Monday, February 21, 2005

The Doctor is Out

"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."

I woke up this morning to find my world covered in a thin layer of snow, and to discover that Dr. Hunter S. Thompson has died. None of the breakfast news shows seemed to be covering this story. I found the news in my e-mail Inbox.

I’m really not sure what to say.

It’s true to say that if it weren’t for Hunter, I never would have become a writer. At the very least, not the writer I have become.

I first stumbled upon the words of the good Doctor in my early teens, when I bought a copy of The Great Shark Hunt. I loved it. It blew my mind. I can’t claim that I understood all of it, steeped in Americana my young mind was unfamiliar with, but his snappy, unique prose grabbed me by the throat and hasn’t let go since.

Whilst my peers were covering their bedroom walls with pictures of pop groups or football teams, I had sneakily cut a photo of Hunter out of a library book and framed it. Taken by Annie Leibovitz for Rolling Stone magazine, it was a black and white photo of a hotel room, littered with overflowing ashtrays, empty whisky bottles, discarded papers and a battered old typewriter. Hidden in the middle of the photo was a comatose Hunter asleep in his bed.

Underneath the picture, I had typed: “I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me. – H.S.T.”

I used to look at that photo every day for years.

I used to think “Yeah. I’m going to be a writer one day.”

Reading Hunter’s words reminds me how far I still have to go.

Part of me still thinks that this is yet another classic Hunter prank, and that any minute now the news sites will be retracting the stories of his death.

The other part of me knows that that probably isn’t going to happen.

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