by Mad Dog

For years, Hunter S. Thompson said he wanted to have his ashes blasted out of a cannon after he died. His wish may come true. His wife and son say they're looking into packing the writer's remains into an artillery shell and firing it into the Aspen sky. Leave it to Thompson to go out in a blast twice.

People do interesting things with cremated remains, or "cremains" as they're so cutely called in the trade. Never mind that it sounds like what's left over after processing cranberries, it was the best thing available from Euphemisms-R-Us at the time. Some people take the classic approach and put the cremains in an urn on the mantle. ("Does this vase need to be dusted or is your Aunt Mildred leaking again?") Others bury them, which seems to defeat the purpose. Still others scatter the ashes in a loved one's favorite place, such as the ocean, golf course or La-Z-Boy recliner. You have to be careful, though, as these plans can go awry. A few years ago in California, authorities discovered a warehouse full of ash-filled cardboard boxes which a pilot was supposed to have scattered from his plane.

While most people are self-centered about what happens to their cremains -- you never hear of anyone saying they want to be scattered wherever their friends feel like scattering them -- some, like Thompson, want the living to enjoy them after they're gone. That's why some people have had their cremains stuffed into firework shells. Others have had theirs mixed with concrete to form artificial reefs, allowing the family to remember Dad hanging around a very different kind of dive. In 1997, a special edition of the comic book Squadron Supreme was printed using ink containing the ashes of Marvel Comics artist Mark Gruenwald, which created quite an ethical dilemma for his family when they had to decide if it was proper to wash the ink off their hands after they read it.

Some people want to be a profit center after they die, like "Steady Ed" Headrick. He was the man who invented the Pro Model Frisbee and was known as the father of disc golf, a game in which the goal is to throw a Frisbee into a metal basket. Think of it as a sport that combines the best of golf, basketball and hanging around the parking lot waiting for a Phish concert. Headrick requested that his ashes be mixed with plastic and made into a special edition Frisbee. And why not? Who among us hasn't had the urge to play with a loved one long after they died? The Steady Ed Memorial Discs sell for $210 per set of two -- yes, there's both a putter and a driver.

We'll probably be seeing more creative ways to use our remains. This is because cremation is getting more popular all the time. About 29 percent of the Americans who died last year were cremated, a number that's expected to reach 40 percent 10 years from now. The reasons for this increase are many. For one, it's cheaper than being pumped full of embalming fluid, slathered with make-up that looks as natural as Michael Jackson and buried in a plot that has a monthly maintenance fee. And you thought those condo fees ended when you died. Hah! Cremation is also environmentally sound. After all, according to the Cremation Association of North America (motto: "When you absolutely positively want to make an ash of yourself"), the average cremated ashes weigh about six pounds and take up about the same amount of space as a Kenneth Cole size seven shoe box. And it costs a lot less than the shoes!

There are other options besides burial and cremation. You could do what Roy Rogers did when Trigger died and have him stuffed, or mounted as they prefer to say at the Roy Rogers Museum. Roy was so happy having Trigger reared up on its hind legs forever that he also had Bullet the Wonder Dog, Dale's horse Buttermilk and Trigger Jr. stuffed.

Personally, I've always wanted to be cremated. As for what to do with my "cremains"? I'd like to have my friends smoke them. Of course, I haven't checked with the DEA, so I'm not sure whether I might be encouraging them to commit a Schedule A felony or whether it would simply be Contributing to the Delinquency of Friends Who Are So Goofy They Go Along With One of My Dumb Ideas. But hey, it's no dumber than being shot out of a cannon. n

Publication date: 03/17/05

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