An experience of mine that never actually happened, but feels like it did.
Read for yourself.
Without a doubt, three historical figures that I would invite for a cup of a coffee would be Ernest Hemingway, Jack Kerouac, and Hunter S. Thompson. As we all take a seat around the cold square table, we anxiously await Dr. Thompson’s arrival. Undue tardiness should be expected from a character of his sort. Suddenly, I hear a loud bang on the glass door, and every eye in the room turns to see through the transparent entranceway. Dr. Thompson, in his canvas safari hat and slightly tinted glasses, babbles curses that cause the hair on my arms to rise as people realize he is making his way to sit at my table. A village lunatic, but a genius of a lunatic at that, is well worth the embarrassment; just for a quick hour of his time. Kerouac arrives on time with Hemingway, but Kerouac chastises me for not inviting him to a bar or a pub. I imagine that he has brought a flask anyway for Hemingway and himself to enjoy as we enter our conversation.
I am on alert to be wise with my words around this crowd. All three of these men posses enough insanity, at least with their words, to skin a man alive for asking the wrong question. However, it’s mainly Thompson that I fear. Sheepishly, almost, I stutter the icebreaker question, “Knowledge is power, and knowledge is also foresight. Was your brilliance so overwhelming that it caused paranoia and stress which led to your own internal and then physical demise”. Wham!… “Alright! I’ve got it. Let me start this thing off,” Thompson retorts as he slams his wrinkled fist against the table. “Listen here kid. Eh-em.” He clears his throat as if he is about to launch into a long spiel. “Knowledge is power, and power is a tough thing to handle, especially when you know your potential is of great proportions.” “Alrigh..,” I nod my head, but before I can reach the “t”, he follows with, “but let me say this, the moment I fell off the deep end, and entered the realm of drugs, I knew this was the only way I could escape my genius. Genius is a haunting thing. She’ll wake you up in the middle of the night, and then she’ll whisper in your ear sick cruel things. But every so often she treats you with respect, maybe just to keep you off balance.” After these deep words, a silence ensues, followed by modest nods from Kerouac and Hemingway. “So, did this affect your attitude towards other people?” I curiously ask. “Oh sure, authority. That’s my biggest problem with this place. People are always trying to tell me what to do. I’m my own man. I’ll live by my own breathe and die by my own bullet.” After this I enter a cerebral juggle. Remembering what Ralph Steadman, a friend of Thompson’s, said of him days after he died, “He told me 25 years ago that he would feel real trapped if he didn’t know that he could commit suicide at any moment.” It is apparent that Thompson wants full control and nothing less, causing him to choose the lifestyle of drugs, and living too close to the edge, at all times.
My eyes quickly snap up from my deep thoughts as Kerouac softly says, “Yeah, it was always somewhat difficult to handle my own intelligence. This is why I lead a life of heavy drinking. The less I was aware, the less paranoia set on, and the more my mind was temporarily at peace with itself.”…”Yes, yes,” whispers Hemingway, who has been silent until now. Kerouac goes on with, “But part of the pressure was people looking up to me, I never desired to be dubbed the Father of the Beat Generation. My writing was only intended to narrate my own personal excavation of life for meaning, not to serve as doctrine.”
“Why did you even invite us here, what do you want out of us?” Hemingway chimes in. “Do you just want to make fools out of all of us?” “Take it easy Ernest, these are simply innocent questions,” replies Kerouac in my defense. Hemingway struck me as a loose cannon from his writing, but to experience it first-hand caught me off guard. Thankfully, for my sake, Kerouac possessed enough benevolence to jump to my side and quickly defend me. I think he knew Hemingway was an irritable person, probably from studying his works during his tenure at Columbia. After Kerouac’s defense, Hemingway halts his harangue on me and we move forward with the conversation.
Apart from Kerouac’s two cents, the conversation is mainly lead by Thompson. I had no idea he is such a gregarious fellow. His words of wisdom evolve into words of fury at times but I am fine with this. I guess I know him well enough from his writing to discern what comes from him, and what is spewing out of his sick bipolar alter-ego that seems to take him over whenever it saw fit.
Looking up, I once again find myself lost in my thoughts. I look at Hemingway and have to wonder why he feels the need to act hostile towards me. I dismiss the hostility, but I do not understand his silence. He slowly separates his teeth if he is about to mutter, but he refuses. I guess I need to start this one if I stand at chance at cracking into this vault. I know good and well that all three men have been married multiple times; Hemingway, four. I am scared to say his name to catch his attention. I think it sounds funny, and he has already snapped at me once. Ernest. I wonder if he likes it or not. Despite this, I proceed to halfway stare in his direction to let him know that I am speaking to him. I begin with, “What significance does family have on your life, as compared to independence?” I glance over at Kerouac who shoots me a grin as Hemingway begins with, “I enjoy family. Family is something that every man should experience, especially the joy of children. But I also prioritize individualism. Individuals rule the world. I refuse to put my trust in anyone but myself. It’s a safe way to live.” I take this in. I recognize Hemingway’s bold narcissism as an admirable quality, as well as a moral flaw. Without faith and trust in people I do not understand where any man could go in life. Sure, I label myself as introverted. However, Hemingway has taken independence to a bitter extreme.
From this quick coffee shop conversation, I observe many things through these revolutionary authors, one, their admirable traits: Thompson’s ingenuity, Hemingway’s bold independence, and Kerouac’s adventurous yet even-keeled persona. However, with admirable traits also come the undesirable ones: Thompson’s fury, Hemingway’s abrasive behavior, and Kerouac’s paranoia. Looking past their flaws, there is one thing I appreciate in every one of these men. Their brilliance inspired generations, started movements, and is still regarded as culture-altering literature. The lights in the coffee shop begin to dim, and we realize it is already dark out and the store is closing down. We bid each other farewell. I jam my hands into my pockets in a frustrated manner and slog into the dark.