The “Gonzo Cannon” awaits its moment of truth (thanks, Aspen Times).

In fulfillment of his last wishes, Hunter S. Thompson’s ashes will be shot out of a cannon in Woody Creek, Colorado this weekend. Originally this was to be a public event, but it has been changed to a private affair, so I will be honoring the Good Doctor here at home instead of hanging out with Bill Murray, Ralph Steadman, Jack Nicholson, Johnny Depp, and God knows who else.

Which is just as well — it would have been a circus out there, with every dubious character ever attracted by Thompson’s outlaw reputation crawling out of the woodwork, most likely out of their minds on dope and speed. On the whole, I’d much rather be holed up here in the laboratory with HST’s works, which represent the man much more than his earthly remains do.

While the method and the timing of the Doctor’s death — self-inflicted, with a pistol, in the kitchen, back in February — may have been unexpected, the fact of it came as no surprise to those of us who followed his life and times. What was surprising was that a) he had lived so long in the first place, and that b) this man whose whole life was words left no suicide note, no explanation.

Although he did write a perfectly good one back in 1977:

Every time I read this I ask myself, well, what if he had done it? It would have been “a wonderful way to go out,” for sure, and would have cemented the Thompson legend for all time. Artistically we wouldn’t have missed much; although HST had sporadic moments of brilliance in the later part of his career, if you put together an honest anthology of his best work, 98 percent of it would be from 1977 and earlier. And we would have been spared the spectacle of a drunken, infirm King of Gonzo throwing up outside a book signing, or weeping as he’s being helped up the steps.

Then again, we’re talking about 28 years of a man’s life, and who is qualified to say they weren’t worth living? Not me, Bub. The Doc made his choice to stay around in 77, and in 2005, when he thought it was time to go, he made that choice too.

I have a lot of thoughts about the Doctor and his place in my life, but they are complicated and need some time to coagulate. Meanwhile, The Work. Over the next few days I plan to post some choice Thompson bits, working in reverse chronological order since that seemed to work well for the Steve Martin stuff.

But first, I’m going to have to find the right music.

“Music has always been a matter of Energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they mean is Fuel.”
-HST, 1999