Opinion: Hell’s Angel
Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage! Rage! Against the dying of the light. -- Dylan Thomas
It's a cold, grey Monday morning and the fog inside my brain is finally starting to lift.
There's chaos going on around me -- my insane outback dog is barking vicious at one of those evil squirels in the backyard and it seems I've finally outlasted the endurance of that vile contraption, my alarm clock.
Normally, I don't have much problem waking up in the morning. A breakfast of caffeine and nicotine will do that for a guy, but this morning I'm having much more difficulty. I've been dealt a loss this morning, as has this beast of a profession called journalism, because six minutes ago I learned that The Doctor died.
Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, he of the self-described Gonzo journalism or new journalism, and author of books such as "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," "Hell's Angels" as well as a contributor to ESPN's Page 2, killed himself Sunday night at his home in Colorado.
Although I've never met Thompson, I have great respect and admiration for his work. When I heard what happened, I was barely able to digest its enormity, and truth be told, I'm still having trouble. Almost instantly, I recalled the poem penned by Thomas. Maybe because Thompson used the poem in his book "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72" that I just finished reading, but more likely because the ode embodies Thompson in many ways.
He rarely did anything gentle, especially at night, and often his frenzied midnight-hour compositions resulted in truthful writings that could register home with the most far-reaching liberal or button-down conservative.
He wrote in a way that attracted the educated and not, that made sense to the accomplished and the not so's.
Off the page, he lived his life in a way that many would describe as outside the normal boundaries. He loved guns, drugs and alcohol. He once ran for sheriff of Aspen on the Freak Power Party ticket. He despised most politicians and scorned religion.
On the flip side, and perhaps more acceptable to the masses, The Doctor also served his country in the Air Force, rallied for ending the wars in Vietnam and Iraq and generally gave credence to people that mainstream America scorned or openly degraded.
Not bad for a sports writer.
I won't write that Thompson was right or wrong on many of these subjects -- that's for history to decide -- but what I can say is that challenging conventions, a Thompson trademark, isn't a bad idea.
He believed, correctly I think, that doing something just because that's the way it's always been done, was ill advised. While it's entirely true that many of his characteristics shouldn't be emulated, I believe this philosophy was a Thompson trait that many could respect.
Maybe tomorrow or the day after will provide comfort when thinking about Thompson. Today, however, I find myself angry that he took himself away from this world.
I'm disturbed that someone who'd accomplished so much and had more to offer would take such drastic measures.
It's a question that lurks and leaves me with no answers. It leads me to recall another poem, this one by T.S. Elliot, which I believe also sums up Thompson in life and, now, tragic death.
It's not much, but it's the best I can do right now.
Elliot: "Between the Idea and the Reality . . . Falls the Shadow."