Something weird and wondrous has happened since I posted the last piece in this space, yearning for the merciless words of Hunter S. Thompson in the time of Trump.
Over the past few days, I’ve been rocked by the large number of readers drawn to a howl in the journalism wilderness lamenting the Good Doktor’s .45-caliber exit 13 years ago.
Most of the attention has come from my native land, the USA. But there’s been strong interest in Britain, followed by Canada – where I now live – plus Germany, Mexico, Ireland, France, Israel, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Russia, Poland, Romania, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the Philippines, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates.
A lot of people in a lot of places craving a little HST. Too bad he couldn’t plug the mojo wire into the internet when he was fearing and loathing in his prime.
I wrote that last piece after watching a recap of the day’s Senate hearing for Dumbass Donnie’s Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh, who came off like a Catholic priest on the make in a room full of choirboys.
A few minutes later, while walking the dog, the line “the scum also rises” popped into my head. I knew it was a headline from some HST opus when he was stomping on Nixon.
I found it in Rolling Stone online. But, when I was blocked from reading very much without surrendering the numbers on my VISA, I turned to the Thompson folder in my file cabinet.
Bam! All eleven pages, jammed with thousands and thousands of words of manic prose, with four Ralph Steadman sketches, including the one above and this masterful depiction of a wretched and wrecked Tricky Dicknose.
In that thick file of clippings, I also came across a rather quaint article he penned for the May 14, 1967 New York Times Magazine, headlined, The ‘Hashbury’ Is the Capital of the Hippies. It includes:
The hot center of revolutionary action on the Coast began moving across the bay (from Berkeley) to San Francisco’s Haight-Asbury district, a run down Victorian neighborhood of about 40 square blocks between the Negro/Fillmore district and Golden Gate Park.
The “Hashbury” is the new capital of what is rapidly becoming a drug culture. Its denizens are not called radicals or beatniks, but hippies.
Several months after that piece was published, I moved from New York to San Francisco – looking for a newspaper job, not flower power.
There, I met my bride-to-be, who gave me another taste of Thompson, a copy of Hell’s Angels. (She would reclaim it in the divorce.)
I didn’t catch up with HST for a couple more years, when I was Vancouver correspondent for UPI, and I and all my journalism cronies became addicted to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, constantly adapting the best lines to meet our aspirations.
As your attorney, I advise you to get shitfaced.
In one of my early trips in the first person, I wrote about being a bear-scared New Yorker on a camping trip in the wilds of British Columbia.
As I recount in my memoir, The Expat Files, “I flexed my best gonzo muscles” in the story:
The only defense against bears, my mountain-man-of-a-companion decided, was to split a bottle of 151-proof rum – between us, not with the bears. But the fear of savage, hairy beasts breaking the tranquility of the night fought my rum-soaked mind – and won.
That same year, as I recall in the book, I went gonzo-berserk at the bar in the Hotel Vancouver, to the amusement of the rest of the press corps covering Pierre Trudeau, as we watched Nixon’s resignation speech on TV.
“Good fucking riddance, you slimy piece of shit,” I screamed at the screen. “I hope you wind up in Attica, you crypto-Nazi scumsucker – see how you like it taking it up the ass from some crazed three-hundred-pound junkie biker flying on smack.”
Then there were the times I brazenly presented myself at the front desk of a ritzy hotel – once at the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City and again at The Plaza in New York – insisted my attorney and I had a reservation, and demanded the best room in the house.
In Quebec, with pal Arden, we wound up in a basement broom closet.
At The Plaza, colleague Kevin and I arrived in a T-Bird convertible – Hertz didn’t have a “Great Red Shark” Cadillac – got a room with a view of an air shaft, and covered the capture of Son of Sam.
My half-assed HST takeoffs and enthusiasm for his adventures cooled as we aged, he at the Owl Farm in Woody Creek, me in the suburbs of Toronto.
There was one grand spark in 1994, reading his last great kick in the scrotum of the last great evil-doer in the White House (before the current slum lord). It begins:
Richard Nixon is gone now, and I am poorer for it. He was the real thing – a political monster straight out of Grendel and a very dangerous enemy. He could shake your hand and stab you in the back at the same time. He lied to his friends and betrayed the trust of his family …
Nixon had the unique ability to make his enemies seem honorable, and we developed a keen sense of fraternity.
Since the good Doktor did not live to see the monster mutated, it’s up to others to join the latest fraternity of honorable compatriots.
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I leave you with another unearthed artifact, this caricature of me – with a boozer’s nose – dashed off by the artist/author in my copy of Still Life with Bottle: Whisky According to Ralph Steadman.