A chance encounter with Hunter Thompson at Wal-Mart
December 1, 2005
Hunter Thompson and I never formally met. He worked at the Village Voice in New York City, one of many alternative newspapers in New York at the time, about the same time I was in the New York City Police Department.Another alternative rag was Al Goldstein’s magazine, Screw. I think Screw got more attention than the Voice. I watched a documentary on public television a few weeks ago about Bob Dylan and his early days in Greenwich Village. He came there from Hibbing, Minn., and I came there from Rockwell City, Iowa, a few miles south of Hibbing. It must have been some sort of cosmic epicenter for people from the Midwest. And for Hunter Thompson. I moved to Colorado in 1970 and moved to the mountains in 1974. I remember starting to hear about Thompson around the same time.
I knew the sheriff in Pitkin County, and he and I would have lunch and talk. His stories were probably second- or third-hand from his friends and his deputies. They were still interesting. Hunter lived in Woody Creek, which is not really a part of Aspen. I remember Woody Creek in the late ’60s and the ’70s as a place where they raced stock cars and sports cars on weekends. I also remember it was a collection of old shacks and a place known for a very strong liberal bent. Someplace where a lot of hippies lived. It might have been a function of the cost of living in Aspen at the time and the relative low cost to live in Woody Creek.The first stories I heard about Hunter portrayed him as a wild man. That he drank a lot. Smoked a lot. Carried guns and liked to explode things in the middle of the night. He loved women and liked to party, according to his neighbors and the sheriff’s office.I had the impression Woody Creek got too big for its britches at some point and was discovered by people with money. I have a good friend who lived there for many years until it got too expensive and he had to move to Basalt. My more interesting brush with Hunter Thompson was one morning at the recreation center in Breckenridge. I was on the treadmill watching C-SPAN Journal. The commentator said that there was a call from Woody Creek, Colorado, and then asked the caller to ask his question.
It was clearly Hunter Thompson asking something about national policy. He finished his question, and the moderator thanked him and went on to the next caller. I was blown away. Here is this person who could not get a job in network TV blowing off an icon like Hunter. I wanted to get on the phone to let the moderator know what he had done, and I hope someone else let him know later in the day.When Hunter blew his brains out at the kitchen table in his house in Woody Creek recently, I immediately thought of Ernest Hemingway putting a shotgun to his head at age 60. I also thought of Richard Brautigan killing himself at age 50. Hunter was older than both of them, but I wonder if they all thought their lives were over because of their age.A couple of years ago, there was an interesting news story about Michael Jackson being spotted in the Wal-Mart in Glenwood Springs wearing a ski mask.
Apparently he was stopped by the police later and checked out. He allegedly said he wore it because he did not want to be recognized. That is the same reason armed robbers wear masks.In that very same Wal-Mart in Glenwood Springs, I met Hunter Thompson in the hardware section. I looked at him and recognized him immediately. He looked up and I said, “Hey.” He looked me straight in the eye and said “hey” back. He and I both turned and walked away into the rest of our lives.State Rep. Gary Lindstrom of Lakeview Meadows represents Summit, Eagle and Lake counties. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit http://www.garylindstrom.com.