Farewell to a Good Friend, I Wish We Had Met

(Author’s Note: the first draft of this work began the night of February 05, 2005.  I was living in an attic apartment not far from the University of Akron.  Years later, in 2011, I think, Me & My Wife at the time were moving to a better apartment in Missoula, MT.  We just found out we were pregnant, and we needed a better place to live.  I found a printed version of this while trying to organize boxes & boxes of papers & journals & files.  I reworked it that day, messing it up terribly.  Sometimes being under the influence can really mess things up.  That day, I was HEAVILY medicated from a dental exam.  And now, once again, years later, I worked some more on it.  Maybe it is finally finished… but, I doubt it) 

A great deal went on Sunday nights my third year (third college, as well,) 2nd semester at the University of Akron.  It was the night before beginning classes and the work week – a week worth of goals and expectations, nagging thoughts & wishing for Friday to finally arrive.

Monday was only an hour away.

I was trying to focus on a Social Psychology study printed in one of those academic journals only found in University libraries, or in the mailboxes of Academics.

Needing a rest – that class & those readings brought needing a lot of rests & aids to maintain my 91% grade – I walked away from the table cluttered with textbooks and notebooks.  I went into the other room.  My at-the-time girlfriend had a little office set-up in the second bedroom of her apartment. 

I sat at the computer to check my email.

Bringing Yahoo’s homepage to the screen, it hit!  For the first time, a headline on a computer monitor struck me so hard – so terrible & REAL – it made my chest tighten, almost forcing me to choke.  Or fall off of the swiveling office chair. 

I was in a panic!

Breathing was difficult. 

I was trying to get oxygen into my lungs.  Sharp pains were acknowledged (an automated survival feature most blood and brain beasts possess, letting us know we are still alive.) 

Like a disturbingly loud crash after silence surfaces over a room, my nerves tightened, my eyelids in concentrating slits attempting greater focus on the computer screen, and desperation for a safe place worked through my system, like I needed a cave to hide in.

In a manner to adjust my thoughts, which felt as scattered as birdshot from a cutback barrel, I read the AP article.

I let out a long breath and dropped my head.  I’m not certain how long before I looked back up at the screen and soaked in the report’s details.  Summoning more concentration, I reread the exposition, seeing the brutal details:

Fatally shot himself…


Body found by son.

When family members pass-on, as they always have and will do, our comprehensible rationalizing of age, health and situation deals your hand of grief.  It is proper etiquette to try & remain in control; not let your emotions get the best of you.  Make an effort of being aware of those around you, and that they are feeling it to.  Others you feel might need to see a strong face, an understanding face, that might have answers to many of the questions a Departing arises.

You know people must die, especially those you grew close to during hard, confusing moments when something – even if you think it is wrong later on – had to be said right to you, right at that moment to trigger whatever it is anyone needs to rationalize and get passed difficulties: a friend providing your mind and soul with a faceguard and munitions bunker.

However, when a hero dies – someone you never personally knew or met – a different side of the world feels hollower, and the actions and arrangements you have made in your life influenced by that inspirational character, feel vulnerable.  Soon you (I) are ushering in the defensive tactics in attempts to preserve elements essential to who you have become.  How you lead your life, and what has been brought to your attention as values and actions vital to an existence exemplifying Personal Freedom & Courage.

Life, at that bitter moment, after reading that headline, felt… odd.  For lack of better of a better term.  Not in any good way, either. Knowing someone so great (by my estimation) will no longer share something new with you in a book, a CD, a painting… an interview – it is crushing.

At the time, there was no thought about what actions towards Preservation might happen.  That twenty years down the line something NEW could emerge – something that could resurrect the good feelings & good memories that idol inspired.

Social Scientists have preached that a person, especially a young, impressionable person, is better at shaping their own personal structures and goals when an idol is there to provide evidence of their attainability.  And how valuable certain attributes are.

We read biographies, press write-ups – anything available – planning out and judging our future moves, based on the situations your Admired One faced.  You are mentally configuring how you might have handled it better.   

Or in your own way.  Teachings from a hero are a priceless gift.  A gift that will guide the young and admiring.

I wonder if they know this about their lives. I wonder if they knew – or know – how important they will remain, their teachings enduring the progression of time.

For me, the world is less grand… Hunter S. Thompson died tonight: February 20, 2005.

I miss him, already.

He was one of the few writers I admire greatly that had been alive & working during my life.

Never have I seen, nor will I ever see, on the Soon To Come billboard at Waldenbooks an upcoming John O’Hara novel, or new Selections of poetry by Richard Brautigan. 

But I do remember seeing on that billboard in a Walden Bookstore at Carnation Mall, Alliance, OH, Dr. Thompson’s Kingdom of Fear: Loathsome Secretes of a Star Crossed Child in the Final Days of the American Century

That was back in 2003.

Maybe, & I do pray for this, there will be some posthumous works to come.   

Leland Locke (Left) & Ti Jean Kemble, Missoula, MT, circa 2012


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