Ian Mackey Newman

My friend Ian died, very recently. I’ve known him for about 10 years, since he was 16.
When I met him, he was a student at UC Berkeley. I just read that he got admitted at age 14. Obviously, he was incredibly smart. His mom moved to Berkeley with him and lived a few doors down from me in the same building as me.
I’m not sure what to write about him. During his years at Berkeley, I hung around with him and his mom a lot. We went to parties at each other’s houses. We had them around for brunch. We went there for dinner. They were the neighbors we were closest with.
I want to talk about how outstanding he was. Brilliant, charming, witty, just a great guy. I had fallen out of contact with him after he and I both stopped living in Berkeley. A couple of years ago, I ran into him in Berkeley and it turned out he was back to study law. We connected on facebook. So last August, I had a pint with him at Saturn and we caught up.
When I had last seen him, he was still kind of a kid, but meeting him again, he was, of course, all grown up. Even more charming. Wearing a fabulous hat. We talked about this and that. Then I heard that he passed the bar.
He was going into disability rights law and he would have been such a fantastic lawyer. People have stereotypes about what disabled people are like and he was none of those things. When he was a kid, he drove his chair like it was a tank. Actually, he drove it at alarming speeds. Whenever I mentioned him to my father, my dad would say, “is that the guy who races down the sidewalk?” He used to bolt a stick on to the side and play street hockey. I was invited to play also, but after watching him and his friends smash into each other, I feared for my safety.
One time, I was talking to him and he was complaining about how, because of Stephen Hawking, everybody thought a really smart guy in a chair must be studying physics and this was really annoying, because he was majoring in the classics. And I felt really bad, because I had been under the impression that he was doing physics. Over the course of the conversation, it turned out that he had started with physics and then changed his major. It was too funny.
A few months before we both left, he rented out the café down the street and had a huge graduation party. It felt like a hundred people came. His mom asked my band to play, but had already booked other bands for the night, so we ended up playing to the cleaning crew. It was out first gig and I blogged about it, back in the day.
It’s hard to believe he’s gone. I’ve been trying to think how best to remember him and I don’t know, but it’s so easy to imagine what he would say in response to some things I’ve thought about doing. He was just such a great guy.

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Charles Céleste Hutchins

Supercolliding since 2003

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