Reporting, Recording and Relaying - But Always Telling It As I See It

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Fear and Loathing...My Minute With Hunter Thompson

In 2004, I received a letter from the Woody Creek Rod and Gun Club in Colorado. Stamped across the back in bold, red lettering were the words, “Sexually Explicit Material.” This is startling to say the least. Puzzled, I nonetheless added getting the mail to one of the perks of getting home before my wife. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Several years prior, I entered the Hunter S. Thompson phase of my life. (This was after I exited the Jack Kerouac, Beat Generation phase.) When I say entered, I mean plunged. I devoured Hunter’s books, letters and essays like Vegas tourists at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Reading someone like Hunter, who didn’t just write a story, but who lived the story (Hells Angels, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail) was akin to finding out that everything you thought you knew was in fact mere reportage. He wasn’t an outsider looking in, gleaning quotes and describing scenes. He famously said, “The truth is rarely told between nine and five.” Hunter rarely worked between nine and five.

In the midst of all this, in May 2003, I did something I had never done before as a “fan.” I wrote Hunter a letter, addressed simply to Hunter S. Thompson, Owl Farm, Woody Creek, Colorado, with no idea whether it would ever get to him and with zero expectation of hearing back. In fact, the letter didn’t ask any questions and certainly didn’t ask for any favors. I simply stated that I admired his work and it reminded me of a line from “Catcher In The Rye” when Holden Caulfield said something like, “I like to read books where I wish I knew the author, so when I was finished I could call them ask and ask them questions.” (Strictly paraphrased, but it was something like that.)

Eleven months later, I received the envelope from the Woody Creek Rod and Gun Club. Inside was my letter onto which Hunter wrote: “Dear Dave, I just tried to call you at home but you ain’t listed in the C.W. Hunter.” Now, I have no idea if he really did try to call and really no idea what “C.W.” stands for. Also inside was a signed five dollar bill (a bit odd) and a few stickers pimping his upcoming DVD release. Since I figured I should completely geek this out, I had the letter framed. I am not pretentious enough to think he singled me out, but you know, it’s a damned nice memento.

(You probably know that less than a year later, Hunter pulled a real asshole, selfish maneuver and shot himself in his kitchen. That doesn’t diminish my respect for his work, but it does diminish my respect for his character.)

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