Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride (Pt. 3)

Posted in R.I.P., HST on September 13th, 2005 by bill

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The success of Hell’s Angels gave Dr. Thompson credibility in the world of mainstream journalism and led to an assignment from The New York Times Magazine to write about the growing hippie scene in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district.

The resulting article, called “The ‘Hashbury’ Is the Capital of the Hippies,” begins as a piece of very straight journalism. At times the Doctor sounds like one of the so-called counterculture experts he would later mock:

The word “hip” translates roughly as “wise” or “tuned-in.” A hippy is somebody who “knows” what’s really happening, and who adjusts or grooves with it.

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Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride (Pt. 2)

Posted in R.I.P., HST on September 9th, 2005 by bill

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Reading over Part 1, it occurs to me that what I am attempting is nothing less than a sober reappraisal of Hunter S. Thompson’s legacy. Is such a thing necessary? Is it desirable? Is it even possible? Well, never mind; I’m into it now, so there’s no sense in quitting. As the Doctor liked to say, buy the ticket, take the ride.

* * *

The whole thing hinges, I think, on the concept of Gonzo journalism. Was it a brilliant innovation or a flimsy excuse to ignore the established rules of the trade? Did it have an ethos and an objective, or was it merely a platform for fuzzy, drug-induced “insights”? Do we even know, after all this time, what it really was?
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Breakfast with Hunter

Posted in R.I.P., HST on September 5th, 2005 by bill

This Hunter Thompson obsession is almost done with, I swear…just another week, maybe two. I just need to get my momentum back. It’s all a question of the right techniques, the right medicines, the right atmospheric conditions…the time is at hand, but it’s not here quite yet.

In the meantime, I honored the holiday today by having an HST-style breakfast, except without the nudity and the cocaine. In case you’re not familiar with the Doctor’s Philosophy of Breakfast, here it is in a nutshell:


Breakfast is the only meal of the day that I tend to view with the same kind of traditionalized reverence that most people associate with Lunch and Dinner.

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Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride (Pt. 1)

Posted in R.I.P., HST on August 30th, 2005 by bill

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So I took a couple of days off to reread Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and I lost all my momentum. It’s like Dr. Thompson said to Charles Perry:

I just don’t know what happened, I lost the momentum, it was just like a train on greased rails, I’ve been taking speed to get the momentum back, I haven’t slept in three days, I haven’t changed my clothes, I think my feet are rotting.

Well, it’s sort of like that, except without the speed. I never got into that stuff, thank Jeebus. But I did try to emulate Dr. Thompson in other ways, which was a mistake a lot of us made after reading Fear and Loathing. If ever there were a book that should be emblazoned with the words “Don’t try this at home,” this is it. (Or maybe The 120 Days of Sodom; but you take my point.)
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Yesterday’s Weirdness Is Tomorrow’s Reason Why (Part 3)

Posted in R.I.P., HST on August 22nd, 2005 by bill

I was compelled today by Dr. Thompson’s ghost to type in this entire chapter from The Curse of Lono. The Doctor has more and more taken over this blog in the last week because honestly, whose words would I rather type, his or mine? No contest.

No commentary I could add is going to do justice to this passage, which forms the true conclusion of the book (there’s another chapter after it, which could just as well have been left out). Presented in the form of a letter to Ralph Steadman, it wraps up the threads of the Lono business, the City of Refuge, the war club, and all the rest of it with a savage elegance that only Hunter Thompson was capable of.

July 1, 1981
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(24 hours later)...I must be getting old, Ralph, eight pages is about all I can do in one night; so I took a break and got some sleep. I also felt I should back off and have a long look at this I am Lono business, because I am wary of being fooled by another false dawn.
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Yesterday’s Weirdness Is Tomorrow’s Reason Why (Part 2)

Posted in R.I.P., HST on August 21st, 2005 by bill

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Dr. Thompson’s image — his well-deserved and long-cultivated image — as the drug-crazed wildman of American letters tended to obscure what a canny writer he was, at least when he was on top of his game.

