Proud Highway:Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman (30 page)

BOOK: Proud Highway:Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman
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At any rate, all the boys I work with are young, smart as hell, from all over the country, and all on the way up. The
is one of the best little papers in the country and one of the best opportunities there is. I like the whole setup immensely and, although I'm still a little uneasy about my fraudulent application, only an unusual set of circumstances will trip me up now because the
would not wait until after the trial period to run a routine check on my background.

As it stands now, then, I have a great job at $70 a week and I'm sitting right on the launching pad for a job as a reporter on the
Frankly, I haven't been in such a good position since I was sports editor of the
Command Courier.

And now we come to the stumbling block.

As I said, I have to get a car or this job goes down the drain in about ten days. Ordinarily, this would be no problem. I could go to the bank and get a loan and pick up a good dependable car for $500 or so. But here's what happens when I go to the bank: (1) I fill out an application—how old do I say I am? If I say 21 I take a chance—and it's a damned good one in a small town like Middletown—that some comment about “this unusually young reporter” will get back to the
management. That will be the end of the job. On the other hand, if I'm consistent and say 23 I put myself in the position of “obtaining money under false pretenses,” a charge I'd rather not face. Inevitably, the bank will ask for some identification and if they don't someone along the line will and I've learned the difference by now between a good and a bad risk.

So, after about 40 hours of constant thought, here's the plan I've come up with. I've located a car, a damned good one, for $550. I can't afford to get a junk heap because I can't take a chance on constant breakdowns if I
use the car for work. I want to borrow $350 from Memo—$300 in addition to that $50 I hope you've already sent. I want to borrow it just as I would from a bank—at 6% interest and repayable over a period of 12 months at $30 a month, (correction, $31 a month).

I need only $350 now because I've already sold my apartment for $200 which I'll have next week. Needless to say, the money won't do me any good unless I can get $350 more. (Actually, I may have to borrow a little more than $350 so I can make the first payment on an insurance policy from Jack [Thompson], I can't get insurance here because it costs something like $270 and I damn certainly can't afford that. This means that I'll have to register the car there but that will be no problem. Once I get it registered I'll wait a while and then have the registration switched to New York. I'll just send you the papers when I get the car and you can send me a license.)

Now I'm deadly serious about this and I intend to run through hell and high water to keep from losing this job. If I'm forced to try to get it from a bank then I'll do that, but it's going to be like playing russian roulette as far as keeping the job is concerned. If I lose this job I also queer my chances for a shot at the
and if that happens I might just as well go on unemployment insurance. At $70 a week I'll have no trouble paying Memo back in a year's time and I give you my word of honor that I'll repay every cent. I've seen enough of this job to know that I like it and that I'm not going to lose it once I get a car and get settled. It's simply too good an opportunity to throw away for want of money.

Please let me know about this immediately—by telegram or by phone at the
(3 to 11 p.m.). I can't afford to waste time and I only have about one week to get a car. A million thanks in advance if you can swing this.

Love, H


Thompson often dreamt of escaping to the Caribbean to get away from the cold New York winters he loathed. While at Eglin, his favorite pastime with Ann had been swimming at night in the Gulf of Mexico, then lying on the beach and staring at the stars.

February 21, 1959
Middletown, New York

Dear Ann,

I've been intending to write you for several days. As a matter of fact, I sent you an airmail postcard yesterday—to assure you I was still alive—but
I think I forgot to put an address on it, leaving the front completely blank. I somehow doubt whether it will get to you.

This letter was prompted by a book I just found in the apartment I moved into this afternoon. (I'll be here for three weeks. One of the reporters who lives here is on an assignment in Puerto Rico and the other one is in Switzerland for a while.) At any rate the book is called
Escape to the West Indies,
and for some reason I thought immediately of you when I read the title. Hence, this letter.

After thinking about it for a moment, I find myself wondering exactly why you came to mind so quickly when I began to think about the Caribbean. I think a little further and I find that you come to mind in connection with a lot of things—not just the Caribbean. I think of Europe, Africa, South America, California, Mexico, Australia—all places I intend to see someday—and you come to mind there too. You'll admit this is puzzling and a little frightening to someone like me. I seem to want everything—even things that seem almost totally incompatible in the life of any one human.

Several hours later, after a session of beer and conversation with one of the disc jockeys from the local station.

It's dark now, and beginning to snow. I would like very much for you to be here. Not because you'd enjoy this place, because you probably wouldn't, but because of the very selfish reason that I'd simply like you to be here. We have three months more until June, and almost three have gone by since the first of December. I should have a house in the near future and you figure very definitely in that, too. I want to get one you'll like, although I don't think I'll really believe you're serious about coming until I actually see you.

We'll both be three months older by June and a year from then we'll be a year and three months older. Time seems to be going much faster and I'm beginning to get the idea that life is very short. It makes me feel that whatever I do in the next few years will be very important. A thousand years from now our lives will be, at best, a few sentences in someone's history book. But the next day, and the next month, and the next year are more important to me than all the history books ever written. It would be compounded lunacy to waste any of this time, and it would be just as foolish to think it was important to anyone but us.

