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Growing Up Thompson

Juan Thompson, son of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, talks about his father at the Hotel Jerome in Apsen, Colorado August 20, 2005. Juan found his father dead on February 20 with a gunshot wound to the head. Thompson's ashes will be fired from a tower later today in a memorial service at Thompson's farm in Woody Creek, Colorado. REUTERS/Rick Wilking RTW/KS - RTRL4VI

Life, so goes the old saying, is like a shit sandwich, because the more bread you have, the less shit you have to eat. The problem with old sayings is that they are not always true, and there are plenty of examples of people who could not cope with too much, whether it be money, success or fame. One such example was Hunter S. Thompson.

Juan Thompson, Hunter’s son, has written a memoir, ‘Stories I Tell Myself,’ which is his account of growing up with (and without) his famous and gifted father. If you have an addict or an alcoholic in your family, and even better, if you are one yourself, Juan’s book is well worth reading.  HST’s early work showed how good he really was, particularly in ‘Hell’s Angels,’ but, in my not particularly humble opinion, his output became more and more erratic and less coherent as his addiction progressed, and I don’t believe he ever lived up to his early promise. Hunter’s problem was two-fold: first, he was an alcoholic and a drug addict, and second, he was rich and famous enough to buy, bully or bullshit his way out of paying for the consequences of his addictions, and unfortunately for him, consequences are generally what render an addict humble enough to do what he or she has to do to begin to recover from the disease. Hunter surrounded himself with people who catered to him, and that enabled him to continue on his self-destructive path. And, for what it’s worth, dying from your addictions can be a hard way to go out. I am reminded of the line from the Amy Winehouse song: ‘my daddy thinks I’m fine…’

She wasn’t fine. Neither was Hunter Thompson.

If you are a writer, a singer, or an artist of any kind, for that matter if you are a guy who has a son who is in need of a father, for as long as you are actively addicted, you will never live up to your potential. You will never become what you could have been.

Hunter S. Thompson was his generation’s Hemingway. He was brilliant, his early work shows that clearly, but he suffered from the disease of too much. Too much success, too much money, too much notoriety. Like “Papa” Hemingway, Thompson created a public persona that he could not live up to, and in the end it ate him alive.



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