Case in point: The Curse of Lono at first seems to be very loosely organized, filled with odd tangents and sidebars on Hawaiian history that at best could be called background, and at worst filler.

So we get the following data on the Hawaiian god Lono, for instance:
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God’s Mercy on You Swine

Posted in R.I.P., HST on August 20th, 2005 by bill

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The spirit of Dr. Thompson seems very close at hand tonight, as I sit hunched over this beautiful white machine pushing the buttons and watching letters pop up on the screen. “Sister Morphine” just came on the stereo and the sun has dipped below the trees; a pile of Thompson books, tapes, and clippings sits to my right, topped off by a bottle of Chivas Regal, the Doctor’s whiskey of choice.

By now the Gonzo Cannon has spoken, and the Doctor’s ashes are floating around the air over Woody Creek, but the event seems to have received surprisingly little coverage, at least in this country. The best stories I could find online were from the U.K. paper The Independent and, for some reason, Al-Jazeera.
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Yesterday’s Weirdness Is Tomorrow’s Reason Why (Part 1)

Posted in R.I.P., HST on August 19th, 2005 by bill

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One of Ralph Steadman’s illustrations for The Curse of Lono.

Dr. Thompson’s most criminally underappreciated book is The Curse of Lono, which was published in 1983 (not, as I said yesterday, in 1980 — though it was almost entirely written in 1980, so I’m not docking myself any points for the error). For my money, this was the Doctor’s last substantial work of genius — although, having bypassed some of the later books, I could end up having to revise that opinion at some point in the future.

Like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Curse of Lono begins with Thompson accepting a magazine assignment to cover a sporting event, in this case the 1980 Honolulu Marathon. The Marathon ends up as one chapter in the book, albeit a quite interesting and thoughtful one, with the Doctor offering his unique insights into the sport of running:
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Generation of Swine

Posted in R.I.P., HST on August 18th, 2005 by bill

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The 80s were not a good decade for the Doctor. In 1980 he saw his personally anointed president, Jimmy Carter, soundly thrashed by the hated Ronald Reagan. And not just beaten but roundly denounced as a failure, a weakling, and worst of all, a bummer.

America, it seemed, was tired of hearing the bad news, however truthful. People preferred Reagan’s fantasy world, where you can cut taxes and increase spending without repercussions. Even so, Carter might well have been reelected had he been able to get the hostages out of Iran; that was what really sealed his fate. Of course we know now that Reagan’s campaign made a secret deal with the government of Iran to keep the hostages until after the election, which is technically treason, but that is a topic for another time.

The point is, after The Curse of Lono was published in 1980, we didn’t hear much from Hunter Thompson for a few years, and he never seemed quite the same afterward. Like most confirmed cynics, Thompson was a romantic at heart, and I think he really allowed himself to believe in Jimmy Carter, or rather what he thought Carter represented for America: honesty, integrity, and willingness to do things the right way, even if it’s more difficult.
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Electricity Wants to Go Home

Posted in Audio transmissions, R.I.P., HST on August 17th, 2005 by bill

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I can’t say too much about Dr. Thompson’s work over the last 15 years, because I stopped buying his books after shelling out $21.95 for Songs of the Doomed — which was awfully pricy for a book back in 1990, especially when you’re fresh out of college. I was not too happy to get home and discover that it consisted mostly of retreads from Hell’s Angels and The Great Shark Hunt, Examiner columns that hadn’t made it into Generation of Swine, and unpublished fiction that would have been better left unpublished. It seemed likely that the Doctor was going through one of his drunker phases, and his editors had thrown the book together from whatever they had at hand.

But even there, the real thing, the genius, would pop up once in a while. As in the short piece called “Electricity,” which you can hear here in the Doctor’s own voice:

ELECTRICITY

Although given how much he mumbles, you’re probably going to want a transcript.
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