Tomorrow, the remains of Hunter S. Thompson will be fired out of a cannon. With luck, his residue will drift like pollen through the atmosphere creating an unstoppable epidemic of crazy weirdness. NOW MORE THAN EVER the world needs people who see how weird the going is getting, because it seems to me that this whole new American fascism thing is getting a bit out of control.
I suppose I’m biased, I get almost all my news from dadahead and Leiter Reports. You should pay attention to Brian Leiter, he’s a one-man two-fisted justice parade on a worldwide hostility tour, cracking Republican heads together like coconuts while kicking a creationist in the face. It’s wonderful catharsis, but it doesn’t make me feel too cozy or optimistic about the future. It’s sort of like listening to the couple in the next apartment get drunk and scream at each other every Saturday night: a perverse voyeuristic thrill tempered with the realization that no one is ever likely to win the argument. Not in any constructive way, at least. Now more than ever we need Hunter S. Thompson and his cache of weaponry.
I’ve also been thinking about John Lennon lately, another tragic dreamer murdered by a nutcase. Flipping through a book of Rolling Stone covers yesterday, I came across this famous photo:
I learned that Lennon was shot just hours after that picture was taken. Pretty crazy, no? I also learned that his last word was “Yeah.” The police at the scene asked “Are you John Lennon?” and he said “Yeah.” This reminded me of some lines from the Flaming Lips song Suddenly Everything Has Changed, and maybe this part is about him:
I stood up and I said yeah.
I spoke up and I said hey yeah yeah yeah…
And it seemed to cause a chain reaction,
it had momentum it was gaining traction,
it was all the rage it was all the fashion,
the outreached hands had resigned themselves to holding on to something that they’ll never have,
and that’s too bad.
But in reality there was no reaction.
I’d never really got “into” John Lennon or the Beatles, up until a few months ago when I picked up Acoustic Lennon and Magical Mystery Tour. I’d listened to the Beatles as a young lad, maybe around eight or nine, on this super chunky tape player I can barely remeber. This was a solid piece of machinery, about ten inches long, six wide and three deep, made of thick moulded black plastic with huge white playback buttons and the big red “RECORD” button. I can remember sitting under a desk in the dining room with headphones on, listening to Revolver. Yellow Submarine and Helter Skelter were the only songs I can remember really liking, and when I started to get “into” music, it was all Aerosmith and Black Sabbaf, and Guns’N’Roses and shit like that.
I liked the Beatles not because of personal enjoyment but as a vague gesture of acknowledgement that they were, in fact, good. I also never bothered to finish Lord of the Rings even when I’d read plenty of the derivative genre and played Dungeons and Dragons and generally lived in a subculture inspired by LOTR, it just seemed like common knowledge that it was an amazing masterpiece and I could never seem to fully enjoy things that everyone else has already experienced and approved. For some reason I placed a very high premium on originality, much higher than it deserves; I’ve never been capable of working inside a “normal science.” Well-mapped terrains don’t seem to hold my interest, however objectively wonderful they might be. This is a form of mental illness that can be a great blessing when combined with exceptional creativity, genius or willpower. More typically it’s a recipe for impotent solipsism and baseless feelings of superiority.
Hunter S. Thompson was the real deal, a human being who somehow stumbled into his destiny and ran with it to the bitter end. I can’t say I miss him, but I’m glad that he lived.