Proud Highway:Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman (14 page)

BOOK: Proud Highway:Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman
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Last weekend was a nightmare. I appeared at high noon on a crowded beach, wearing only flippers and a pair of diving goggles. Somewhere in the melee, my trunks had become lost. Urged on by my drunken and malicious companions, I virtually cleared the beach in five minutes. I won't go into this thing much further, because it becomes indecent when the details are revealed. I can still see that old woman's face as I raced over the
dune and came straight for her. Fortunately, I wore goggles. The cry of the day was: “Let's have an orgy!” I can imagine the uproar in the Chamber of Commerce if the incident was reported. “Visit Fort Walton Beach, the playground of northwest Florida, where naked sex fiends roam the beaches 24 hours a day. Bring your families.”

Eight hours is a long time. I can hardly believe that we were out for that length of time. It seems like only two or three hours at best. It seems futile, since I'm not the new Aga Kahn either, to apologize to your parents. For some reason, I don't think they would take the apology seriously. However, I will beg your pardon for keeping you out so long; but I can't truthfully say that I had anything but an excellent time. I'm sure that I would enjoy the Gulf much more if you were here to swim with me. Why don't you come down for a few weeks? It would hardly cost you anything at all and a vacation would do you good. It would get you away from all the giggling little boys and grasping old men. Night swimming in the Gulf is fantastic, the sea food is incredible, and the beaches are unbelievable—and even better by moonlight. I guess I could say that it might be a little better than Owl Creek. Of course I think I enjoyed Owl Creek more, but only because I had you to keep me company … and to open my ale. I'm serious; I definitely think you should come down here.

I didn't mean to make you feel ignorant. It seems, however, that I must have a knack for that sort of thing. I enjoy it down here, but if it was obvious to you, then I had better learn to be conscious of it and control it. It's not good to make everyone feel ignorant and I really don't know exactly when or where I acquired the knack for it. It's an amazingly effective weapon in the Air Force, especially as most of the people I go around with are older than I am and outrank me considerably, but it gets out of hand every now and then. […]

I went to Tallahassee last weekend and had two dates with a very pretty but mentally deficient girl who would fit into any mold of the “typical old south, Tallahassee girl” type. It convinced me that, except on rare occasions, I cannot enjoy a date with a stupid girl. And believe it or not, the world is full of them. I'd say that 95% of all women are hopelessly stupid.

I was a little puzzled by your comments on my upsetting your recently developed philosophy on men. You were talking one minute about “constantly dragging your mind from Owl Creek to Crescent Hill”—and the next about my “saying a lot of things casually …” Then too, what do you mean about “never thinking about the past or the future with men”?

While you're trying to figure out how to re-phrase the above quotes so that I can understand them, you can also decide whether you want to handle my correspondence or participate in the orgies at the “passion pool.” I've decided that it must be on a beach, in a grove of pine trees, and with a
fresh-water pool in the back of the cottage. If you decide to be a participant, let me know so that I can get someone else to handle the correspondence. At any rate, I'm glad to hear that you've already accepted my invitation. I shall never have more than three guests at a time, so you should consider yourself fortunate to have secured a place at the top of the list so early in the game.

Incidentally, I have come up with a definition of heaven. Now don't tell anyone about this because it sounds downright vulgar; but I think it's nice. Never mind, I can't bring myself to put it in red and white—maybe later. Drop me a line soon and tell me when you plan to arrive. Until I hear from you,

I remain, grinning owlishly,
Hunter S. Thompson
Command Courier
3201 AB Wing
Eglin AFB, Fla.

P.S. Please explain to your parents that I didn't make a fallen woman of you.


Thompson had taken over an abandoned Gulf of Mexico beach house, dubbing it Xanadu after Kubla Khan's “stately pleasure dome” in Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem. The house became the party center for Thompson's friends at Eglin.

August 5, 1957
Eglin AFB
Fort Walton Beach, Florida

Dear Susan,

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree:

Where Alph, the sacred river, ran through caverns measureless to man Down to a sunless sea.

And that about sums it up: if you substitute Hunter S. Thompson for our boy K.K., you'll have the story of my newest venture in a nutshell. Yes, a beach house—what else? It's terribly passé to live in Florida without a beach house, and I, a slave of fashion, simply knuckled down and acquired one.

We call it Xanadu, and Alph the sacred river is a sewage ditch running through the Sodom swamp and under the Gomorrah bridge. No one understands just where I got these names, but they're all afraid of appearing ignorant and pretend to be very proud of the tags I've put on our domain and its appendages. We have a ten-foot alligator (maybe six feet) in the Sodom swamp. His name is Bacchus—a name which gives the natives less trouble than the others.

Seriously, I now have a house. It's not really mine but I live there and do my best to whomp up orgies every now and then. It's right on the Mississippi Sound—out over it in fact—and rented for $600 a month in its younger days. When you come down, you'll be amazed at its rustic weirdness. Actually, it's something which only an ale-infested mind would consider livable, but I think it's one of the finest things I've ever seen. I'm sure you'll like it immensely. Just as soon as I get a picture of it, I'll send a print or so your way. Xanadu is something you'd have to see to believe.

My most abject apologies for not having written sooner. I am right in the midst of a horrible deadline rush at the moment and will have to make this letter rather short. Only this morning, I returned from a three-day whomp in New Orleans, the first in several months. After several days of consorting with various deviates of all sorts—queers, lesbians, gigolos, and winos—I am ready to get back on the right track again. Advanced degeneration is something I don't enjoy. Living with it for a while makes me feel a little dirty and puts me in a frame of mind where I regress mentally—back to the days when the mention of “lavender” brought flowers to mind, instead of perverts. I'm afraid I'm a poseur. For all my talk of orgies and the like, I can only take them for a little while, and then I'm ready to go looking for my idealistic bubble to crawl into. Don't tell anyone: I have a reputation to uphold.

