Open Nav Close Nav
Jun 7 2010

The Gonzo Way

I am one of the legions of people who the literary genius, philosopher, and intellectual, Hunter S. Thompson, has inspired over the last 40 years. 

Hunter S. Thompson is also an everyday presence in my Flying Dog world, and among many of the thousands of people I connect with in some way as part of that world, Hunter S. Thompson is so venerated, admired, and respected that he has reached mythical proportions.

But, for reasons I alluded to in an earlier post, I had not cracked the cover of any of HST's books for almost 5 years, until this past February.

In February, after a brief visit to Woody Creek, CO and meeting up with Anita Thompson at the Tavern, I headed to NYC.  At the end of the business day, I picked up a copy of Anita Thompson's "The Gonzo Way"  at the Barnes & Noble at 46th St. & 5th Ave., walked the couple of blocks to the Algonquin Hotel, the literary landmark where I was staying, found an open cozy chair in its historic lobby, ordered an appetizer and cocktail, and settled in to read it.

Anita Thompson's loving tribute to her husband does not focus on what she refers to as the "Hunter S. Thompson Show."   Hunter S. Thompson most definitely played as hard as he worked, and Anita acknowledges that his lifestyle was indeed "interesting", but in The Gonzo Way Anita shares with us the SEVEN LESSONS she learned from her husband and the great depth of wisdom he possessed.  Anita Thompson and Hunter S. Thompson were deeply in love and Anita also gives us a few glimpses into her private life with Hunter at Owl Farm.

As I read The Gonzo Way in the warmly-lighted lobby on a very cold NYC night, my reactions were "Yes!", "Exactly!", "That's it!", "That's the genius of Hunter S. Thompson!!"  and I was suddenly ready to rediscover HST's writings.

Here is a sample of the super-abundance of wisdom that Anita Thompson shares with us in The Gonzo Way:

"[Hunter] helped me see my own strengths and weaknesses, and taught me never, ever try to be like anybody else - especially Hunter S. Thompson. . . . play hard, work hard, but always be yourself."

"[Hunter] opened my eyes to the senses of humor and possibility that lie in even the most twisted of scenarios."

"The quality that really distinguished Hunter was his attitude that anything is possible, that any situation can be turned into fun."

"What few people realize is that smart was cool to Hunter, and he was never the least bit ashamed to admit it."

"Not only did Hunter choose curious and intelligent friends, but stupid people didn't last long in his life.  Stupid, like drunk, was unacceptable to him . . . people who loved to learn . . . had a special place in his work."

"Life, if it is to be lived with grace and in the Gonzo Way, must be filled with courage, truth, love, and laughter."

Anita includes a quote from HST's close friend, Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis:  "[Hunter] never wavered.  He didn't submit to bullshit.  He never gave up his core values, no matter what the cost.  And he paid a lot of heavy prices for his steadfastness.  But in the end, when you're staring into the grave, are you going to pat yourself on the back for all the wishy-washy adjustments you made or are you going to say, 'Hey, no matter how hard it got, no matter how rough the road, I kept moving'?  That's one of the things I prized and prided in Hunter.  He never budged from his well-thought-out -- always well-thought-out -- convictions."

I was particularly inspired by what Anita wrote in "Lesson 6 - Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride": "[Hunter] spent his life studying freedom, promoting it, and finally writing about it.  I believe a large portion of his formative years were spent researching what was necessary to attain freedom.  And during that time he had to learn, perhaps the hard way, what to avoid - what is the antifreedom?  I think he learned that fear is the anifreedom - because as we gain freedom, which is the opposite of security, we also reap fear.  And fear can drive us away from freedom in a hurry.  That, I believe, is why Hunter spent so much of his life fighting fear - and teaching others how to do the same: how to slay the dragon. . . . There is nothing more inhibiting, or more crippling, to freedom than fear. . . . fear is necessary, but if gone unchecked, it will make you constantly seek safety, which to Hunter . . . is the same as being in prison."

Anita Thompson says that "the more people reading Hunter's work, the better.  Every time a young person reads a page of Hunter S. Thompson's, he gains confidence in himself to have courage, and in my opinion, the world becomes a better place. . . . It serves to inspire me to dedicate more of my time to spreading his work and philosophy, and to living the Gonzo Way."

Yes! Yes! Yes!

Anita is back at Owl Farm after graduating from Columbia University in New York, and as Executive Director of the Gonzo Foundation she will be spreading the wisdom of Hunter S. Thompson in her own uniquely creative ways.

After reading The Gonzo Way, I told Anita how much it meant to me and how wonderfully generous it was of her to share her art with the world.  It felt like the start of a beautiful friendship.  And it was.

In addition to writing The Gonzo Way, and creating the Gonzo Foundation and serving as its Executive Director, Anita Thompson also founded the Woody Creeker magazine and did a brilliant job selecting and editing her late husband's interviews for publication in Ancient Gonzo Wisdom.  Check out Anita's blog for daily news and views from Owl Farm.

Shine on, Anita!!

Jim Caruso