

This may sound odd, but he taught me the importance of having a good hairdresser. He really had a hair style that he worked on; that can of hair spray he always had was not primarily for lighting campfires with. He had found a hairdresser he swore by, Janice at Cavallero & Co. in Columbia Mall, so I had her cut my hair too until she had to retire due to some medical issues. After many years of not bothering with it, I recently found somebody else I go to now. Too bad my hair is thinning now!

He taught me to search out, acquire, and carry around a battery operated shaver. This is pretty much an essential for a nomadic life style. In my case it's more of a hectic rushing to work lifestyle, but the shaver is still essential.

He taught me how to skate. Not really "Skate" with a captal S; it was hardly a skill for me, more just like an experiment with cutting loose and doing something physical. He skated a lot with a lot of people. One day he simply gave me a few of his old decks, and I drove around with them in the trunk of my rusting-out Chevy Malibu, and one day after a particularly shitty day at work I just got one out and started riding it around the parking lot to blow off some steam. This was after fully graduating college and having a regular job; being older for some reason made the physical coordination easier for me. So in the evenings Vygis would take me to some of his favorite places at the University where he still hung out with high-school skate punks and he'd find a super-easy run for me to do that was still fun enough that he and I could repeat it all night long to try to get the high of getting it right once or twice, a victory that motivated seeing if the next shot at it would be as or even more fun. Finally, I got a board of my own, which I found put out with somebody's family trash. It was a ridiculously uncool bright orange department store board but it said "NASH" on it, so I added "'47" to that and he gave me some better trucks for it. For many years it lived in the trunk of whatever I was driving at the time, occasionally to be brought out either for recreation or as emergency transportation.

He tried to teach me to live in the moment. He would sometimes devise intricate plots to create time where we just hung out. Towards recent times, it became such a difficult task that he would point out when he had succeeded and openly gloat. But he also got a lot of benefit out of having me in obsessed-robot mode; I could fix things for him and such, so he didn't try these tricks too often. This is a lesson that I wake up wondering if I'm going to be able to succeed at on my own each day.

Of course he taught me about Leeches. It's a completely ridiculous thing, but somehow it seemed so natural that I just started explaining them to everyone I knew, got all my friends doing them, and eventually I got that photo of my scary 11th grade history teacher making a leech along with the entire class. This story, as I understand it, is pretty much the same way that it happened to most of Vygis' friends. It's amazing to experience the phenomenon of how something that just came out of one guy's head, in this case when he was a just kid, can become A Thing that is known to hundreds of people who carry it with them around the world, and teach it to their children. My first daughter totally "gets" leeches. We started with Wing Wings, as is proper, and learned all the rules to them before moving up the evolutionary scale to the 1-gallon leech. Wing Wings were fun in that you have to blow on them to get them to go away, and some only move if you blow hard and some only move if you blow soft. One day, I think when she was 3 and we were playing these games, my daughter invented one that didn't move. It was because "it's a toy Wing Wing" she said.

I remember back when we first met, back when we all didn't have cars and had arrange transportation from our parents. I was over at his house and he showed me his "civilizations" in the woods behind his house. He had set up entire towns made of circuit boards (that he'd gotten from his friend John Seylar, who I would meet and become friends with coincidentally years later at college), all with stories of the citizens who lived in them (represented by rocks and things), complete with wars and stories of destruction. This was all imaginative stuff that I had also done extensively too, but years earlier, and I was astonished to find that he was still doing it. I remember being at his parents' house in highland, in the basement, the moment that I had to think about it. After a couple of minutes, as I recall, I reached an opinion on it (paraphrased): "Hell yeah!"

There was no point in quitting pretending and being imaginative, I realized. And he continued to show us this all his life, without stopping for age or time. He had all this unlocked brain power and somehow each time he got challenged on it (in High School, College, The Real World, probably way back in 4th grade when most kids get the "weird" beaten out of them) he just realized that he had no need to dumb down to please anybody. He forgot to be afraid to just be himself, to just live his life the way he wanted to. Equally important though, he also wasn't afraid to be influenced by his friends or by new discoveries that wandered into his life. This was how he managed to live a dozen lives in the space of his existence, as he met and hung out with new people and did new things. These other lives were all still Vygis, but they were also fascinatingly different from each other too. He integrated it all with baffling seamlessness. He never seemed to hesitate to share his experiences with me; he'd tell me about every winter tour, about hanging out with Effie, or Dan, or canoe camping, or the summer tours I couldn't go on, in full detail. I felt like I was a part of all those other lives, and I think he carried everyone he knew with him wherever he went.

Like most of us, in recent years I've been more settled down, getting married, getting a house, mortgage, eventually kids. He still came over to hang out with all of us whenever it worked out, dropping by unannounced, getting recruited for things like packing and unpacking my entire basement (which looks pretty much like his basement did) into storage units half a dozen times when we had house renovations, or driving the bobcat when we got 100 yards of fill dirt and top soil to build up our back yard, or playing our piano. We hung out at his house every couple of months too, sitting by the fire or coming to one of his parties. He had been in his own latest phase for a few years himself, finally getting a house but not really being satisfied with it, working, making friends, keeping up with the usual rituals as he held onto them to make certain he didn't disappear under the weight of age. At the time, I wasn't too worried because I felt subconsciously that eventually, something new was going to happen to him and he would move on to a new phase that would make things sparkle for him again. I believed that I would still be able to be a part of it, whatever it was going to be, when it happened. Now he has definitely moved on to a new phase but without me, or any of us. Maybe it might have been the change that he needed, a new life that must be something really amazing. But how I wish I could see it and participate in it with him like I did in his previous life.

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