Thomas Wictor

Gratitude for Mister Thunes

Gratitude for Mister Thunes

Scott Thunes is in the hospital. He has a preliminary diagnosis of unstable angina, a treatable condition. After he comes home, he’ll have to make some changes.

People rarely discuss the healing power of gratitude. I understand why: It’s not emphasized in our culture. We’re taught to say, “Thank you,” but as we grow up, nobody really imbues us with the concept that we should really appreciate all the things that make our lives pleasurable, fun, rewarding, safe, and free from suffering.

I don’t say that as a criticism. In fact, there’s nothing more obnoxious than someone who tries to take the wind out of your sails by constantly reminding you that so many are in misery. A lot of people even feel shallow guilt at how well off they are, so they attack others for having good lives, since they themselves are unwilling to give up their own privileges.

All of this is trash. It’s pure negativity. I feel that if you have a good life, you’re obligated to be grateful. Gratitude is a form of honor. It’s paying homage. Squandering gifts that others will never experience is the same as what I saw after a band’s launch party in Los Angeles, when the staffers of the club threw away three hundred pounds of uneaten food. Fried chicken, fried catfish, gumbo, jambalaya—it all went into the dumpsters. That’s haunted me for twenty years.

I’m grateful to know Scott Thunes. When I first met him in 1996, I was terrified. He did everything in his power to increase my terror, because he needed to know if I could keep up with him. It was trial by fire. If Scott had gone easy on me, it wouldn’t have served either of us well. He wanted a chance to tell part of his story on his terms, and I wanted to be taken seriously as a music journalist.

Scott did his testing the afternoon before the interview. This was actually quite considerate of him. By the time we did the formal interview the next day, I was able to cope. We did a dry run, an idea that was entirely Scott’s.

The guardian

When I went to Scott’s house for the first time, I met his wife Georgia and his father-in-law George. I was nervous around Scott, but Georgia actually frightened me because she’s tall and very beautiful, and she was quiet. Inscrutable, even. She sat next to me at the kitchen table and sketched on a pad. It was clear that she guarded Scott. Bodyguards are always intimidating. They signify protection of value.

They also care more about the person they’re guarding than they care about themselves. Such a person is capable of a lot in pursuit of her duty. She won’t hesitate to act.

I wasn’t afraid that Georgia would go all Liam Neeson on me.

My fear was that Georgia and Scott would exchange a look, and then Scott would say, “Listen, this isn’t going to work. I’m sorry, but you’re just not someone I can talk to.”

Instead, he said to Georgia, “Good. He’s comfortable.” And she got up and left, to my relief.

No, it wasn’t that I didn’t like her, even though I’ve been called “one of the most judgmental people…in literature.” Her presence reminded me that I was not only on probation—as was absolutely reasonable—but also that the stakes were incredibly high. Georgia didn’t see Scott as an interview subject. He’s her husband. My own desires didn’t play a part. All she cared about was that I not do damage to him.

It was a great reminder that it’s people who create music. Human beings. I never bought the notion that once a person enters the public arena by becoming a performer, they automatically lose all rights to privacy. Why? When was that law enacted? Personally, I subscribe to Humphrey Bogart’s dictum.

“The only thing you owe the public is a good performance.”

You should see the stuff I left out of my interviews. I did so because I felt these things didn’t fit in with what the interviewee and I created in our collaboration on an art project. Since I always gave the article to the artist to read before I submitted it, the person had the opportunity to say, “Look, I want you to put back in how I ran over the kitten with a steamroller and laughed.”

Scott has edited everything I’ve written about him. He’s taken out things. That’s his right. If he wants to publish Thomas Wictor’s Unexpurgated Interviews of Scott Thunes, he’s free to do so.

What I wish he’d do is just make up interviews and attach my name to them. If he wants to interview himself under my name during his recuperation, I’ll post it here. Unedited.

Another reason I’m grateful for Scott is that he gently allowed me back into his life after I cut off contact with the world in 2003. He made it no big deal. When we met in person for the first time in twelve years, on September 7, 2012, we picked up the conversation were we’d left off so long ago. He showed me photos of Georgia, Hazle, and Virgil on his iPad, and we talked about movies, music, weirdness—everything we covered the first time we met.

Scott is one of only four laymen who know the full extent of my past. It didn’t change how he views me. That’s the measure of the man he is, and it goes on the list of why I’m grateful to know him.

Of course Scott also alerted me to the fact that Mike Albee and Lura Dold of Sandpiper Publicity are frauds. This was after they’d bilked me of $40,000. I owe Scott for that.

And finally, Scott was my mother’s hero. She loved talking about him. It gave us a bond, which is good because we didn’t have many. When we discussed Scott and his music, our own issues disappeared. Mom liked me to retell how Scott put me through the wringer the afternoon we met, how we took a long walk and yelled at each other, and he handed me things that he picked up from the ground.

To Mom, it was magical. Scott is the living essence of her favorite show, Monty Python’s Flying Circus. He reassured her that zany, erudite intelligence survives. She couldn’t believe my luck in getting to meet such a unique person.

I can’t either.

Get well, Scott. Gratitude will do the trick. Look around and absorb all that’s amazing about your life, and you’ll be back on your feet in no time. When you get home, you’ll need one of these.

Think of the possibilities.

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