Although I couldn't help but get the idea that the “art” of flirting fascinates you no little, you wouldn't even have had to mention it and I would still have gotten the idea. I think you were trying to excite me. Witness these excerpts from your last letter: “I just tugged on my too-little bathing suit … have to pull
 … another end to take care of—“I am constantly flirting”—“cracked my cerebrum; it must have been the side controlling inhibitions”—“I had an urge … for a midnight swim in the Gulf.” (That wasn't really your fault: you couldn't have known that we never wear any swimming suits at night.) Maybe I'm wrong after all: here I notice a passage where you say that you've decided to become “the world's most frigid woman.” Your confusion is obvious—contradictions galore, references to passion and frigidity in the same breath—other references to nudity, lewd old men, etc.—you obviously need a few restful days in Xanadu.

I must go now, for I have a sacred trust. Write immediately and tell me when you plan to arrive. I must make plans and all that sort of thing. Bring anyone you want (except Charlie
); we have plenty of room for all. Until then, I remain,



Eglin Air Force Base, Florida


ATTN: Base Staff Personnel Officer

    Personnel Report: A/
C Hunter S. Thompson

23 Aug 57

1. A/
C Hunter S. Thompson, AF
, has worked in the Internal Information Section, OIS, for nearly one year. During this time he has done some outstanding sports writing, but ignored APGC-OIS policy.

2. Airman Thompson possesses outstanding talent in writing. He has imagination, good use of English, and can express his thoughts in a manner that makes interesting reading.

3. However, in spite of frequent counseling with explanation of the reasons for the conservative policy on an AF base newspaper, Airman Thompson has consistently written controversial material and leans so strongly to critical editorializing that it was necessary to require that all his writing be thoroughly edited before release.

4. The first article that called attention to the writing noted above was a story very critical of Base Special Services. Others that were stopped before they were printed were pieces that severely criticized Arthur Godfrey and Ted Williams that Airman Thompson extracted from national media releases and added his flair for the innuendo and exaggeration.

5. This Airman has indicated poor judgment from other standpoints by releasing Air Force information to the Playground News himself, with no consideration for other papers in the area, or the fact that only
releases, carefully censored by competent OIS staff members, are allowed.

6. In summary, this Airman, although talented, will not be guided by policy or personal advice and guidance. Sometimes his rebel and superior attitude seems to rub off on other airmen staff members. He has little consideration for military bearing or dress and seems to dislike the service and want out as soon as possible.

7. Consequently, it is requested that Airman Thompson be assigned to other duties immediately, and it is recommended that he be earnestly considered under the early release program.

8. It is also requested that Airman Thompson be officially advised that he is to do no writing of any kind for internal or external publication unless such writing is edited by the OIS staff, and that he is not to accept outside employment with any of the local media.

W. S. EVANS, Colonel, USAF
Chief, Office of Information


Thompson was falling in love with Haselden and was extremely jealous that she was still seeing other men.

August 25, 1957
Eglin AFB
Fort Walton Beach, Florida

Dear Susanei,

That extra “.” wasn't unique enough, so I added the “i” for good measure. Natural goodness for me! This damn Charlie is beginning to get me mad. No sooner than I leave, he begins to ply you with exotic gifts and erotic compliments. Just the other night, I had a blood-curdling nightmare in which he was clutching you by your “too small bathing suit” and mouthing savage and unnatural propositions. Seriously; for my sake, you must give the man up immediately! I haven't been able to sleep a wink since I got your last letter.

In a more obtuse vein (what is an obtuse vein/ or what is a vein??), your decision to remain in Louisville completely shattered me. (I say these things seriously, but I'm so used to being sarcastic in letters that everything I write sounds that way.)

I was lying out on a deserted stretch of beach on Santa Rosa Island today, reveling in the knowledge that I was as completely alone as a person can get in the state of Florida, when I decided to amuse myself by conjuring a vision of you rising over a nearby dune, dulcimer in hand, and clad
only in a windblown gossamer nightie. Naturally, my overly active imagination developed the scene to such an extent that my concern for your modesty prevents me from describing it further. At any rate, the whole thing made me vividly aware of your absence and genuinely sorry that you found it impossible to spend an idyllic vacation with me at Xanadu. I'm sure that your involvement with this Charlie person is behind it all, and I'm presently working on a scheme to sever the thing once and for all. The very idea of ME being edged by an old lecher—it drives me wild!

I can see that I've strayed into the realm of light sarcasm again, so let me assure you again that I was definitely let down by your last letter. The entire setting down here is one which would fit you perfectly. The difference between life in Louisville and this beachcomber's existence is something you'd have to live to believe. As a matter of fact, if I didn't see the need to return to the rat race for a few years of school, I'd consider staying down here for a while.

This afternoon, for instance (at the time of my vision) I had set out across the Sound from the sun deck of Xanadu on an air mattress. It's about a mile across to the island (and about half that distance across the sand to the Gulf), and it took me about a half-hour to make the trip. It's possible to walk almost two-thirds of the way, until you get to the channel, which is a part of the Intra-Coastal waterway, and then it drops off to about forty feet. The channel is cold as hell, but only about 100 yards wide. The beach on the island, which is really a huge sand dune, is not a beach at all, but a four-foot cliff which drops straight into the channel. This means, of course, that you can stretch out in dead silence on chalk-white sand, look at nothing but sky and hear nothing but wind, and leap into this channel whenever the sun begins to get too hot. All in all, it's an entirely new concept in saltwater bathing: no people, no noise, no breakers—just sun and sand and cold water.

BOOK: Proud Highway:Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman
13.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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