From the final paragraph of Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas:
"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 -- the place where the wave finally broke and rolled back."
The confluence tonight of two events seems to mark an historical transition. The Portland-like diluvia now bathing Los Angeles and the suicide of Dr. Gonzo -- Hunter S. Thompson. Just as we seem to be sliding into some new Age of Weather, the last standing legacy of the Sixties makes a surprise exit. Something on this planet is shifting-- and in the wrong direction.
I will be brief in eulogizing Hunter. I already wrote my definitive homage to him back in 1993 in a long piece titled "Fear and Lava in Las Vegas" (sorry no digital link but it is the anchor essay in Literary Las Vegas). To call his suicide a surprise is, of course, a wild exaggeration. Hunter has been trying to kill himself for as long as he's been writing. It's a friggin' miracle he got to age 67. We know as of Sunday night he did himself in the way we would expect -- with a gun. We'll have to await a coroner's report to get the full print-out of what chemicals were coursing through his bloodstream.
I only met Hunter once face to face. And under circumstances I will keep to myself -- at least for the moment. But he was a huge influence on me and was, certainly, one of my last heroes. A little bit of Hunter always seemed to be sitting on my shoulder every time I would go out to do some feature reporting. I don't think my talents measure up to 5% of what he had. But his pull on me was always just enough to tip me -- tip me toward kicking up my up-close writing another half-level.
Dr. Gonzo was a ferocious wit, and a brilliant and immensely entertaining writer. He was also a terrific reporter. His books on the Hell's Angels and La's Vegas were his big breakthroughs. Lesser known is the solid reporting career he had already racked up in the early 60S -- long before he became a counter-culture icon.
His insight into people and systems generated constant angst; the sort of pain he would blow off by blasting his guns, dropping some tabs and eating some screamers, or sweating out a marathon writing session (if not all three together). The product on paper was usually of stunning quality. How someone so visibly irrational could produce such literature and such steady reporting was -- by my limited imagination-- simply unfathomable. I've always wondered if this guy actually took notes. I asked him when I met him; but his answer took him off on a tanget that pin-balled between the relative quality of Brownings and the sweet oak after-taste of Wild Turkey.
Hearing of his death Sunday night as I hydroplaned down the Ventura Freeway, I tried to think of one writer/reporter under age 50 who comes even close to Hunter's legacy. Again no surprise: I drew a blank.
There isn't much room in our current world for journalists as out-sized as Hunter S. Thompson. They just
don't fit in anywhere anymore. I guess he came to the same conclusion.
A few choice HST quotes:
If the right people had been in charge of Nixon's funeral, his casket would have been launched into one of those open-sewage canals that empty into the ocean just south of Los Angeles. He was a swine of a man and a jabbering dupe of a president. Nixon was so crooked that he needed servants to help him screw his pants on every morning. Even his funeral was illegal. He was queer in the deepest way. His body should have been burned in a trash bin.
- Source: Rolling Stone, June 1994
Why bother with newspapers, if this is all they offer? Agnew was right. The press is a gang of cruel faggots. Journalism is not a profession or a trade. It is a cheap catch-all for fuckoffs and misfits - a false doorway to the backside of life, a filthy piss-ridden little hole nailed off by the building inspector, but just deep enough for a wino to curl up from the sidewalk and masturbate like a chimp in a zoo-cage.
Source: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Some relevant links:
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