Upon learning last night of Hunter Thompson's suicide, I didn't feel I was ready to write anything yet. When someone with his skill with words passes, it's pretty cheap to be quick and careless with yours when talking about him.
My first exposure to his work was senior year of college. Jon Roma had the Ed Meese-and-an-elk excerpt I quoted yesterday. To my establishment/authority-phobic mind, it was a sharp stick in the eye. Or at least the side. If I hadn't just taken a leak, I would've wet my pants laughing as hard as I did. The mental image it conjures is wild enough, but the sheer obnoxiousness of even suggesting it! I had heard Hunter's name before, my mom had mentioned him a couple of times (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is one of her friends' favorite book,) and had him all confused with William S. Burroughs in my head. I hadn't read either. I got started pulling F&L out of the library, moving onto the Nixon campaign books. My mom gave me a copy of Better Than Sex in paperback. Nothing bowled me over as hard as the elk bit, but it was damned interesting and damned entertaining. I kept an eye out for his articles in Rolling Stone. It was always good reading, and he was usually dead-on in his political criticism.
I'd like to say that I'll miss his wit and his profundity with his passing, but that wouldn't be true. The fact is, I've been missing Hunter's voice for four years. The Shrub administration is as chock-full of corrupt fixers and arrogant thought police-types as any Republican administration since Nixon has. (And to be fair, I'm no fan of Janet Reno, either.) We've had four years of prime Thompsonian fodder, and barely a peep out of the legendary fortified Colorado compound. A lot of writing about sports, sure, and some good stuff there, too. But very little of the feature presentation the Doc was known for, which I craved for catharsis. One piece just before the election, and one before and one after (sorta) on ESPN's Page 2 site.
I wanted to ask--no, demand--"Where the hell are you, old man? When we need you most?!" Shooting at bears and winging assistants, compiling old letters into volumes for sale is all fine and dandy, but there's work to be done! Monstering, as Ellis's Thompson-inspired Spider Jerusalem would call it. Grab your kit bag full of drugs, a PowerBook, and your attorney and get the hell out there to start digging!
The Rolling Stone piece gave me hope he was returning, that perhaps he'd gone ostrich at Shrub's initial election, but had finally overcome whatever fear possessed him to return triumphantly. But it wasn't so. Perhaps he'd just grown tired of it... I can see how the stress of dealing with these fucks again and again could wear you down, not to mention what all the drugs must have done to him over the decades. Who could say? I saw him on TV a couple of times, and he looked really incoherent, speaking in a barely-intelligible mumble. I could only hope that some day we'd find out.
I'm still wondering. I hope he left a note. It's amazing he lived to 67. Hell, it's amazing he survived the Hell's Angels, both being stomped in and the aftermath of the publication of the book he wrote about them. (Go figure, a lot of them were pissed.) I doubted he'd die of natural causes. A drug overdose, or death from complications brought on by years of drug use were the prime candidates. Suicide was high on the list too--it's saddening, but it is not at all surprising to me. He lived on his own terms, he died on his own terms. I only hope he had an acceptable reason for doing it. Lots of people have commented in other LJs and on Fark that there is no acceptable reason for suicide, and they're entitled to their wrong opinion. If it turns out he was looking at a painful terminal illness, or one that would leave him incapable of writing or living life on his terms anymore, that's good enough for me. (See also: the conclusion of Transmetropolitan.)
Really, a quiet death would be out of character. (And frankly, so would a big shootout with the feds. The elk story alone shows he's plenty capable of dealing with them on peaceful terms.)
I'd like to drive out to Ramona and put a few boxes of ammunition through some dead monitors I've got, blaring Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" on the stereo, in Hunter's honor. But with all this rain, I'd get stuck in the mud before I got far off the paved road.