Thursday, February 24, 2005

So old friend, it ends like this. Sixty-seven Goddamn years tempting death, and now you're dead by the only hand that could harm you.  I'll miss you Dr. Thompson.  I'll miss you more than I can say.

I found out who you were in high school, watching "Where the Buffalo Roam" with my friend Andrew.
Then I found out my high school sweetheart's parents once ran a small paper in Colorado you'd occasionally bombard with letters to the editor.  I held those dry, brittle pages in my hand and I swear I could feel the electric crackle of your eloquence.  Or maybe it was the spark of your anger.  Or maybe you treated the pages with some slow-acting nerve agent, you treacherous fucking bastard.

But it was the start of my twenties, when my life fell apart, that I really came to know and love you.
And Christ in a Goddamn coconut did I ever love you Hunter.  You were drunk, stoned, fearless, reckless, and ruthless.  You followed your thoughts and never hesitated to tell the truth, even if telling the truth got you thrown out of polite society, or the campaign bus, or the bar.  I spent the rest of that decade trying to write like you, ride like you, shoot like you, smoke like you, drink like you, and do drugs like you.

And man alive could you ever do drugs.
You embodied the aphorism I've used to guide my own chemical excursions: Do the drug.  Don't let the drug do you.  No collapsing into the arms of Morpheus for you.  No drifting along in a Cobain cloud.  No withdrawl from society for the good doctor.  Not a fucking chance.  You'd smoke it, snort it, shoot it, swallow it, blast it, and then you would ride.  There was always a story to cover, or truth to be told or wrongs to be righted.  Most people use drugs to run away from life.  You used drugs to run at life.

The truths you told are still true.
Your writing - at its best - was strong, clear and sharp.  And you were at your best more than most, my good doctor.  All the niceties, all the equivocations, all the Janus-faced mealy-mouthed cowardly relativism were rinsed out of your writing, gone in a caustic bath of ethanol, nicotine and a dozen other alkaloids.  What remained were solid, true observations about America and Americans.

No one has stepped up to replace you.
It took bloggers - pallid, obese and virginal as they are - to out a Goddamn paid shill in the White House press corps.  All the established reporters were too scared to make waves.  In your heyday, you would have researched that unctuous little bastard's past, and then hit him with your cattle prod right in the middle of a press conference, before he could lob another softball to that worthless son of privilege who fancies himself the president.  Our media today is cowardly, vapid and happily in the thrall of a few corporate monsters, and we are the worse for it.  We need you more than ever, Hunter.

But we don't have you any more.
And, now that you're gone, and Johnny is gone, and Warren is gone, I am officially out of role models.  I'll keep going, and I'll do my part, but sweet Christ will I ever miss you Hunter.  So watch yourself up there Doc - keep your hand on your wallet when Voltaire is around, and don't cross Mencken when he's in his cups.  Take care of yourself, my brother.  I will see you on the other side.

Eric Berry
On company time at the Public Defender
Seattle, Washington
9:08 AM