It’s not a castle, it’s a bar in the Tenderloin of San Francisco. I brought a CD mix I made, of some of Hunter’s phone messages to me in the early days— “I don’t know whether you’ve been kidnapped by Chinese nationals or you’ve gone to New York to take a prayer meeting”— combined with songs that made me get choked up about him: Amerie’s 1 Thing, Nouvelle Vague’s Too Drunk To Fuck, and Hunter’s beloved Dolly, singing I Will Always Love You.
There were a lot of very sincere and appreciative Thompson readers there. I was impressed, because when I took the mike, and began sharing some memories, you could have heard a pin drop, which is not often something I’ve seen in a pub with a full house.
When I ended my eulogy, I quoted Dylan Thomas’s famous elegy to his father. I was trembling because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to memorize it before the evening, but as soon as I started to speak the verse, people joined in and delivered it with me— or for me, I should say.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night...
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
I met Ianthe Brautigan, whose poet father Richard Brautigan was another of my literary heroes. He, too shot himself, and Ianthe has written a really wonderful memoir about her father and growing up in San Francisco in those heady days.
There’s going to be a different groove of memorial for Hunter on may 22 at the SF Library, which I’m also looking forward to, very much. They’ve done some wonderful readings there as memorials to writers who made a home or reputation here.
Here is what I said at the Castle, my farewell toast for Hunter:
Res Ipsa Loquitur:
"The Thing Speaks for Itself”
“My mother died two months ago. One of the things she and Hunter Thompson had in common is that they were both extremely lapsed Irish Catholics. My mother also loved words, and Latin, as Hunter did, and I now possess my mother’s old Roman Catholic Missal. A missal isn’t a bible, it’s a calendar/almanac of what is said and delivered at every mass through the year, on every single day. For old school Catholics, we know this book BETTER than the Bible.
“Lately, I’ve been looking up the day’s instructions in the Missal as if it was the I Ching. I decided to consult today’s mass for our Hunter Wake, and I find that if I substitute Hunter’s name for every time the word GOD appears, it makes PERFECT SENSE:
From the Roman Catholic Missal: The Fifth Thursday in Lent:
“Let every heart that longs for Hunter rejoice, to Hunter have recourse and there find strength; beg continually for his presence. Praise Hunter and call upon his name, tell the story of his doings for all the nations to hear.”
“As you were, I was. As I am, you will be.”
A Story about Hunter, Praying
“One day Hunter held out a jar. ‘Here’s where I keep my prayer and dreams,’ he said. He took the lid off the jar.
“‘I have to keep the top on,’ he said, ‘or my dreams and my prayers will escape.;
“There was a long pause while he stood there, holding the lid in one hand and the jar in the other.
“‘I’m waiting,’ Hunter said, ‘for the jar to fill back up.’
“Then he got impatient, and slammed the lid right back on.
“’Well,” he said, ‘for now, prayers and dreams don’t respect the simple laws of physics. They go right through.’”
“Many people have commented that Hunter understood politics like few others, and that he was a populist patriot of the first water. I know few others who cared as deeply as the Doctor about the recent election, and given the results, that’s saying something. He had no patience for apathy, he’d say: ‘Four more years of George Bush will be like four more years of syphilis...’
“Hunter was very aware that he had lived on the lip of revolution, and that the Dark Ages returned with a vengeance. He wrote this in 1972, in his Vegas book:
“’San Francisco in the middle 60s was a very special time and place to be a part of. But no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant.
“’There was madness in any direction, at any hour... You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. And that, I think, was the handle— that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of old and evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn't need that. Our energy would simply prevail. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave...
“’So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look west, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high water mark— that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.’”
It's this 1 thing that's got me trippin
This 1 thing my soul may be feeling
It's this 1 thing that caught me slippin
It's this 1 thing I want to admit it
This 1 thing and I was so with it
It's this 1 thing you did
Hey, we don't know each other well
So what? I keep thinking to myself
Memories just keep ringing bells
Oh oh, Oh oh, Oh
Hear voices I don't want to understand
My car keys are jingling in my hand
My heart feels a clicking
Oh oh, Oh oh, Oh
Oh, been trying to let it go
Trying to keep my eyes closed
Trying to keep it just like before
The times we never even thought to speak
Don't wanna tell you what it is
Oh well it felt so serious
Got me thinking just too much
I wanna set it off, but—
Too Drunk (Too) Fuck
Went to a party
I danced all night
I drank 16 beers
And I started up a fight
But now I am jaded
You're out of luck
I'm rolling down the stairs
Too drunk to fuck
I like your stories
I love your gun
Shooting out truck tires
Sounds like loads and loads of fun
I'm about to drop
My head's a mess
The only salvation is
I'll never see you again
I Will Always Love You
And I hope life, will treat you kind
And I hope that you have all
That you ever dreamed of
Oh, I do wish you joy
And I wish you happiness
But above all this
I wish you love
I love you, I will always love
I, I will always, always love you
I will always love you
I will always love you
I will always love you