Paul E. Anna: High Points |

Paul E. Anna: High Points

Paul E. Anna
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado


Say the name and instantly everyone knows who you’re talking about. It’s like Jordan or Nixon or Moby. Well, maybe not, but you get the picture. Hunter Thompson was one of the people whose persona was so powerful that his first name alone has become synonymous with an idea, a concept, or a lifestyle. And now, more than six years after his suicide, he is as iconic a figure in death as he was in life.

I was struck by this late last Sunday afternoon as I was heading down the Rio Grande Trail. I came upon a pair of Japanese hipster tourists who were making their way, laboriously, up the trail on their bikes. They had made a pilgrimage to the Woody Creek Tavern to sit where their idol, Hunter Thompson, used to suck down spirits.

The scene was priceless. Both sported longish jet-black hair, black horn-rimmed glasses, red kerchiefs and black Gonzo shirts. They obviously had not calculated that they would have to take a 7-mile uphill ride back to town following their margaritas and they were hurting in a big way.

Just before I got to them, three large bucks in the brush just off the trail startled me. When I pointed out the deer to the gonzo aficionados it created a frenzy as they tore off their backpacks, grabbed their cameras and started shooting with wild abandon. I wanted to tell them that Hunter would have been shooting with a shotgun rather than a camera in a similar situation, but language differences prevented that.

I digress, but the point is that people come from all over the globe for a chance to get a taste of the air that Hunter breathed, to get a feel for where he overindulged and to get a T-shirt. To the rest of the world Aspen represents many things but close to the top of the list is that it is the place where Hunter S. Thompson lived and died.

Today we have a Gonzo Museum and a watering hole called the Hunter Bar in the town he wanted to name “Fat City.” The Woody Creek Tavern lures tourists who want not just a good burger, but also a chance to bask in the history of Hunter. There have been numerous books written right here in the valley remembering “The Good Doctor” by locals who make themselves available anytime a visiting journalist wants to come and chat about the legacy.

But for me, the best little corner of Hunter memorabilia to be found anywhere is in the shelves of the Woody Creek Community Center, or the WC3 as they call it. There, Pickett Huffines has pulled together and curated the most comprehensive collection of articles and books penned by Woody Creek’s most famous resident. Original Rolling Stone releases, hard to find books, prints, posters. They are all there. (May I suggest “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 1972” for your pre-election reading.)

Currently, there is an exhibition in the gallery in the WC3 featuring incredible large-size photographs that Alan Becker took of Hunter. Powerful, nostalgic and fun, the exhibition titled “Hunter Revisited, India Observed” is worthy of a trip all the way from Japan for any sycophant who wants to see Hunter in near life-size prints.

Or, conversely, for any Fat City resident with a bike.

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