I’m sitting in an apartment tucked away in the hills of Aspen, Colorado. I have the worst hang over I've had in months. Too much whiskey can do a man in; especially when you’re 8,000 feet in the sky. I’m trying to recall the story that was told to me about the late Hunter S. Thompson, which may or may not be accurate. Everyone over the age of 40 in this town has something to say about the man, and I happened to spend Thanksgiving with a man who knew Hunter well. If only this damn laptop would stop testing my patience I could put it into words.
It was an unseasonably warm night in Aspen when I met this man in a house fit for the king of a small country. Hunter’s friend was a strange old bastard who could size you up at first glance. He was a short man with the history of this twisted little town carved into his face. When he told me he had known Hunter it was hard to tell if he viewed the man as a hero, or a deranged burn out, and I still can’t say that I know which one it was. “That man could write like nobody’s business” he said, “god only knows how he could put that shit out without spending a damn minute sober. It was as if he was only able to access that part of his mind when he sat at the typewriter.”
“Joe” (as I will refer to him) told me about one of Hunter’s last birthdays. Apparently the wife of the sheriff at the time had baked a cake for Hunter, and went to deliver it to his house in Woody Creek. She had knocked on the door around one in the afternoon and no one had answered, despite the fact Hunter’s car was in the driveway. She peaked through the window and saw Hunter at his makeshift office, passed out on his typewriter. He had drooled all over the thing, and her first thought was that he had finally paid for all his excesses in life. “Hunter is a testament to the virility of man,” the sheriff would always say.
Where were we? Oh, yes. Hunter was passed out on the typewriter. The sheriff’s wife called her husband, and told him that she believed Hunter to finally have died from years of intoxication. The sheriff refused to believe this, of course, and went over to Hunter’s to see for himself. When he arrived he looked into the window, and when Hunter wouldn't respond to his yells, he went inside. He approached Hunter cautiously, and nudged him before checking the pulse.
After a few nudges Hunter rose to action. He wiped his face off, did a line of coke, and said something along the lines of “alright, let’s party!” This part seems a little strange to me, as I can’t imagine someone doing a line of coke in front of the town sheriff, but knowing this man’s history it wouldn't be that surprising. Once again, the man who indulged in as many mind altering substances as he could get his hands on lived to see another birthday.
Aspen is full of stories like this one. It is truly a monument to how significantly one man can alter a town’s history. During a cab ride from a bar to my brother’s apartment one night I heard a story about Hunter from the old man who was driving me. He told me that one day he saw Hunter and his lawyer (Oscar Acosta) dancing naked and shooting guns at an empty car, which I assume one of them owned.
Hunter is gone now, and the political journalism scene is emptier because of it. If Hunter were still around, I imagine he would have quite a bit to say about the massacres of late, and how gun control laws would or would not play a significant role in preventing such events. I have to imagine a gun wielding rebel like him would have been ardently against banning assault weapons, but perhaps he would have had some alternate ideas on what needs to be done.