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September 25, 2003: The late

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While in graduate school, years and years ago, I worked as Managing Editor for a nutrition research journal. It was an interesting job, if only because it was really just the two of us running that journal. I had my own room and my own computer in the back of the house and I got to set up the organization of everything however I wanted it to be – tracking subscriptions and sponsors, sending out books to be reviewed and gently prodding authors to return their articles and reviews in a timely manner. I worked only part time, and usually a fairly flexible schedule, wrapped around my classes and my research and everything else I was involved in during school. The editor-in-chief pretty much let me do things however I wanted. I suppose he figured it was easier that way, especially since the work always got done.

On a whim, I decided to Google the name of the journal, even though it's been inactive for more years now than it ever was active, and with the way things had happened when it folded, I never expected it to resurface. But suddenly there was a list of links, and as I hit the first one my eyes were drawn to the top of the page. It displayed a list of editorials from this journal, with words I was not expecting. In Memory Of.

He's dead. The editor-in-chief is dead. In a way this is not so much a surprise as it should be, but in some sense there is still shock. Worse yet, a chance glimpse of another online article tossed the phrase "before he killed himself" into the mix. Dead, and by his own hand.

That, I think, is perhaps the strangest part. Dead of accidental overdose I might have expected, since he'd been experimenting with alternate substances since long before I ever knew him. But dead because he brought it about himself? That was unexpected. Shocking. Sad.

He had such a clear certainty about the world of nutrition and the world of supplements. He introduced me to a viewpoint I'd never encountered in any of my classes. He was prominent enough to rub shoulders with the big names. His connections gave me the opportunity to work as a freelance writer and gave me the taste for a career wrapped around writing. Because of him I once got to speak with Linus Pauling on the telephone. Yeah, that Linus Pauling. And if you don't know the name, you should. Go look it up.

He had a lot of other views that weren't necessarily so well received, and I think in some way some of them were more linked to his use of mind-altering substances than based on anything more than tenuous fact and hearsay. But despite all of that he tried his best to take on the FDA. One person fighting this type of battle is more like a flea trying to bring down a bear by gnawing on its leg, but at least he gave it a try.

I don't know how long he has been dead. I tried finding him a year or three ago, just out of curiosity, and found no indication of this so I can only assume a time frame. I wonder what happened to him. By the time the journal folded he had begun to show visible signs of wear – in part because of the death of his father and also I think because his own personal demons were starting to close in.

I looked for him earlier hoping to find him; to at least let him know where I was; to thank him for his role in setting me on this career path, even though what I have become is far different than what he ever envisioned for me. I wanted to talk to him; see how he was doing; hear about the progress he might or might not be making in his fight against the demons he alone could see.

I wish I'd tried harder the last time. Maybe by then it had already happened and it wouldn’t have mattered anyway, but I can at least pretend that it would have been different. But I suppose it's too late for that now.

This entry is a collaboration for On Display. This month's topic is "endings."

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