I stayed in tonight. My girlfriend went to a Dropkick Murphy's gig at a venue called The Orion on the outskirts of Rome. She just called and told me that the show was cut short after six songs. Some fascists were crowd-surfing with their party's flag, and the band stopped playing to tell them to either knock it off or take it outside. Fights broke out on the floor, and security set off a pepper spray bomb to clear the room. I've been fighting a hangover all day, so I wasn't in the mood for a concert. I sure as fuck wasn't in the mood for fascists or pepper spray. That's why I spent the night at home with my pit bull, and how I got the news that Ray Bradbury had passed away last night.
Since the story broke, all of my avid-reader friends have shared a few words about the first Bradbury story they ever read. A common thread that I've noticed is that all of them describe their individual story pick as not just a well-spun yarn but a significant event in their imaginative lives. I've heard more than a few of them say that after they read him, they knew they wanted to grow up to be writers. All of them held that his stories stood the test of time in their lives. That's what I've always loved about Bradbury--his stories are told in such a way that a ten-year-old can understand them, but they're so profound that they continue to blow your mind as an adult. To this day I still want to strangle that guy for stepping on that damned butterfly.
My first Bradbury was the short story The Fog Horn when I was thirteen. As with everyone else, it was a revelation. I'd read plenty of stories about monsters, but never before had I read a monster story that evoked such feelings of sadness and longing. I'd never met a monster that taught me so much about being human. As much as I'd love to describe it in minute detail, I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't read it. On that note, if you're one of those people, do yourself a favor and check it out. It's contained in the collection The Golden Apples of the Sun.
I read in a memorial piece that Bradbury was the kind of guy who would spend half a day with a kid if he told him he wanted to grow up to be a writer. I'm not in the least bit surprised. Even for the millions of us who never met him, he always gave us the time of day.