H.S.T. R.I.P.

Hunter S. Thompson always struck me as one of those guys who would check out—either intentionally or accidentally (though given his track record of indestructibility, the latter seems less likely)—rather than fade away. So Sunday night’s news did not come as a total surprise. It hasn’t come out what the initiating problem was, but I’m going to assume there was some kind of chronic pain, suffering or debilitation issue looming in Hunter’s future (or possibly present). It’s tempting to make comparisons—Hemingway, Spalding Gray, Richard Farnsworth—but each of these men made their decision for their own reasons, so no direct comparison is possible or desirable. Yet there are points of obvious similarly, beyond them all being artists who opted to take their own lives, nodes on a scatter plot that at least put these gentlemen in the same socio-emotional quadrant. HST combined the hard-living habits of Hemingway, the experience of a recent brush with mortality and pain that in Gray served to exacerbate a certain ingrained darkness of the soul, and, most directly, Farnsworth, going out on top with the same deliberate finality.

…given the mood of this country, being that a lot of people in the mood to play golf are also in the mood to shoot something…

But that’s all I’m going to say about that, because looking at his last column for ESPN, it’s not realistic to believe that Hunter was in decline. He was still practicing his craft and staying in touch with his friends. He was still digging into, exploiting and reveling in the absurdities of the world we live in. And he had finally made the breakthrough of a lifetime: realizing a grand unification of skeet and golf as a competitive/cooperative sport!

Make no mistake about it: We are At War now — with somebody — and we will stay At War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives.

In case you don’t believe HST was a nearly-prescient genius of the modern era, I’ll leave you with his column from 9/12/2001 in which he anticipates with frighteningly perfect clarity the post-9/11 world in which we live. This messy nightmare that’s been appalling half of us for the last 4 years? Hunter foresaw it all, almost down to the letter, within hours. It really makes me wonder what exactly he saw coming next down the pike—personal or global—that made him pull the trigger. It also makes me wonder what it means when a paranoid, theoretically drug-addled gonzo journalist can in 24 hours come up with an entire Republican administration’s playbook for the next eight years. When HST’s knee-jerk hyperbole becomes literal fact, I get worried.

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