When I think of Hunter, which is often, the floodgates open and I am instantly, easily and willingly overcome by a great deluge of memories. Memories as diverse as the man himself soar through my mind. Images of some of our less publicized adventures:
A dawn shopping expedition for magnum handguns . . .
A 3:00 A.M. head shaving appointment, duly and gingerly performed by the Doctor . . .
Delicately nursing ghastly hang-overs—feeding each other Fernet Branca while taking turns hitting from an oxygen tank (neither worked) . . .
The sheer fascination of watching him salt and pepper his food (it could take up to an hour, but no less than twenty minutes) . . .
Our thankfully short lived and nearly fatal impromptu decision to take hillbilly brides—long distance . . .
The two of us, cackling like mad, chasing an escaped mynah bird (Edward—a gift from Hunter and Laila Nabulsi) through my house . . .
Being locked in a San Francisco hotel room with him for five days and nights (a vast accumulation of condiments, fruit plates, club sandwiches, shrimp cocktails, and yes . . . grapefruits, stacked precariously high in the corner of the suite towering up to the ceiling) . . .
Hours and hours of intensely lyrical tete-a-tetes—reading miraculous passages from his many inspired and legendary works . . .
There were snappy, split-second, spot-on, hilarious observations that would buckle anyone’s knees, endless moments of hysterical rage, hilarity and rantings that most times rendered me fetal, feeble and weeping on the floor with painful laughter.
Yes, he did have a knack, our good doctor. He had the uncanny ability to ruffle feathers while simultaneously charming anyone into anything, or out of anything that he might have had his sights on. All the while, and always, maintaining the story (because there was always a story). Keeping a keen eye to the happenings around him. Ever the observer, the gift of his genius never taken for granted. His nature was to observe and dissect any and all situations, so observe and dissect he did with an inexorable fervor. He lived it, breathed it, and celebrated it, all of it. And if you were lucky enough to prowl alongside him on any of his escapades, so did you, to the absolute hilt.
Every document, scrap of paper, newspaper clipping, cocktail napkin and photograph were sacred to Hunter. What lives in this book, are essential threads of his life’s tapestry, pieces of the puzzle that had been diligently packed away, safely and surely for posterity. They form major insight into his life and work. Wandering these pages, it seems clear that Hunter was indeed more than well acquainted, and even in concert, with what destiny had in store for him.
Within minutes of hearing the devastating news of Hunter’s decision to end his life, I was on the phone with Laila in a pathetic attempt to make some sense of what had happened, which of course was impossible. We wept and consoled one another as best we could under such horrible circumstances. And then suddenly, a realization took hold, as if the Doctor himself had nudged us out of our tragic haze. At the exact same moment we both blurted out, “WHAT ABOUT THE CANNON?” “Oh, God . . . The monument . . .” In that very second the focus slowly began to change. We were very well versed with what Hunter’s expectations were, and they were not small. “Nothing Dinky!!!” seemed to be the prevalent instruction from our departed friend. The initial drawings and design commenced the following morning and construction of the beast followed within the coming weeks. His request had been for a 150 ft. monument/cannon to blast his remains into the sky over his beloved Owl Farm. Simple. Not simple. I had been advised to abandon any hopes of this mission ever coming to fruition. Not only impossible, but completely insane, I was told. We forged ahead. During my research into how to make this impossibility possible, I discovered that the Statue of Liberty was 151 FEET TALL!!! Shit . . . “Dinky” and Hunter’s monument seemed to be converging. Knowing that detail was everything to him and that this was a detail that needed to be addressed pronto, the decision was made to up the stakes and the design was changed for the monument to be scaled up to 153 ft. Two feet higher. Why? Because in death, as in life, Hunter would have to exceed the American Dream (and its comely representative) by more than just an inch or two. If you could drive a car on 40 lbs. of air pressure in each tire, Hunter would drive on 100 lbs., just to be sure. Sure of what, only he ever knew. It was a Hunter thing. The Monument team and crew worked non-stop for months bringing Hunter’s final wish to life, making the impossible possible. We all stayed focused and driven even in the face of potential total failure, which loomed perilously close throughout the entire process. It wasn’t until quite a bit later, once we were all wholly consumed with the project that I realized a grand part of Hunter’s scheme was to distract those closest to him by handing over such an enormous task. Somehow, he knew that once his loved ones dove into the stringy muck of building the cannon, their mourning period would be distracted by such a mammoth undertaking. He was a subtle one that Dr. Thompson.
Reminiscing about the good doctor has always conjured up more than a few choice moments to chew on. Even now, nearly two years since he made his exit, I still get as keyed up when I think of him as I always did. And though I know he won’t be calling and that bastard phone won’t be ringing off the hook in the middle of the night I clearly hear his voice. I hear him “WHOOP!!!” every time “One Toke Over the Line” creeps up on the radio, I feel him puff up when “Sympathy for the Devil” kicks in. He calms and ponders the gravity of “Mr. Tambourine Man.”
He appears when he is needed.
He arrives when absurdity peaks.
I imagine he always will.
Los Angeles, September 5, 2006