A Letter to Hunter S. Thompson

Feb. 24, 2011
William Ball is a writer who doesn't live in Brooklyn. He doesn't even live in New York. He likes to talk about ...

Counselor,

You fucking fuck. You left us here. I had to spend three, dark years under our hateful, cowboy-fascist President without even the thought of you, holed up in your fortified compound in Colorado. As long as you were there, dripping venom at your typewriter, it was okay. I could countenance it. That you remained and hadn’t yet been disappeared to some CIA black-site meant things weren’t as bad as they could be. It meant there was a chance our sundry charlatans and war criminals might be called to account. Certainly, nobody else was going to do it. It had to be you.

Instead, you put a bullet through your brain, you apocalyptic douchebag. It’s not that I don’t understand. Thinking about killing myself is, basically, my national sport. You felt feeble at the end. You weren’t having fun. You’d been chafing under the weight of your foul persona since the 70′s and, when your body started to give out, it became too much. However, you had obligations; not least of which to a sad little 18-year-old who drank himself to sleep for the first time the night you died. I fancied myself the kind of guy who’d grow up to play Shotgun Golf and write long political screeds. Your quick removal from the scene called into question both the wisdom and ultimate feasibility of that fantasy. Worse, it called into question the first principles of your writing. You took a whole genre with you to your grave.

So, what now? You gleefully called your enemies “monsters” and you were armed to the teeth at all times. Last month, some lunatic with a head full of delusions beyond even your wildest imaginings shot a sitting Congresswoman in the head and the best among us are calling for civility, for a new tone to our discourse. It’s not that I disagree, but let me fill you in on some of the goings on since even that very recent event. You might have missed the coverage because you’re dead.

For instance: a bunch of billionaires have decided that it’s not enough to simply squeeze more blood from the metaphorical stones that are union members. Instead, they’re hell bent to abolish collective-bargaining rights, which as I understand it are things people were still routinely dying to secure around about the time you were born. Luckily, the billionaires have replaced gun-wielding thugs with idiots holding misspelled signs, who have a deep and abiding belief that Jesus was against the Estate Tax. Also, they hate faggots. I know because they routinely scream it out their car windows. Then again, you were pretty homophobic, weren’t you? You bald asshole. That’s a discussion for another day.

Oh, also, congressional people want to defund Planned Parenthood and eliminate a program that provides heating oi for families that can’t afford it, among other things. What are we supposed to say about all that? The answer can’t be, “reaffirm that we’re all patriotic Americans and work together toward the common cause of balancing our budget on the backs of poor people.” It’s sinister. How did you do it that afternoon in the limousine with Dick Nixon? How did you just talk about the Redskins and not unleash any of the ample hate in your heart upon his lumpy brow? Why do I have to play this rigged game?

I suppose the answer is universal subjectivity. Nixon was just a man with an inferiority complex. Bush was just an guy under the sway of greedy fuckwits who had all their fear synapses permanently blown by the Cold War. You were just a boy who wanted out of Kentucky, who wanted to be Hemingway. You got your wish. Woody Creek was your Ketchum. I committed your essay about Hemingway’s death to memory long ago, years before a beautiful hipster girl stole my copy of “The Great Shark Hunt.” It’s just; I don’t think that the world fell out from underneath you, as it did to Hemingway. Shriveled pricks like Kurt Loder wrote obituaries saying you were a has-been, your best work behind you. Maybe so, but you were still doing the same things as always, issuing psychotic communiqués via fax from your ranch, keeping a bloodshot eye trained on those in power. The great, gray gradients of our changing world never overwhelmed you, never dulled your convictions. The reality is much simpler. You just never planned on getting old, did you?

How angry am I still allowed to be at you, even knowing your pain? How angry am I allowed to be at the maniacs with their knives out? Is it worth a goddamn to say how angry I am about anything? You can’t answer because you removed yourself from the discussion, leaving poor fools like me to carry on in approximation of your place. The story goes that you stole a rack of antlers right off old Hemingway’s mantel while you were in Ketchum, trying to trace just what it was made him eat his shotgun. I’ve had the same fantasy about Owl Farm. The best I can do is sit and try to figure where I’m supposed to go from here. The problem is you were everything I’m not. TC mark

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William Ball

William Ball

William Ball is a writer who doesn’t live in Brooklyn. He doesn’t even live in New York. He likes to talk about …

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