Juan on Hunter
I was writing about Juan and Jen when I came across this in my archive.
This was from Juan in 1996 ... Thank you to Ed Bastian for putting it on the net
Reflections on a Childhood in Madness
By Juan Thompson
Presented at the Tribute to Hunter S. Thompson evening in Louisville, Kentucky on December 12, 1996.
A week ago I received this opportunity to pay tribute to my father at this event. I was first very excited, as you can imagine. It is not every child who has the chance to honor his father in their lifetimes, or even in solitude. I am very fortunate. Thank you, Ron Whitehead, for putting this event together, and thank you all for coming.
A few days later, I started to get nervous. How on earth am I going to honor him? What can I say? I decided to start with the question I am most often asked, which is, "what was it like to have Hunter Thompson as your father?"
On one level, it is an empty question. It is like being anyone's son, it is unique. I have nothing to compare it to, I have one father and one childhood. What I can tell you, however, is what I learn from my father, what I respect and admire in him.
First of all, he is impossible to categorize or define. He is original. More than anyone I can think of, he crosses boundaries, He embodies more contradictions than any 10 ordinary people. He is both a madman and southern gentleman, a prophet and a hooligan, an idealist and a cynic. He thrives on disruption, unpredictability and thwarting expectation, yet is bound to social conventions.
Years ago he chastised me for not minding my manners and shaking someone's hand at the proper time, yet he will set off a roll of 5000 firecrackers in his best friend's bedroom at 3am. I respect and admire, and sometimes fear, the way he lives moment to moment.
I appreciate his power and courage. My father is nothing if not powerful. He is like an extremely volatile chemical that illuminates with flashes of fire and thunder the lives of those who come in contact with him. He is not afraid, as I think most of us are, to make an impression. He makes us wake up and take notice. We may not like what we see, I don't think he cares at all what people LIKE - the important thing is that we wake up and take notice.
I have learned that the surface truth is rarely the real truth, and as a result I have become cynical about the motivations of corporations, politicians, and law enforcement. Above all, he makes me think and pay attention. He demands in everything that he does that you set aside your habits of perception and pay attention to what is happening right now, and deal with it. That's where the fun and excitement are, in not knowing what's going to happen.
I have learned to appreciate words. Whatever else brings you all here, I hope that you all recognize my father's genius for using the english language. He is an artist, which to me means he is a magician with words, he makes them express his vision of the world in a way that cannot be attained by study and effort and even practice, though he has done all these things. It is more than mechanical mastery, it is expressing the living essence of a scene or a person directly. A few years ago he sent me a three volume set of the Webster's 3rd International Dictionary of the English Language, bound in brown leather. That summed up, I think, the values he wished to convey to me. Though I have not inherited his magic, I have inherited a love of words and books and fine writing.
I learned to appreciate the beauty of guns and the thrill of shooting them. Anyone who has shot a large calibre pistol or a shotgun and felt the rush of so much raw power in your hand knows what I mean. I've spent many nights with Hunter cleaning shotguns and oiling pistols. I was shooting a .22 rifle by the age of 10, and at my engagement party a few years ago I shot with a 12 gauge shotgun loaded with double O buckshot, dead center, a propane cannister attached to a can of gasoline which made a spectacular fireball in the night outside Owl Farm. I was proud, and I know he was, too.
I have learned to appreciate family and loyalty to one's friends. I have never seen a community closer than the one is Aspen that I grew up in and that Hunter helped to create and hold together. These people are serious about friendship, and whatever their flaws, inherent in being human, they protect each other. When there is legal trouble within or without, they come together and pool resources and support. When someone is going through difficult times, there are suddenly more invitations to dinner, to watch the football games, subtle invitations to talk and unload. If someone is done wrong by an outsider, then the offender finds himself on a collective blacklist.
I have learned to appreciate driving fast and following the fall line through a curve. I know the pleasure of driving a red 1973 chrysler convertible with the top down on a sunny fall day. I love the adrenaline, focus and vitality that comes from riding a motorcyle at 80 mph on a winding country road. These things I learned from Hunter.
I learned that some cops lie. This was a brutal and profoundly disturbing realization: Those in control are not necessarily trustworthy. More importantly, authority is not necessarily to be obeyed, and certainly not feared. There is always a way to challenge authority, either in the courtroom or in the media or in the voting booth. He has done all of them many times, and usually successfully. In other words, he believes that it is possible to change a situation for the better, even in the face of entrenched authority.
So what am I saying? I am proud of this man. I respect and admire his vitality, his courage, his insight, his perverse resistance to security and predictability, his deliberate disregard for propriety, his ability to make me see and think differently. Ultimately, I love and respect him because he really LIVES, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, he LIVES his life.
Lesson # 2 From Hunter:
"L... I... V... E... live live LIVE!!!!!" Maude from Harold and Maude