Kathy Byrne Caruso07 Oct 2002
You'll never have heard of Kathy Byrne Caruso, unless you've ever played the game of Diplomacy. In the Diplomacy hobby, she was a legend. She could lie, cheat and stab in the back with the best of them, and in Diplomacy, those are compliments. (Diplomacy is like a stylized form of the game of Risk, but only if you could say that chess is a stylized form of tic-tac-toe.)
She was also my friend, back in the 1980s when I was involved in the play-by-mail Diplomacy hobby. That was (and is) a community much like the weblog community, except the technology then was mimeograph, typewriters, photocopies, pen and ink, envelopes, stamps, and sometimes the telephone. Someimes we'd even travel cross-country to meet one another and play for a weekend. I was an awful player, but I enjoyed the company, and enjoyed producing a chatty zine, which I called 'Irksome'. That's how I met Kathy and her husband John, then living in Queens, New York. A brash-talking New Yorker, I'm not sure how she hit it off with a shy Minnesota boy, but we got along fine. She even got to know Mama, who was still in Germany, by mail, and on Mama's first visit to the States we went to New York to stay with John and Kathy for a week.
Even though I hadn't heard from her in over 10 years, I'm sure that if we had ever met up again, within 5 minutes we'd be caught up. However, last month, I found out (via The Abyssinian Prince) that Kathy had just died after a quick but severe bout with lung cancer. I nearly mentioned her here then, and was thinking of her when I wrote Young, Dumb and Excited, the saga of our wedding day, since Mama's first stop in the States on her way to marry me was to stay overnight with John and Kathy. This past weekend, I heard from John, and I was able to gather some thoughts about Kathy for him. Mama thought that I had expressed myself well, so as my tribute to Kathy, I'll include my thoughts here, hoping that they will make some sense to those who never knew her.
"I hope all this public reminiscing is helping to soften the blow of losing Kathy, a woman who was very, very special. I remember you two most not for anything that happened in the hobby, but how you helped us when Mama came from Germany to the States, when both she and I were both young and silly enough to decide to live in the same country and get married. Yes, Mama slept with you two before she slept with me, at least on that trip. We've never forgotten that.
"In the bobby, I remember the Maniacal game, GMed by Bob Osuch, where we were going for a 17-17 draw and she stabbed me on the last turn to take the win. In the end I wasn't surprised to be stabbed, and not at all bitter. I can't remember the other players anymore. John Michalski? Dick Martin? I never was a good Diplomacy player, but finishing second to Kathy made me look, and feel, good.
"And, yes, there was a wild ride in a rental car from the KC airport to Wichita for Pudge Con with Kathy and Al Pearson. I don't remember any details, just that the entire ride was hilarious. We kept wishing we weren't in Kansas anymore, but we were always still there.
"And Mama and Kathy did invent the Beer River variant (pour a beer on the Diplomacy board, forming a river from Moscow through Munich to Paris that fleets can follow). Did that variant ever get registered?
"As you might imagine, Mama wears the (financial) pants in the family. She's a regional manager for (her employer in) Germany, in charge of 210 locations in northern Germany, and the first woman to advance as high in the company. She has a big, fat BMW 530 as a company car, and that helps make up for the travel and the long hours. I work as a webmaster for a e-banking software company in Hamburg. And we do have a little Hanson. Christopher will turn 3 in December. What little free time we have revolves around him.
"My only tie to the Diplomacy hobby these days is TAP, which I get via email, and which I try to at least skim each issue. I keep a personal weblog at https://www.papascott.de/, where I sometimes put Christopher pictures, but mostly ramble. It's like a zine where I don't have to bother GMing any games.
"Thanks for getting in touch, John. I feel lucky to have known both you and Kathy, and I've missed out by not getting in touch with you guys since leaving the hobby. We could have had a great time with Kathy when she was in Germany last year. Our loss."