Monday, February 21, 2005

GOODNIGHT, DOCTOR

I just learned that Hunter Thompson killed himself. CLICK HERE

He hadn't written a great book since 1972 and probably hadn't uttered a coherent sentence in 20 years.

But this hurts.

I tried to read some book of political columns by him back in the '80s but found it sadly boring. Not very funny and even less insightful. Thompson had set the standard years before, but he never met it again.


I remember seeing him on Letterman about that time in the late 80s. He was drunk and mumbling and wasn't even funny. I felt sorry for him. Of course, I was drunk and probably mumbling myself that night. Maybe I was looking in a mirror.

When I was a student teacher back in 1976, a girl in my English class asked me if I could recommend a "book about drugs." She was a very straight, clean-cut kid and very sincere. The little devil on my shoulder whispered in my ear. I loaned her my dog-eared copy of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

(Lord have mercy, can you imagine the firestorm a teacher would face today if he loaned a crazy, drug-soaked, profanity-laced book like Fear and Loathing to an innocent young student and the parents complained? WHAT KIND OF MESSAGE ARE YOU SENDING TO THE CHILDREN????!??!?!!)

A few days later, she returned it and thanked me. "That was the saddest book I've ever read," she replied. "Especially the last chapter."

Note to today's youngsters: Back then when a kid described something as "sad," it wasn't slang for something uncool, annoying or slightly unpleasant. She meant SAD, as in sorrowful. Fear and Loathing had moved her.

At the time I was puzzled. To me Thompson was a hilarious hero, a rebel grabbing the establishment bull by the horns.

So I re-read the book.

And I learned she was correct. It is a sad book. By the last chapter, Thompson knows that not only is everything good about the '60s gone, probably for good, but he himself is a defeated man.

I'm glad he had one more great book in him. I'm glad Johnny Depp immortalized him in that movie. (What happened, Billy Murray? You blew it!) I'm glad he co-wrote that song with Warren Zevon.

Good night, doctor. You were our friend. You weren't like the others.

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