So you see why I think very seriously about you and the way I feel about you. It could be such a good thing if it were right, and such a horrible waste of time if it weren't. And you can't compromise when it comes to love, because it becomes something else if you do. For either of us to alter ourselves for the other would be wrong and foolish. If you change yourself in order to be loved, then you are in love with love and not a person. America is overrun with people whose lives are dictated by abstracts and I don't want to be one of them. I am not in love with love, or happiness, or security, or virtue, or anything else in that line. Sometimes I wonder if I could really be in love with a person, but to admit that I couldn't would take too much of the pleasure out of life.

So I would like to be in love with you and I hope I can be. It will take a while to find out—not a few days and certainly not a series of letters. I will wait, then, until summer, and we shall see what happens then.

In the meantime I'll be here for a while, anyway. This is not a place in which to stay for any length of time. By the time fall rolls around I'll probably be thinking in terms of going somewhere else. We shall talk about that later.

Write and tell me not only about what you do, but what you think. Above all be honest and don't kid either of us. As I said before, there is too little time for us to deal in superficialities.



Thompson's reply to a
New York Times
help-wanted advertisement explained his recent firing from the
Middletown Daily Record.
He never received any response.

March 1, 1959
Middletown, New York


NY Times

Dear Sir,

This letter is in reference to your “editor wanted” ad in this morning's
If, after reading the rest of this letter, you think we should talk further, you may contact me at 22 Mulberry St., Middletown, New York. Or phone Diamond 2-xxxx, Middletown.

Until this recent week I was a reporter on the
Middletown Daily Record.
On Thursday I was summarily fired. Since the reasons for my dismissal are
a little unusual I think it would be wise for me to outline them here. I find them morbidly amusing, but I think the humor will soon vanish from the situation. I'm told it's difficult to laugh on an empty stomach.

Several weeks ago I outraged a long-time
advertiser by sending a meal back to his kitchen for immediate consignment to the garbage can. This consequently resulted in a rather ugly session between me, the advertiser, and the
's editor & publisher. The judgment was definitely not in my favor and I was told that my job would henceforth rest on very thin ice.

Several days ago I was instrumental in the looting of an office candy machine. I had put two nickels in the thing without getting anything out of it. I then gave it a severe rattling which rendered the coin slot obsolete. Word got around in the back shop and a “run” on the machine followed almost immediately. The total loss—some $7.35—came out of my paycheck. My popularity soared as far as the back-shop people were concerned, of course, but there were those who viewed the situation with some alarm—notably the managing editor. I was fired the next day.

Although it seems a little ridiculous to go into all this, I did so because I doubt very seriously whether the same information will be made available by the
management in the event I need a reference. Since I was comparatively new on the paper I can understand their course of action to some extent. I want to make it clear, however, that my dismissal was not based on the quality of my work. I urge you, in the event of any confusion on this score, to take any steps you see fit in order to clear this up.

I enclose a résumé and some clippings which I would like very much for you to return. You will find a self-addressed envelope for this purpose. The résumé was done originally for a sportswriting job and is thus heavily slanted in that direction. Although my experience is far more comprehensive than the résumé would seem to indicate, I saw no sense in listing it all for that particular job. Please disregard the reference to the
Police Gazette.

All résumés are necessarily superficial and mine is no different. There are other things, however, which may in the long run prove to be far more important than anything included in a résumé. This is true in my case, at any rate.

Some people find it exceedingly difficult to get along with me and I have to choose my jobs very carefully. I have no patience with phonies, hacks, dolts, or obnoxious incompetents and I take some pride in the fact that these people invariably dislike me. I admire perfection or any effort toward it and I would not work for anyone who disagreed with me on this score. This is not to say that I refuse to work with people whom I consider incompetent. It merely means that I consider incompetence something to be overcome, rather than accepted.

It seems a little senseless to carry on in this vein. I think I've given you a pretty good picture of myself and, at the same time, I realize only one out of a thousand people would hire me after reading this letter. Right now I'm in no mood to give a damn. Maybe later I'll become more temperate.

So, until I hear from you,
Hunter S. Thompson


Broke, unemployed, and despondent, Thompson revealed why the “Hunterfigure” would never bow to authority of any kind; like a character from
The Fountainhead,
he would stay true to himself no matter what the consequences.

March 3, 1959
22 Mulberry St.
Middletown, New York

Dear Ann,

You may never see this letter. Certainly you won't see it for a while. When and if I do mail it there will be another letter with it, telling what will have happened between now and then. By the time you read this, the person who wrote it will be submerged once again beneath the surface of the person you seem to think I am. I'm writing this letter to show you that the other person exists, but I'm going to hold onto it for a while because I don't want you to ever see that person except at a distance. He is not somebody I'd want to have you with for any length of time, but I think you should know about him just the same, if only in retrospect.

BOOK: Proud Highway:Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman
4.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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