Feeding Hunter’s Typewriter

A box sits next to the door waiting to travel to Owl Farm, Woody Creek Colorado. The location is very familiar to me having read both of Hunter S. Thompson’s collection of letters, all of which start with his address. By some strange timing of chance or ancient Greek gods came out of their slumber and decided to play a game, either way, I had signed back into Facebook after being gone for two years. I came back for one reason, to help with the Andrew Yang campaign. Being the sucker that I am, I flipped through the feed and saw a post by Anita Thompson, Hunter’s Widow. The writing cabin, the retreat for fans of Hunter or inspiring writers was finished and waiting for the first visitors to come and stay. I looked through the photos and saw images of Hunter hanging on the walls and of course a desk with a typewriter on it.
The blue IBM Selectric III was something Hunter would have used, preferring the electrics to the dependable manuals. With my experience in dealing with these machines I will never figure out why someone would put themselves through the hell of having a Selectric. Over ten thousand parts and the ribbons are no longer made, to own a Selectric is either an act of love or masochism. Hunter had his own frustration with these machines once taking a .44 magnum and a 12-gauge shotgun to fix one, permanently.
A few years ago, I bought a blue Selectric 72’ for $5 and thought it was a good deal. The machine worked for a few days before one of the belts snapped and it was useless. I found a local guy to fix it but it was returned to me just as I had handed it over and was told it was too expensive to fix. I didn’t know what the hell that meant and the machine was placed in the basement to rot.
Having not learned my lesson, I bought a red Selectric III with a case of ribbon to go with it. The thing with the II and III models is that the ribbon is one time use only. Glorified carbon copy paper is what runs the machine and these are becoming harder to find as the years go on. I brought the machine home, plugged it in, and found all the parts frozen in time. I tried a few tricks, but in the end, it was a lost cause. I never bothered calling the local guy figuring it was a waste of time, mostly mine. This machine joined its older cousin in the basement and I forgot about it.
Having seen the blue machine at Owl Farm I knew that keeping something like that running was going to be a chore. The longer it sat unused the more likely it would stop working all together. Anyone wanting to stay at Owl Farm would want to use that typewriter, even if it was to simply write a letter. I clicked on the “contact” link of the website and sent a message.
Dear Anita, I was excited to see your post on Facebook about the Writer’s retreat being open to visitors. while looking through the photos I noticed an IBM Selectric typewriter however I am not sure of the model. I bring this up for a few reasons, for one I collect, write with, and restore typewriters. I usually work on manuals and have had no luck with electrics over the years. that has not stopped me from purchasing an IBM Selectric III and an IBM Selectric 1, both in the hopes of having them up and running again. My cursed luck got the better of me and I was left with pounds of scrap in the basement and no one in town to fix them, if they were repairable. This is beside the point of my email. I have several boxes of ribbon for these machines and nothing to use them on. I have a case of the IBM Selectric III and a few ribbons for the Selectric 1 otherwise referred to as the 72′. if you are interested in having them for the writer’s cabin to keep the machines running and for others to use while visiting, let me know. I would be happy to mail them to you. I pick these things up at estate sales, because I’m a sucker, and I would like to know they are going to good use and not rotting away in my basement until some other sucker buys them at MY estate sale. Let me know if you want them. Hell, maybe I should have asked if the one in the picture was still running before I wrote all of this. Oh well. Sincerely, Matthew Gilman
To my surprise they wrote back. I should have known that Anita didn’t handle all the emails and messages that came through the website. But I did receive a response.
Dear Matthew,
Thank you so much! We have several functioning IBM Electric typewriters and would love for you to send us whatever you would like to send us. And don’t worry we have a bunch a stuff collecting in our basement like that too, you’re not alone. We’d be happy to send you a gift in return.

Gonzo Wear

That night, last night, I put together a box filled with ribbon for both machines. I added some correction paper and an extra dust cover. Dust is the ultimate enemy to any typewriter, manual or electric. Odds are the machine in the picture isn’t one that Hunter used. Hell, he may have never seen that one before in his life, purchased after his death to put into the writer’s cabin as a prop. I don’t really care and it doesn’t matter. The point is that his memory lives on, the machines he loved to hate continue their service in his name. people like me can throw temper tantrums and shit fits when the keys stick or the feed rollers no longer work. This box will help keep those machines working for a little while longer.

Eventually, I would like to see Owl Farm and watch the peacocks strutting around the property. A new book came out documenting the early writing career of Hunter. It opened my eyes to who he was before the drugs and alcohol started to take their toll. Before a cartoon character started to dictate who he was supposed to be. There are two Hunters and if you are looking fondly at the drug laden reptile man from Fear and Loathing then you missed the point. There is a story of a journalist who became caught up in his own story. A professional who could no longer work because he was more famous that the people he was trying to cover. Imagine trying to cover a boxing match and the story from other news papers read “Hunter Thompson attends middle weight title fight.” The fight no longer matters. You can no longer be the fly on the wall reporting on what you saw. Fame, something many people seek and never find, destroys the one thing you worked so hard to build. Eventually, you will say “fuck it” and hop on the ride, let the roller coaster take you where everyone else wants to go. You are no longer in control and to turn back now will leave you as a nobody. You have become a slave to a monster you didn’t intend to create.

