Football Season is Over

Ten years ago today, Hunter S. Thompson put one of his many guns into his mouth (in this case a .45 caliber automatic) and blew out the back of his bald head in the confines of his snowy Colorado compound.

His suicide note was surprisingly brief considering the writer’s prolific talent. It read as follows:

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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.

He titled the note “Football Season Is Over,” an allusion to the fact that the Super Bowl had concluded two weeks prior (coincidentally the Patriots won that one, too) and his favorite sport would not resume until September. I reckon Thompson was disenchanted with the prospect of facing another seven months without anything to look forward to.

The world lost a lunatic that day, but it also lost a talented writer and a soul courageous enough to stand up for what he believed in.  Thompson was one of the last true patriots and also one of the last true individualists–he was a man who ultimately didn’t give a shit what anyone else thought, and he was entirely true to himself.  Nothing could keep him from speaking his mind, and he never shied away from calling a spade a spade–never hesitated for a moment from telling it like it is, embracing his convictions and calling out the pigs and the fascists for who and what they were.  I shudder to think what kind of a force he could have been in the last decade–what kind of a voice he could have been, especially to the affectless youth yearning for something to rail against.  In our modern age of languid losers, H.S.T. could have been the voice we needed to get the listless to become listful.  There simply can’t be a revolution without voices like Thompson’s, railing against the injustices of the world and calling the fuckers out for their actions.  They just don’t make ’em like that any more, and this country (and this world, for that matter) is worse off for it.

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Maybe there is no Heaven. Or maybe this is all pure gibberish—a product of the demented imagination of a lazy drunken hillbilly with a heart full of hate who has found a way to live out where the real winds blow—to sleep late, have fun, get wild, drink whisky, and drive fast on empty streets with nothing in mind except falling in love and not getting arrested . . . Res ipsa loquitur. Let the good times roll.

Six months after his death, a wild party was held in the guise of a funeral for Thompson.  The guest list was a who’s who of friends of Hunter, including old politicos like George McGovern and John Kerry and Hollywood A-listers like Johnny Depp, Sean Penn, and Bill Murray.  The funeral was more or less drawn up according to Thompson’s own specs–he had detailed exactly how he wanted to go out, which is to say his ashes were stuffed into mortar shells and fired out of the top of a giant Gonzo fist monument amongst fireworks and rock and roll.

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H.S.T.’s crazy ass funeral

I do want to make it clear that I am in no way glossing over or glorifying Thompson’s suicide.  While I did describe the man as courageous, I don’t believe his suicide was a courageous action.  Ultimately, one must accept that there’s very little courage in killing oneself, and I’d like to think Thompson understood that much.  But there’s also something to be said for living (or dying) on one’s own terms, and I think Thompson understood that as well.  There’s no denying that he sure as hell did both.

I’ll be enjoying a bottle of Wild Turkey in his honor tonight–I’ve got nowhere to be tomorrow, anyway.  God bless 101 proof whiskey, and God bless the memory of that madman, Hunter S. Thompson.

imageR.I.P., H.S.T.

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

What exactly does it take to recognize that you may have hit rock bottom? Is it when the only things on your grocery list are cold medicine and cat food? Is it when the people working the counter at the liquor store and the drive-thru at McDonald’s suddenly know you by name? Or is it when you catch yourself saying “that sloppy joe was less than stellar” after dinner?

It’s hard to gauge precisely when one bottoms out. I mean, just the other day I helped a tweaked-out junkie at the library apply online for a part-time job at the Dollar General.  Surely to God I’m in better shape than she is, right?

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Dollar General: the place where dreams are made

They say that it’s always darkest before the dawn, but things have been so awfully dark for so long now that I’m worried I haven’t even hit rock bottom yet and I’m even more concerned that there isn’t going to be a dawn. I simply can’t see anything good coming my way anymore. Even Charlie Brown had enough optimism to believe he would one day get to kick that ball, or fly that kite, or win that baseball game, or receive just one goddamn valentine in his mailbox. I don’t share the same optimism as that hapless loser, and yet, I continue to carry on. But why? I’ll have to think on that and get back to you.

Perhaps the biggest indicator that I may have hit bottom is that it seems like one of the few things I look forward to nowadays is falling asleep. I don’t know why, as none of my dreams are pleasant–all I ever seem to have are nightmares. For instance, the other night I dreamt that I was stuck in a sea of people at the world’s largest outdoor mall on a sweltering day, wearing a sleeveless shirt and covered in second degree sunburns. When I awoke, rather than feel relief at having been delivered from that godawful nightmare, I sighed at the prospect of having to face the day. Nightmares are still less painful than the waking life for the simple fact that dreams aren’t real and reality most certainly is–it’s cold and concrete and certain. The phrase “pinch me, I must dreaming” implies that pain is what separates dreams from reality, and I reckon that’s true. Dreams, as painful as they might seem sometimes, are ultimately harmless–life is quite the opposite.

Sometimes I find myself hoping that the last few years have just been a bad dream–that I’ll wake up and have it be two or three or even ten years ago so that I can do absolutely everything differently. Or maybe I could wake up in bed with Suzanne Pleshette like Bob Newhart did in the finale of his 80s sitcom–that would be okay, too.  (Actually, that would be fucking awesome.)

single greatest sitcom finale ever

But unfortunately, there are no do-overs–life doesn’t hand you any mulligans. When we rear back and take a swing, we are stuck with whatever lie we receive, and for some reason I keep on shanking my ball into the damned rough.  Sooner or later I’m bound to make it onto the fairway, right?  Or is that just Charlie Brown talking?

There is Light Somewhere

Despite what you might believe, you must understand that no matter how low you may be feeling or how much you might be hurting, in the grand scheme of things, you don’t have it so bad.  There is always going to be someone who is worse off than you are.  There will always be someone who is hurting more–suffering more–than you are or ever will.  You must put things in perspective if you are to survive.  This is essential, as I’m learning firsthand.

So cheer up, because it’s not the end of the world.  Not yet, anyway.  Just when you think you’re ready to walk the streets wearing a sandwich board declaring “The End is Nigh” in bold red letters, know that there is light somewhere.  Whether it be a smile from a gorgeous girl or a kind word from a close friend who cares, there is light somewhere.  Look for it.  Know it.  Embrace it.

There was a distinguished professor, now deceased, at the University of Arkansas by the name of Dr. Leo Van Scyoc (pronounced “Van Syke”).  He was a mentor to my parents, and in all likelihood he was the catalyst for my being named “Hotspur” since he was the one who taught Shakespeare to the both of them (his forearms were as big as Popeye’s, as he was notorious for teaching straight from his edition of The Riverside Shakespeare, holding the humongous tome in one arm as he taught).  Dr. Van Scyoc was fond of giving the following advice:  “One must retain one’s sense of humor.”  I’ve found myself heeding that bit of wisdom more and more in recent years, and I think it just might be the single best piece of advice I’ve ever received.

Speaking of laughing, I’ll leave you tonight with a poem from that brilliant dirty old man, Charles Bukowski.  I get so pissed sometimes when people discount Bukowski and write him off as a degenerate, because when he wasn’t busy drinking and gambling and whoring and writing poems and stories that served to reinforce his image as a degenerate, he was crafting some of the most eloquent and accessible poetry ever written about the human heart.  This is one of those poems.

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The Laughing Heart

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

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And if you’re not much for readin’ poetry, then feel free to give a listen to it being read by Tom Waits, the patron saint of coolness.