I have had a Hunter S Thomson day today. He is amongst my very favourite writers and I am currently re-reading the Rum Diary. I have read all of Thomson’s works and his brilliance and genius dazzles me. I rate him right up there with Vonnegut and John Irving. The man knew how to combine words. He was drug addled and some would argue psychotic but wow how he could write.
The ‘S’ stands for Stockton in case you are interested.
Hunter Stockton Thomson.
After work today I went down to have a splash about in the swimming pool in my apartment complex then to have a quiet read whilst laying on one of the poolside deck chairs. September and October are the warmest months of the year in Singapore – and the heat and humidity are at times almost unbearable. I think that the heat contributes - and may perhaps even cause a great deal of the insanity that is here on the Island and I believe that Hunter would have very much enjoyed the place. He would most certainly have been incarcerated - and probably executed – as there is a zero tolerance for drug users and drug dealers in Singapore. They first cane them and they then execute them by firing squad.
There is nothing like a good caning before a firing squad.
The term 'flogging a dead horse' is an idiom. I like idiom and I use them a lot. It has nothing to do with the zero-tolerance beat-then-shoot-them policy of the Singaporean government but it just came to mind. In these modern times the phrase relates to a futile line of argument and it is thought to have originated in the seventeenth century in Ye Olde London town. I have spelled this in Old English just because I felt like it. In the olden days a 'dead horse' was a descriptor for work that was paid for in advance. Many labourers supposedly used these advance wages to get drunk or to pay off debts they had accumulated. Thus the term arose.
Thomson’s most famous work is probably ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream’ - mainly by virtue that a film was made of it. He wrote the book in 1972 and the film adaptation was released in 1998. It is perhaps an autobiography of sorts. The book is a first person account of a fictional character he named Raoul Duke who travels to Las Vegas with his ‘300 pound Samoan attorney’ named Gonzo to report on a National Narcotics Police Convention and a desert motorcycle race that was being held there.
Raoul is sidetracked in his reporting of these events by his search for the ‘American Dream’ and the fact that he consumes every known narcotic ever invented. The star of the film was Johhny Depp - with whom Thomson subsequently became very good friends.
My best mate Berty lives in Las Vegas and he is also a big Hunter S Thomson fan. I have been to the city many times to visit Berty. There is as much insanity in Vegas as there is here in Singapore. Perhaps more.
I love it.
Thomson was a greatly disturbed but incredibly insightful American journalist and author. I say that he was disturbed – well, because he was.
He was born in Kentucky in 1937 into a normal and middle class family and his father died when he was in his early teens. The death of his father left the Thomson family impoverished and Hunter then began to get into trouble with the law. He challenged Authority throughout his life and he had several stints in jail. In 1966 Hunter spent a year living with the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Gang and in 1967 his work, Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs was published.
Thus began his era of unconventional writing and journalism that he himself described as “Gonzo”. This was a type of writing where he as the reporter became the central character. He named his writing style after the fictitious 300-pound Samoan attorney character from his novel ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream’
Thomson became very famous in the American ‘Counter-culture” movement in the US but he all but stopped his prolific writing in the late 1970’s. He had a particular hatred of the US President Richard Nixon - well before the Watergate scandal - and he had a great contempt for Authority and Politicians in general.
So do I.
Hunter used and abused alcohol and drugs for pretty much all of his adult life and he also liked to shoot guns. Not at people though – he just liked to fire away at things in the desert and on his property in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado where he lived and died. One of his most infamous quotes that describes himself to a tee is:
“I hate to advocate drugs, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me”
Thomson lived in a heavily fortified compound in a place he called ‘Owl Farm’ in Colorado and he committed suicide by shooting himself in the head on February 20, 2005. He was 67 years old. It is believed that his suicide was not as a result of any act of desperation but was due to the chronic physical pain that he long endured from a series of serious health problems. Many of these issues likely resulted from decades of drug abuse but also from complications that he suffered following hip-replacement surgery.
A suicide note that was written by Thomson to his wife was published well after his death in the Rolling Stone Magazine in an article that he titled, “The Football Season is Over”.
"No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun — for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your (old) age. Relax — This won't hurt."
Thomson left very specific instructions for his funeral service and this was conducted on 20th August 2005. This was exactly six months after his death – which is a long time. The funeral service was a private affair and in accordance with his instructions his ashes were fired from a cannon whilst fireworks were let off and Bob Dylan’s song “Mr. Tambourine Man’ played. The cannon that fired Hunter’s ashes did so from atop a 50-metre tall tower that was constructed in the shape of a giant fist clutching a hallucinogenic peyote button. His good mate – the actor Johhny Depp, made all the funeral arrangements.
Depp was quoted as saying:
"All I'm doing is trying to make sure his last wish comes true. I just want to send my pal out the way he wants to go out”
In attendance at the funeral were some other good mates of Thomson’s including the actors Jack Nicholson, John Cusack, Bill Murray and Sean Penn.
It was very esteemed company.
I wish I had known him.
