22 June 2011
Literary Skiers 16
He told me that he'd spent the first twenty years of his life in Sweden, and often I tried to picture him against a crisp Scandinavian landscape. I tried to see him on skis, or living peacefully with his family in some cold mountain village. From the little he said of Sweden I gathered he'd lived in a small town and his parents had been comfortable people with enough money to send him to college in America.
He spent two years at NYU, living in the Village at one of those residence hotels that cater to foreigners. This apparently unhinged him. Once he was arrested on Sixth Avenue, he said, for pissing on a fireplug like a dog. It cost him ten days in the Tombs, and when he got out he left immediately for New Orleans. He floundered there for a while, then got a job on a freighter headed for the Orient. He worked on boats for several years before drifting into journalism. Now, thirty-three years old and looking fifty, his spirit broken and his body swollen with drink, he bounced from one country to another, hiring himself out as a reporter and hanging on until he was fired.
Disgusting as he usually was, on rare occasions he showed flashes of a stagnant intelligence. But his brain was so rotted with drink and dissolute living that whenever he put it to work it behaved like an old engine that had gone haywire from being dipped in lard.
--Hunter S. Thompson, from The Rum Diary, 1959