Wednesday, February 23, 2005
A whiles ago, my least successful (to my mind) FT post was published. It was called A City Of Stars; a wanky reference to the last words on the last studio album released by Nirvana before Mr. Kurt Cobain lifted his head up high and et cetera. And ten years later, I remember thinking it was time to mark the occasion.
Y'know, because that's what bloggers do, we find events which have happened and we shoot enough salt into the crowd that hopefully a few people get hit in the eyes and reconsider their point of view. No one goon with a shell full of condiment is going to hit it, sure, but between us, maybe we'll at least get remembered as the motherfuckers with the guns. (No, we'll get remembered as the self-aggrandising motherfuckers who tried to equate sitting up late on a quiet mood-leveller jag with riot control and heavy firearm usage; but let's see what Old Uncle Tom has to say and then maybe we'll just call that a sad sort of symmetry).
So here we go again. Hunter S Thompson is dead, and it's Once more et cetera Breach ad nauseum Hill his prisoners ad fucking infinitum.
Because hey, we're now talking about a guy who according to friends, was "not the sort to go quietly into the night". Oh, please. Maybe... "The king is dead. Long live the king"?
No - listen, people, we're talking about one of the most-lauded practitioners of the scathing eulogy since Mencken. He gave us:
He was the real thing -- a political monster straight out of Grendel and a very dangerous enemy. He could shake your hand and stab you in the back at the same time. He lied to his friends and betrayed the trust of his family. Not even Gerald Ford, the unhappy ex-president who pardoned Nixon and kept him out of prison, was immune to the evil fallout. Ford, who believes strongly in Heaven and Hell, has told more than one of his celebrity golf partners that "I know I will go to hell, because I pardoned Richard Nixon."
...And all you simpering jerks can offer up to honor his memory is:
He lived longer than any of us expected already. He gave us so much, his was a great life, full of energy and magic and righteousness.
Well, thanks all to fuck, Jann Werner, Rolling Stone. Real rock 'n' roll cool! Even Tom Wolfe, touted as having eulogised Doc in a manner befitting his unique standing at this most interesting of times, really manages nothing much more insightful than, here was a nice guy who sometimes did crazy stuff but overall I think he's this century's answer to Mark Twain.
The only thing attempting an answer to Thompson's legendary Nixon eulogy comes, predictably, from humorless twits who damn Thompson while advertising Bill Clinton Toilet Paper - nevermind that Thompson wrote, from his fiercely-guarded POV, a three-dimensional and rather damning critique of Clinton, both as candidate and President anyway. Right, cause he didn't like Nixon and he claims to have met Shrub passed out in his bathtub, so, y'know, he's obviously a commie pinko faggot yadda yadda fucking yadda.
The fact that Thompson shot himself in the head also bothers people more than somewhat. Somewhere between Kurt, and Marilyn Manson proclaiming that anyone who kills themselves is just a stone-cold buffoon, we seem to have arrived at a situation where geeks on the str8-edge like very much to get tanked on Woodstock and proselytize about just how little sympathy they have for anyone who kills themselves. It's a kneejerk thing: suicide/pussy/fucking idiot/quitter/faggot. Psychological complexity/spiritual trauma/empathy? Nah mate, suicides are queers.
I would like to contradict every single fucking word in the way of suggesting that Thompson eulogies have tended toward the fawning, and I would like to say that Hunter S Thompson shooting himself in the head is exactly what Thoreau would do if he lived in the 21st century and he was goofed up to the eyeballs on rat poison and he had a large collection of large guns and he was often left unattended with his guns and his bug powder because he had a tendency to shoot his assistants on the offchance that they might actually be a bear. Exactly what Thoreau would do.
It's the self-determinism. It's the self-reliance, don't you see. It's the principle of saying, I am in total control of how I live my life, and people all over the world respond to how I go about my affairs, so I see no reason to change; and if I choose to get totally sidewaysed on God only knows what and I have a sore leg so I figure, well, what about if I shoot myself in the head, there ain't a damn thing you're gonna do to stop me.
Thompson lived in a world where, famously, reality and fiction ceased to have clear borders; where Tanked and Drunk and Blitzed were just as valid states of being as clean, hell, where Tanked and Drunk and Blitzed were the norm, and clean was an interesting notion to be played around with, but then, so was kiddy-porn.
The American dream, the Western ideal of self-sufficiency, says that you get to work for the right to do whatever you damn well please short of directly fucking your neighbor's wife, and I don't think it was despair at the drift from that dream, or horror at its perversion, that drove Thompson to a fit of inability to cope. I'm sure it's likely that Thompson's final moments may indeed have been a Gonzo apocalypse - stranded deep in bat country, and one of the little buggers landed itself on his frontal lobe, and what was a man to do but blow the fucker out of the water and hope for the best?
Be that as it may, I say fuck the impulse to turn every suicide into a tragedy or a case of a pathetic loser giving up, desparing of the world in which he finds himself stranded. The rubes with their braided goatees can marginalise his final act as a pathetic old fool giving up the ghost, but what the fuck would they know?
Shooting yourself when you're young and don't know any better is tragic. Shooting yourself when you're old and don't believe in anything any more is sad. Shooting yourself when you're Hunter S Thompson is, regrettably for those of us who'll miss him, perhaps just par for the course. Welcome, as we say, to Shotgun Golf.