Sometimes when chatting with people over drinks or in other social settings the question is asked, “if you had a dinner party and could invite anyone you wanted to, living or dead, who would you invite?” I myself often ask this question. My list is easy. Hunter S Thomson, Kurt Vonnegut, John Irving, Jack Nicholson, Sean Penn, John Belushi, Winston Churchill, Billy Connelly and Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn would be the only girl at the dinner table and I would be mainly interested to hear what she knew about the Kennedy’s. I would not have invited any of the Kennedy’s to my dinner party to ask them direct - as it a well known fact that all politicians lie.
Five of my nine invitees are dead so they wouldn’t eat much.
When I was lying on the poolside couch reading the Rum Diary a shadow fell upon me. Mr. Tan – the Building Manager of my apartment complex, cast the shadow. He had a small bandage on his forehead that was covering an injury that was sustained at the very spot I was now laying. Mr. Tan and I had butted heads last week. It was an accidental butting that unfortunately resulted in the temporary hospitalisation of the little fellow. I have written previously about this at length so I will not elaborate any further.
“Good evening Mr. Peter” said Mr. Tan.
“Good Evening Mr. Tan” I replied as I put my book aside.
Mr. Tan was alone – which was unusual. He is normally accompanied by one or both of the Raj’s’ who are the Sikh Security Guards of the complex in which I live. I like the Raj’s very much but I was somewhat relieved that they were not with Mr. Tan as they salute me incessantly and it is driving me nuts.
“Are you feeling better Mr. Tan?” I enquired.
“Much better thank you Mr. Peter” he replied.
I did not really want to engage with Mr. Tan as I had suffered a long day at the office dealing with the English with whom I work and I was enjoying relaxing and reading the great Hunter Thomson. I decided then and there though that I would converse with Mr. Tan purely in Hunter Thomson quotes – or variations of them. I know and have memorised many. My very good Irish mate James who, like me, lives in Singapore is also a big Hunter S Thomson fan and we often thrown his quotes at each other.
“How are you Mr. Peter?
“Things are no longer what they seem to be Mr. Tan. My telephones are haunted and animals whisper at me from unseen places.”
Mr. Tan looked startled.
“Will you be attending the Owners and Tenants Committee meeting on Thursday night Mr. Peter?’ Mr. Tan asked.
After accepting an invitation from Mr. Tan, I recently became a Member of the Owners and Tenants Committee. It is a truly mad and insane event that Hunter S Thomson would have greatly enjoyed. Again, I have written about this before and I do not wish to repeat myself.
“I will indeed Mr. Tan – I am looking forward to it. It will be like falling down an elevator shaft and landing in a pool full of mermaids.”
He nodded his head knowingly in reply but I could tell that he was both alarmed and confused.
“I believe that Mr. Jens has his twin brother staying with him Mr. Peter - have they caused you any concern that I should be aware of?”
"He may be a swine, but he's our swine." I replied.
Mr. Tan again nodded an affirmation but he was now quite obviously nervous. His anxiety was bubbling and brewing.
“Are you alright Mr. Peter?”
“I feel a tremendous distance between myself and everything real.” I responded.
I said all of this to Mr. Tan in a deadpan fashion.
Deadpan is a type of comic expression that is delivered without any visible sign of emotion. It is oblique and blunt. The term and humour emerged in America during the bleak times of Great Depression in the 1920’s. The word ‘pan’ was a slang term for the face and dead was expression-less.
With a bit of hindsight - the Great Depression of the 1920’s doesn’t seem so Great. We now use the term “Global Financial Crisis” and we have suffered a couple of these in the last decade.
We are suffering one still.
Mr. Tan hopped about a bit at my Hunter S Thomson deadpan end of the conversation. I have noticed that hopping about is something that he is inclined to do when he is agitated or anxious.
“Is there anything wrong Mr. Peter?” Mr. Tan asked.
He was wringing his hands now and hopping even more and although I wanted to go back to my reading and solitude, I was beginning to enjoy myself.
“A man can live on his wits and his balls for only so long Mr. Tan.” I said in a very serious voice.
“You won't find reasonable men on the tops of tall mountains.” I added.
“Mountains Mr. Peter?”
“Mountains Mr. Tan” I repeated.
“That is very wise Mr. Peter”
“No man is so foolish that he may sometimes give another good counsel, and no man so wise that he may not easily err if he takes no other counsel than his own. He that is taught only by himself has a fool for a master.” I replied.
“Yes” the now stunned Mr. Tan answered.
“I will leave you now in peace then with your reading Mr. Peter and I will see you at the meeting on Thursday evening”
As he started to walk away I said:
“Drive fast on empty streets with nothing in mind except falling in love and not getting arrested Mr. Tan.”
He seemed to pause in his stride when I said this but he neither replied nor looked back - and I resumed my reading.
I have decided that for the upcoming Owners and Tenants Committee meeting on Thursday night I will also speak just in Hunter S Thomson quotes. I will do it in honor of the great man and because it will be very good fun.
Vidistis Accessistis Uuicistis Hunter S Thomson - you came, you saw and you conquered.
You crazy fucker gonzo genius.
May you Rest in Peace.