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The Gonzo Swim

It’s after midnight here at Owl Farm tonight.  50.7 degrees outside that followed a wildly orange/pink/purple and even white sunset over the Woody Creek Valley around 7pm. The girls at the garden, Jennifer, Sue and Meg along with neighbor Ann Owsley all agreed it was one of those way over-the top magical sunsets.  It’s good to be home, despite my melancholy mood.  My German Shepherd Athena and I hiked up the mountain to Compass School, where they were having some sort of board meeting, so we turned around and walked Woody Creek Road to the garden.  I spent the rest of the night cleaning the kitchen, polishing Hunter’s silver cups that sit in front of the TV under the signs that read  “No Music + Bad TV = Bad Mood & No Pages” and the second sign that reads “Animals, Whores and Dialogue.”  When Hunter felt stuck, sitting at his typewriter, he would often turn to that advice:  write something about animals, whores or add some good dialogue etc. 

 I opened a page at random tonight for the HST wisdom and landed on page 98 of “Kingdom of Fear.”  It is from a scene in where Hunter was on the campaign trail ‘72, but always finding a way to go swimming, at night, legally or not. This is a conversation he had with the security cop who was trying to stop Hunter from swimming at the Fountainbleau at night:

After the first two days it got to be a ritual. I would appear on the moonlit patio and say hello to the black private cope while I took off my clothes and piled them on a plastic chair near the diving board.  Our conversation on the first night was model for all the others:
“You’re not supposed to be out here,” the private cop said.  “This area is closed at night.”
“Why?” I said, sitting down to take of my shoes.
“It’s against the law.”
“What law?”
“The one they pay me to enforce, goddamnit.  The one that says you can’t go swimmin’ out here at night.”
“Well…” I said, taking off my watch and stuffing it into one of my crusty white basketball shoes…. “What happens if I just jump into the pool and swim, anyway?”
“You gonna do that?”
“Yeah,” I replied.  “I’m sorry to hassle you, but it’s necessary.  My nerves are all twisted up, and the only way I can relax is by coming out here by myself and swimming laps.”
He shook his head sadly.  “Okay, but you’re gonna be breakin’ the law.”
“I doubt it”
“The way I see it,” I said, “about twenty feet of this pool over thereon the side near the ocean is on public property.”
He shrugged. “I’m not gonna argue with you about that.  All I know is the law says you can’t swim out here at night.”
“Well, I’m going to,” I said. “What happens then?”
He turned away.  “I’ll call the cops,” he said.  “I’ll get fired if I don’t.  And I’m sure as hell not comin’ in after you.”
“You could shoot me,” I said, walking over to the edge of the pool.
“Blow me out of the water, claim you thought I was a shark.”
He smiled and turned away as I dove into the pool… and about 15 or 20 laps later I looked up to see two city cops with flashlights pointing down at me.  “Okay fella,” said one, “come outta there.  You’re under arrest.”
“What for?”
“You know,” said the other. “Let’s go.”

They ended up taking Hunter up to the lobby where finally the manager, that night, declined to press charges because Hunter was spending about $85/ day at that point of the campaign, and was registered as a journalist – press.  Hunter went on to describe the rest of his stay:

We went through the same motions 24 hours later, an also on the third & fourth night…but on the fifth night, for some reason, the pool guard said nothing at all when I appeared. I said “hello” and started taking off my clothes, expecting him to head for the house phone on that pole out in the middle of the patio that he’d used on the other nights… but he just stood there and watched me dive in.  Then he spent the next 45 minutes pointedly ignoring me…and at one point, just as dawn was coming up, he chased a videotape crew away from the pool when they tried to film me swimming. When they asked why I could swim and they couldn’t even walk around the patio, he just shook his head and pointed his billy club toward the exit door.

— Hunter S. Thompson, ”Kingdom of Fear”

Oh, did I mention another one of Hunter’s techniques to get his mind working to write, along with dialogue and good music was swimming?   Perhaps that is one of the reasons he wrote so much good stuff during the last 5 years of his life. Jon Nichols from “The Nation” said that some of Hunter’s most savage writing, especially political writing came from those ESPN columns and they will be remembered forever. I agree.  Hunter and I spent a lot of nights swimming like dolphins in the Stranahan’s warm 90 degree swimming pool during those years.

By the way, I’m very grateful to all of you who have wrote so many nice things about “The Gonzo Way.” So glad you like it, and most important…that you understand the 7 lessons. Like all good Jazz, there is a solid structure to the music, despite the sense of total freefall. And that structure is what I saw in Hunter’s life and philosophy, and lay out in those 7 chapters. Alll the other people who paid attention knew  this already. But It’s nice to have it encapsulated in a book.  Is it possible for a dolphin to also be a snow leopard?  Apparently so!

Okay, it’s late here, and I don’t stay up as late as I used to, now that I’m on a school schedule again (even though my seminars are only on Mondays, which is why I can be at Owl Farm tonight!) So, I’m going to cuddle up with the animals and snooze ‘till dawn. I’ve been 29 years old for several years, and next week, I’m facing 35…with sort of a smile.

Until next time, your friend, swimming with Gonzo,

Anita Thompson


p.s. It is true that Mahmod Ahmadinejad is scheduled to speak at Columbia this Monday. They cancelled his speech last year because of security and logistical problems. The decision came after a Jewish activist group outrage over the invitation.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Friday that the university was free to invite Ahmadinejad to speak, but “personally, I wouldn’t go to listen to him – I don’t care about what he says.”

Lee Bollinger, Columbia’s president) in announcing Ahmadinejad’s upcoming appearance, described the event as part of “Columbia’s long-standing tradition of serving as a major forum for robust debate.” He said the Iranian president had agreed to answer questions on Israel and the Holocaust.

Ahmadinejad’s trip to New York also ignited a debate this week over his rejected request to lay a wreath at ground zero. Politicians and families of Sept. 11 victims were outraged that Iran’s president might visit the site. The reports doesn’t say which of the victims were outraged. 

Police rejected Ahmadinejad’s request, citing construction and security concerns. In an interview scheduled to air Sunday on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Ahmadinejad indicated he would not press the issue but expressed disbelief that the visit would offend Americans. He probably has the sickening feeling that Iran is going to be the next ground zero if we don’t get a peaceful, smart president in Office asap. 
Another reason why I think Hillary is the best candidate. She is the smartest,and the toughest one to deal with a man like that, but not dumb enough to cause another Iraq.   

Anwyay, I will not be at his speech, and probably wouldn’t go anyway. I don’t like the guy, particularly after studying Iran last year, and falling in love with the people and history of that country.  His "death  to Israel" is a dangerous statement, of course, just as the current president’s "death to the Middle East" policy is.   Who knows if he’ll even end up speaking. Last year, they cancelled his visit last minute. So, we shall see. 

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