I’ve written about Hunter S. Thompson before. Many people have. I’ve stated many times I do not want to be Hunter Thompson. At one point it seemed appealing. So easy. What I misjudged was the fact that Hunter Thompson was larger than life itself. I have no problem being just as over the top; the problem lies in the fact that once you start living in such a way, it’s very hard to downshift from such a high gear. Anyone, in fact, could mimic Dr. Thompson, but by very definition, mimicking is nowhere close to the Real Deal. And Thompson, well, anyone who’s anyone knows that he was the ultimate Real Deal.
When I first read Dr. Thompson, I didn’t know what was happening in my life, or where it was heading. The family had just picked up roots and moved back to the San Luis Valley. It’s a desolate little place; dry, hot, and humid all at the same time since the Arkansas River flows through. I started working in a factory that assembled city buses. Hard work, let me tell you. 4am I was out the door, and didn’t get home until almost 7pm. Long days led to tepid nights. My sister and I would drink whatever we could there. Smoke whatever we could there. Anything to keep our minds occupied. I’m actually quite surprised I never guzzled Nyquil by the case while living there. Poverty, boredom, and perhaps a search for expression brought me to the book that introduced me to Hunter Thompson.
When I first read “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”, it was a revelation. I had no idea it was neither a work of fiction, or of non-fiction. It existed somewhere in the grey area, and that’s the zone I’ve always enjoyed working in. The movie was years and years away from being made, so after reading the book, it was like finding a sack of money on the side of the road. You’d glance around to see if anyone was there to bust you and bring down the hammer cause it felt sacred in a way. You felt that you had found something. Something substantial. Raoul Duke showed me the way.
As a writer, Hunter set his mind on finding the American Dream and he pursued it with the gusto of war correspondent, thick in the shit. He was relentless in his honesty and appraisal of each day he lived. Whether “Fear and Loathing” was fiction, contained fragments of truth, or was a literary stew of thoughts, myths, and half-truths, it doesn’t matter. What matters is the undercurrent of the story. He followed the Truth wherever it led him. The truth, however, wasn’t defined or easily compartmentalized. As is the world we inhabit. Thompson understood a simple fact of life: the truth is not necessarily a byproduct of fact. A lot of times the lies we hear are the only pathways we have to enlightenment.
And those paths are lit by men such as Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.
He inspired actors, writers, musicians, and even politicians. The man had the phone number to the Oval Office, and he called it. Often. His books such as “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail”, “Hell’s Angels”, “The Proud Highway”, and “The Rum Diary” struck chords with me each time I discovered them. Hunter’s wit and humor oozed from each page. It was alive. As you read his work, you could almost hear the ice cracking as he poured more Chivas into his glass, and the typewriter as it clicked away. Whether he was deep in the mountains of Colorado; sipping rum on the shores of Puerto Rico, or huffing Ether in the heart of the high desert, you knew he was in control. He was searching out the madness and clarifying it for all of us who dared to look. Thompson waded through the savageness of Reptoids; the awful grins of political icons who would love nothing other than to have him detained; and he did it all for the story. He found The Light that resides in all kingdoms of Fear, and he led us through those dark corridors bravely.
Then, he left us.
He had nothing else to give, and was battle worn and scarred. He had the bravery to turn his gun on himself and take on the next challenge. He’s still leading us through the unknown; searching for the answers on the other side. I fully expect a report to be filed from him sooner rather than later. If a man can find a way to bamboozle Death, it’s Dr. Thompson. A few slick words, a threat to call in his attorney, and he’d get what he needed. That was Thompson. More, he always wanted more. Now however, through all his words, and on the anniversary of his death, it’s apparent he’s already gained the thing every writer secretly desires: Immortality….
Cheers to the good doctor.