”Shortly after Thompson’s death, I read Hey Rube, a collection of his columns for ESPN.com. His most chilling column was the one he wrote just hours after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.”
Last Words: A Testament to Hunter Thompson
Friday, September 9, 2005
They found Hunter S. Thompson’s suicide note, and it twists our moral telescopes back into the focus we had when we first heard that he’d shot himself in the head.
You recall that on Sunday, Feb. 20, when he took himself out, we wanted to think that it was a .45-caliber hara-kiri, an act of honor by a 67-year-old cultural hero who hadn’t written much major work for 30 years, and now faced old age with a broken leg, a hip replacement, an addiction to alcohol and a habitual fondness for whatever else would light his crazed Christmas tree of a mind.
But no, we quickly learned that it wasn’t that pretty. He killed himself while talking on the phone with his wife, Anita. In the house with him were his son Juan, and his grandson. Not so honorable.
You’re supposed to go out behind the woodshed, face the existential solitude and let your loving survivors find you later.
Oh, well. His ashes were fired into the sky near his home in Woody Creek, Colo., on Aug. 20 with lots of fireworks. That seemed to bring us some kind of suitably mad “closure,” as the TV shrinks say.
Now, Rolling Stone magazine, for which he wrote a lot of his best stuff in the ’70s, has published a note he wrote to Anita four days before he killed himself in the kitchen.
The note doesn’t make you feel any better about his timing with the phone call and the son and grandson hearing the gun go off, but it turns out that our first, and nobler, explanations had some truth to them after all.
“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.”
With a sort of cryptic, ironic, metaphorical hilarity, he took a black marker and titled the note: “Football Season Is Over.”
Douglas Brinkley, a historian and Thompson’s “official biographer,” had a more mundane explanation for the title. In his piece on the Rolling Stone Web site, he wrote: “An avid NFL fan, Hunter traditionally embraced the Super Bowl in January as the high-water mark of his year. February, by contrast, was doldrums time.”
How bizarre that Thompson, who despised all that was official, and spent his life writing his own stone-loon autobiography, has an “official biographer.”
Those who would like to think that Thompson killed himself over something more crucial than professional football can re-read the note.
© 2005 The Washington Post Company