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02.20.05 12:00 a.m.

Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a main Era- the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run ... but no explanation, mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant...

History is hard to know, with all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of "history" it entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons no one really understands at the time-and which never explain, in retrospect, what really happened.

My central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe forty nights- or very early mornings- when I left the Fillmore half crazy and, instead of going home, aimed the big 650 Lightning across the Bay Bridge at a hundred miles an hour wearing L.L Bean shorts and a Butte sheepherder's jacket... booming through the Treasure Island Tunnel at the lights of Oakland and Berkley and Richmond, not quite sure which turn off to take when I got to the other end (always stalling at the toll-gate, too twisted to find neutral while I fumbled for change) ...but being absolutely certain, no matter which way I went that I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was: No doubt about that...

There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda...you could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning...

And that, I think, was the handle-that sense of inevitable sense of victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn't need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting- on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave...

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark-that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

 

-Hunter S. Thompson

 



Previously in Xenology: Xen was a writer.

God's Own Prototype

Why does it seem that, whenever I start to develop a good head of hero worship, the object of my appreciation has to pierce their own with a high powered projectile?

Hunter S. Thompson was my idol. While I would have been a writer no matter if he lived, he made me want to cover the world around me. Really get involved in the story of every dawn. He was the reason that I believed in the mystical powers of the press and had something to compare against the two-faced, oppressive press swine reading talking points to us from the White House.
Dr. Gonzo  
HST

To far too many of you, I am sure that the good Dr. Thompson was nothing more than the punch-line to a Cheech and Chong joke. You might mumble something about bat country and laugh his death away. I won't. Hunter S. Thompson was something for which to strive. He originated a lifestyle, not of excess and existing in a haze of drugs, but of passionate and irreverent connection in the world. He pioneered a new way of reporting where the people behind the typewriters weren't interchangeable. There is not one memorable journalist, especially not one commentator, in the past three decades that didn't have a tiny Rauol Duke in the back of his or her head.

I don't want to believe that he actually committed suicide. I am perfectly fine with the idea that the bullet ricocheted off a wall when he was trying to shoot a peacock - HST had shot and been acquitted for shooting an assistant for such a reason - but the father of Gonzo Journalism shouldn't have meant to kill himself. HST had accrued many personal and political enemies, why can't I indulge in conspiracy theories? Certain Shrubs certainly could have done without Hunter S. Thompson in the world. No, there seems to be no doubt. Apparently this is an unquestioned suicide. Damn.

I won't ever meet him now. When Emily and I were tentatively talking about moving to Colorado, she tried to use his proximity as a temptation and she was perfectly right to do that. People are changed in just meeting the man. He only got what enemies he had because he knew exactly how people ticked and what little he needed to push them to confront him.

I called Melissa as soon as my father gave me the news. She told me, in no uncertain terms, that I had better shut my mouth immediately. She didn't want to believe me and I can't blame her. Had I only been doing this as a joke rather than out of a need to share, it might have been the end of our decade long friendship. Once I insisted that it was true, she dismissed herself and the line went dead. When I later spoke to her, she said that this afflicted her much more greatly than the death of Kurt Cobain ten years ago; she never wanted to be Kurt Cobain but she never ceased to want to be Hunter S. Thompson, as the name of her column will attest.

I want to believe that this was an act of control, if it has to be suicide; that HST managed to win over the porcine demons or take death by the balls before it could enfeeble him. America lost a real patriot it desperately needs right now and he had better have a damned good reason for killing himself.

There he goes. One of God's own prototypes. Some kind of high powered mutant never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.

Soon in Xenology: Moving.

last watched: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
reading: Hey Rube
listening: Genius
wanting: Strangers to understand what they might mean.
moment of zen: Retroactively, when I first read Fear and Loathing.
someday I must: visit HST's grave.

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.



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