I sometimes get to missing Knox Dupree and The Heartbroke Daily. It was a project I worked on with writers Henry Goldman and Shane Kavanaugh when I first moved to San Francisco, three and a half years ago.
It was an ambitious project; writing a story of lost love, whiskey and failure every weekday for about a year. Not that I had to imagine that hard to come up with something, but it was an excellent writing exercise, and the three of us pushed each other enough to write well and write often. We wrote in shifts that alternated each week. We featured music and (bad) love advice, too. And a guy who didn’t even exist, this Knox Dupree character, started getting groupies from all over the country, despite what a maniac and loser he was. I found it encouraging for my own state of affairs. Henry and I would often say a sort of silly mantra, “Knox Dupree lives.”
And there was some truth to that. At one point, in New York City, he was supposed to do a reading in front of 300 people. Being that he’s a made up character and we were trying to protect that illusion, this was problematic. We decided to stage it so Shane would get up on stage as his personal assistant and say, “Sorry, Knox couldn’t make it. He got too wasted last night and missed his flight out of Baltimore.” Some friends in the audience booed and yelled things like, “Knox owes me money!” Then, Shane read a handful of our favorite posts and, being a hell of a showman, he brought the house down. Jumping off the stage and heading straight for the bar, strangers, primarily young women, clamored to get a piece of Shane, thinking he was Knox. And of course he was. By a third, anyway.
As we plugged away, it became more and more popular and we received unsolicited links from high-traffic websites. Some days we would have over 4,000 unique hits, out of nowhere. It was fulfilling to be read and recognized, even if it was under a pen name.
But toward the end, we realized something: we were running out of archetypes. We had fleshed out the character of Knox pretty well throughout the narrative arc - sometimes without planning. Something would come up in a story and we’d ask, “Is this something that Knox would have done?” Or, “Is this something that happened to him?” His mom left when he was young. He was a military brat with an alcoholic father. He had been struck by lightning. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor just before being dishonorably discharged. He didn’t know when his birthday was. He spoke several languages and had a number of remarkable talents and achievements, but he couldn’t keep a job or hold down a relationship. He was perhaps the most remarkable loser alive. We could keep going on with a character like that, as if he was the James Bond franchise, if we wanted to. And we kind of did.
However, each post (usually) featured a woman that passed through his life, and as far as character archetypes go, it started to feel as though we were on track to just repeating ourselves, merely changing locations or names or whatever. Furthermore, Hank started a business and Shane was going to grad school, and I started working really late nights at a bar. So it was a mixture between seeing the writing on the wall and just getting too busy and/or lazy to continue with the project.
But it was a lot of fun while it lasted. And I sometimes read through the old posts late at night, feeling like I’m sitting down with old friends. I suppose that’s something.
Anyway, Knox may be in hiding for now, but I have this creeping suspicion that he may one day reemerge. The crazy fuck is just plain incapable of dying. And if you’re driving up or down the I-5 corridor between LA and SF, you may just find some words scrawled in a rest stop bathroom next to the dirty limericks and “for a good time call…” notes.
“Knox Dupree lives.”
Lovesick for life,