Maybe it’s the lesson of fame that one should take away from Hunter’s story. The internet is filled with people who didn’t earn their fame, posting pictures of their ass and videos of their dog and no longer knowing how to function with the rest of society. Somehow Hunter managed, and in his craziness, took control of the situation climbing to the front of the train and cranking up the speed. “Hold on fuckers. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.” The ride is over but we can still remember and occasionally feel the wind on our face and question when the machine is eventually going to fall over the edge.

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This is the only time we get

While listing to the latest podcast by Joe Rogan I felt like I was listening to myself and friends discussing the life of Hunter S Thompson. Like many things in my life I was late to discovering Thompson and other members of his generation. Growing up in a blue-collar house I wasn’t exposed to the hippie movement and was far from understanding the peace and love movement. I wasn’t allowed to listen to the Beatles when I was growing up because they were ‘Satanic.” To this day I still don’t enjoy the Beatles but I will admit they made a huge contribution to music, boybands.
A new book about Thompson is coming out called Freak Kingdom and covers Thompson’s career as a journalist before he was known as a drunken Wildman. For full disclosure, I have read most of Hunter’s works and this includes his collected letters, huge volumes of letters compiled in a way to jump from a letter to the president to complaining about NRA membership fees and seeing nothing for it. most amusing was his book club fees and how he begged them to come after him because he was poor.
There was a time for people like Hunter and luckily for Hunter he knew his place during those years. Most of us drift through our lives looking at the small things that drive us, paying bills, getting laid, or where to eat next. The great generation stepped up to something greater than themselves. The Hippies and counter culture, well they… I don’t know what the hell they were doing but at least they did it. for the last thirty years I haven’t seen anyone doing much of anything. People protest like they did in the 60s but in far fewer numbers. Less than 1% of the US population fought in the Iraq or Afghan wars. Women’s lib movement has turned into destroying a man’s life because she really didn’t want to give that blowjob and he should have known by reading her mind. There are no heroes these days. We don’t have a Mohammed Ali to say “no” to the big problems in our society. Journalist no longer ask the hard questions going after Cheeto von Fuckstick, Nixon’s non-aborted result of anal sex. The public doesn’t help in this regard preferring to read 3rd grade level click bate or look at the latest pictures of Kim Kardashian’s ass.
It’s not just this generation that will be judged as a waste of space to humankind. The previous few, generation X to the present hasn’t produced a human being worth talking about in the years to come. The life of a writer used to be as big as the tales they told. Actors and directors once had talent and the ability to make due with what they had. Music was more than just a beat and shitty lyrics.
Times are different compared to when Hunter was alive. Newspapers were still around. The internet did not exist yet. People cared about what was going on in the world. People read books. Things were happening and people were participating. People were divided back then but they also talked to one another. The types of conversations Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley had on national television are regarded as hate speech now on YouTube. This system is breaking down and there is no one to stop it.
I enjoy learning about these men of their times because I think there is still something to learn from them. If you planted any of them into our current situation odds are they would have died unknown and broke. They were the men of their times and to try and place the anywhere else is pointless. That isn’t to say that we don’t need a Hunter s Thompson or a Gore Vidal for our own time. I hope that these people will emerge and that the world will embrace them for what they are. An example of how we can better ourselves and in doing so make the world a better place, even if its only a little bit.
We can’t go back to the previous times that we though were more wonderful than they really were. I once heard a person say they wished they could have gone back to Studio 54 and experience what it was like. Of course, they skipped the part were most of the bartenders and the owner died later on from AIDs because of the party lifestyle that was Studio 54. As a culture we like to romanticize the highlights of certain times while ignoring the repercussions of those events. I don’t mind talking about the past, learning from what people have to offer, but it is foolish to wish that you could have been there. It is even more foolish to think that somehow, in some way, you are going to recreate that feeling, the mood of the time and transport yourself into a place you had never been and weren’t meant to experience.
All we have is what is before us. The world is forever changing and it is for us to exist in it, engage it, and participate in a way that you are seen and remembered. Make your mark in your own way and perhaps if you are lucky you can leave the world a better place than how you found it. those are the people who are remembered later, the ones they build the mausoleum dicks for. The others, the people who eat, sleep, and fuck their way through life not giving a shit about anyone but themselves, those are the future worm food that time will forget. The coal chugging mouth breathers that history will remember for one thing, destroying the world. The world is filled with knuckle draggers and when there are many few will stand apart. That isn’t to say we don’t have the mouth breathing elite, also known as white trash with money, they are money and it proves something that I have always said, having money doesn’t prove you are smart.
There is a line I am waiting to hear, one that will project someone out of the crowd with this social justice bullshit and the slew of simple-minded motherfuckers that the world is infested with. I don’t want to hear an apology, I don’t want a list of excuses, I want someone to look these losers in the face and tell them to “fuck off.” We have life really good these days. I have more information on my phone than all the libraries in the world from a hundred years ago combined. We have less wars, less poverty, less crime, and for some reason people are now making up things to be pissed about like pronouns.
The times of Hunter, Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer, Tom Wolf, Ginsburg, Kerouac, etc. are gone. We have to accept that and when we do we may finally acknowledge that it is up to us to be the heroes of our time. The most common phrase a man says after accomplishing something great is “who else was going to do it?”

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