When The Wind Changed

gonzoAfter all my recent positivity, I was shocked and ashamed to discover myself struck down with some deep, unshakable sadness last night, which trailed me through my dreams like a hungry pack hound and woke me quite rudely today with all the force of a sharp punch in the nose.

Being a usually unwitting disciple of Bruce Lee's "don't think, feel" school of being, I haven't taken the time to consider where this might have come from... the weather, not having really left the house all week, people I've done work for's unwillingness to pay me, debt, a diet of goonish ignorance, a frighteningly backed-up inbox, funky old jack leads that transfer constant radio interference through my studio monitors, all these silly little things might have had something to do with it.

Then I remembered what I was doing when I noticed my funk - I'd given up on working for the day at around nine, and sat down to watch Breakfast With Hunter, Wayne Ewing's film about Dr Thompson. The previous night I'd stayed up until 4 or 5 finishing William McKeen's Outlaw Journalist, easily the best of all the HST biographies, an ultimately tragic portrait of the man who might have been the greatest writer of his generation, were it not for the self imposed confines of his cartoon personality, and his addiction to cocaine.

The author had manged to gain an audience with Sandy Conklin, Hunter's first wife, who supported him through the writing of his best work, who suffered the blunt end of his worst excesses, his violence, his selfishness, his rage, before an ugly divorce in 1980.

"I have a truly wonderful life and [telling] the Hunter story again and again interrupts the peace, as it did every day when i was with him," she said. Forsooth:

Sandy tries to keep Hunter deep in the past, but she knew what tormented him. Friends would sometimes come upon him alone, in his salon, crying. Sandy knew why. "He was a tortured, tragic figure," Sandy said. "I do not think that he was a great writer. I think he clearly had great potential, both as a writer and a leader. However he fell - dramatically and a very, very long time ago. Hunter wanted to be a great writer and he had the genius, the talent, and, early on, the will and the means. He was horrified by who he had become and ashamed - or really I should say tortured. he knew he had failed. He knew that his writing was absolutely not great. This was part of the torture. And yet, he could never climb back. The imagine, the power, the drugs, the alcohol, the money... all of it... he never became the great American writer he had wanted to be. Nowhere close. and he knew it."

As I said the other day, I suppose I idolised Hunter Thompson for some time. Watching the film, I saw him as a handsome young man, fighting The Battle of Aspen (looking eerily like Grant Morrison), then as the sad old cartoon, shooting off a fire extinguisher in Jann Wenner's office, and beating up a blow-up doll. Sometime in the seventies, Hunter Thompson was making a silly face, then the wind changed, and it seems he was stuck making that face all his life. Maybe that's unfair - in his later life he managed to crank out some brilliant, visceral prose in the dawn of the Bush administration, he fought for righteous causes, like that of Lisl Auman... but that image of him crying for what might have been wormed its way into my unconscious, and took root.

A rugged individualist, distruster of authority, rejecter of assumed ideas, Hunter still failed to reach his potential. We all have to try harder. If we're not careful, our linear perception of time will sweep us up in its arms and dump us, sodden, broken and confused on some polluted shore, weeping in the poison foam, wondering what the fuck happened.