"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Monday, February 21, 2005

Bad Craziness at Owl Farm
Hunter S. Thompson shot himself dead. He was my hero and one of the the reasons I do what I do.
Some say he was depressed over the rise of facism in Bush's Amerika, others are clinging to the plausible idea that this was a drunken firearms accident, some are speculating that there were 'health issues' and a few conspiracy nuts are saying the facists had him whacked. I think health issues could have played a part in his decision - the good doctor drank a bucket of whiskey a day for 50 years and was rarely without a Dunhill in hand. His appetite for other recreational substances is the stuff of legend, as is his appetite for danger and he didn't always come out of his adventures physically unscathed. He was beaten by cops in Chicago in '68 and chainwhipped by the Hells Angels in San Francisco before that. He said himself that he should have died at least a dozen times, but always managed to pull through. Clearly the man had the constitution of a rhino. In recent years he underwent a series of very painful spinal operations. He had a high tolerance for pain and was no coward. The miracle is that he lived to be 67 years old.
I think, like Hemmingway before him, Hunter Thompson just decided that he didn't want to live a diminished life. He might have lasted another ten years or even twenty or thirty before wasting away from lung or liver cancer, denied his pleasures and bossed by doctors. For someone like Hunter, that would have been hell, both for him and his family. He wrote in the introduction to The Great Shark Hunt about jumping out the window from the 28th floor as the only fitting way to finish putting together a book of his collected work. He recently published two volumes of his collected correspondence. I think in some ways this was just him telling the world "You can't fire me, I quit." He lived life on his own terms, no matter what, and decided to end his life the same way.
I never met the man, but he meant a lot to me. His work convinced me that politics could be an entertaining blood sport and inspired me to go into journalism. When I was 20 I wanted to be him. It is said that immitation is the sincerest form of flattery and anyone who knew me in my 20s knows I flattered him plenty.
I learned a lot from Hunter - not just that when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro, but also how to see what politicians are really saying, how to enjoy ether and moral outrage, how to eat a proper breakfast and above all, to enjoy life no matter what kind of fetid excrement it throws at you. If Hunter knew anything, it was how to have Fun.
The world is diminished by his departure and a quieter, much less interesting place for his passing.

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