“It Never Got Weird Enough For Me”

Guest Post by Beth Pariseau

Hunter S. Thompson, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

I turned around today and said to the engineer, who’s the only man in my office who’ll acknowledge me when I speak, did you hear. I had just read Jay Jaffe’s “Fear and Loathing Over Morning Coffee” and was delighting in the excerpt he posted from Thompson’s obituary of Richard Nixon:

If the right people had been in charge of Nixon’s funeral, his casket would have been launched into one of those open-sewage canals that empty into the ocean just south of Los Angeles. He was a swine of a man and a jabbering dupe of a president. Nixon was so crooked that he needed servants to help him screw his pants on every morning. Even his funeral was illegal. He was queer in the deepest way. His body should have been burned in a trash bin.

Remember when people said such things out loud, in print? When people weren’t so afraid and careful, all the time?

The more I think about Hunter S. Thompson’s death, the more I am disturbed. Because much like Hemingway and any number of important and / or great writers before him, he took his own life. But where Hemingway was a bitter old drunk who involved himself very little in the politics of the nation, Hunter S. Thompson was and always has been in the thick of our schizophrenic national argument.

I always wondered, reading his writings from the 1970’s, seeing his bitterness and disillusionment even then in what now seems a quaint and idealistic, if volatile time, what he must be thinking now, under our current regime. I thought, if he got that mad about Nixon, Dubya must have driven him out of his mind.

I can’t help wondering now, was this an answer in the affirmative?

Yes, depression, disease, drug-addled, any other d word you want to throw at it and I should know better. But I’m addressing HST as a cultural force, here, as a two-dimensional political voice rather than a whole man with brain chemistry fucked with royally by decades of LSD. The fact of the matter for me is, HST was one of the last counterculture voices that remained remotely intact; and even in his “Hey Rube!” columns for ESPN, the collected volume of which is at home next to my bed as we speak, he was as incorrigible as ever, letting his horror and protest beneath the overall patina of apathy be known.

Now this. What does it mean?

Anyway, I asked the engineer if he’d heard and he said yes, but it’s been overshadowed by the news out of Milton Academy. And I said, what news is that, and he was silent for a while, and then he said it wasn’t the kind of thing that’s generally discussed in mixed company.

So why bring it up? I wanted to yell. But instead I turned to Google, which never flinches from telling me at least as much of the story as is out there.

Now that Dr. Gonzo’s gone, it’ll have to do.