Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Short History Of David Hunter

I’ve always wanted to write, ever since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. The other kids in the neighborhood thought I was crazy, because I would spend summer afternoons under the shade of the giant Maple tree across the street with a pen and paper, doodling, scribbling, writing and creating fantastic worlds.

I guess you could say I was born to write. It took a long time to find that out though; sometimes the passion was obscured by life’s little detours and dramas. And, let’s face it, we’re not all great writers right off the bat. There’s a lot to learn. Also, sometimes we take an end-run at what we really want in life; we do things the hard way.

I always wanted to be a cartoonist. I read them constantly (but what kid doesn’t?) and I wanted to make my own. When the parents found out, they gushed; “our protege!”, however, sometimes parents can lead you to believe anything, and I wasn’t the greatest cartoonist. I think I was being praised for simply trying; and that’s deceptive. Now, I would never blame a parent for that, I would have done the same thing, but it adds an interesting layer to the tapestry. It let me find out things for myself.

Then there was music; I picked up a guitar one day when I was 16 and found I could just play. Just like that, I was off joining bands and playing bars; detours. I had a journal at the time, so writing was present in my life, but nothing could beat the feeling and acceptance I got from playing that guitar on stage; a thousand watts of power, sound, people out there past the lights in the dark yelling, hooping and hollering for me. Writing, naturally, took a back seat. It was a few years before my dreams of becoming an artist were dashed as well.

My college art professor, David Blustien, animator extraordinaire, ran his classes like a boot camp. He was tough; he had seen the carnage out in the field. He pulled me aside after the course was finished. He told me he hated my drawing.

He hated my drawing, but he loved my writing.

This was a man who had drawn comics for Marvel, Mad magazine and many others. He was an animator for Disney. When he told me, after 8 months of classes, that my drawing was weak, I was devastated. But he loved my writing. He loved my writing.

So, comics were out. My last band had devolved into egotistical pettiness (as it will, in a band) and I quit. I had nothing left. Except to write.

But it hasn’t come easy; if it was easy, everyone would do it.

So Writing and I, all we have is each other now. There’s nothing else. Nothing to dilute or distract or weaken this passion I have. I still play guitar, and I can still draw comics, but I always come back to her, the written word. Some can express a dusky sunset with a song, some can paint a visual masterpiece of a misty mountain range on canvas with oil paints, but I can only describe it in word pictures; can only bring people there through the power of the page. That’s my gift.

If I had only discovered that before.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The King is dead.

No, not Elvis; he shuffled off this mortal coil long ago. I mean the king of pop, Michael Jackson.

Michael had been omnipresent for the past 4 decades, in a very tough business, and endured the insidious scrutiny that came with the age of the internet. He was a triple threat; singer, songwriter, dancer. He broke color barriers, became the first African American to gain heavy rotation on MTV. He was a humanitarian. He was the butt of tasteless jokes. He was a lot of things. And now he’s gone.

But this overwhelming sadness is not just about his death; I’m jarred by the sudden realization that everything ends eventually, and this previous feeling of permanence is fading. Whether Michael was on the charts at his peak or living through his last, and toughest, years, he was still there. You had the feeling that he was always just around the corner, waiting to come back into our lives.

As though he would always be there for us, when ever we were ready to listen again.

I’m guilty of the jokes too, I confess, but I never wished death on him; I always respected the talent and the heart of the man, he was a true artist. And, I admit, I abandoned him for other artists as I got older. I still remember, as a kid, staying up till midnight to watch the first broadcast of Thriller that long ago Halloween.

That was one of the best nights of my childhood.

None of us like to be reminded that we are mortal. It’s inconvenient. And none of us feel too comfortable knowing that someone as young, so full of life, so there, as Michael was, could ever die. It throws a monkey wrench into our little insulated worlds; a kind of forced perspective, to misappropriate a theater term. I’m being forced to think about death, and life.

Michael is gone, and I feel emptier today. Like the old adage, “you don’t know what you got till it’s gone”, I’m feeling like I should have appreciated Michael a little more when he was alive, listened to his music more when he was alive, and thought about him more when he was alive. In my mind though, he had grown old and anachronistic, a relic of the past; not so. He was as relevant as ever, musically and artistically, but the headlines turned us against him anyway. He gave us a whole life of entertainment. He gave us his nervous system, gave up his privacy and his dignity, and watched it get trampled on. And then we stopped listening.

We turned our backs on him.

But he still loved his fans, and that says more about the man then anything I can ever say.

The King is dead, gone too soon.

~The Writers Den on Twitter~

~The Writers Den on Twitter~
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