16 Jul

A Gonzo Birthday

The ashes formerly known as Hunter S. Thompson are turning 77 today (July 18th)! What a guy, what a guy, such an honest soul, and a prolific honest man of truth. TRUTH. What is that anyway? An enduring concept or is it just reality slapping you you in the face. The latter of which is how Gonzo filtered into the world circa 1960’s-1970’s Hunter S. Thompson. DELETE DELETE DELETE, have you ever tried to write something perfectly the first time and failed like nobody’s business? Ya, that just happened. Gonzo is not for the weak at heart, batteries not included. I love the bastard's writing. I am reading “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” currently, and spend my evenings either reconsidering my stance on drug and alcohol usage, laughing in a perverse shrill that haunts my apartment, or pondering my navel. Shush, nobody has to know. No navels were hurt in the making of this blog. And back to our inflight movie. Thompson! An incredible writer, truth in satire, wit without compromise. God, how it must have felt to experience the world through those eyes.
Yes, these eyes.
Thompson (forget the first name and middle initial, I can’t be held responsible when twisted into a slinky) was a journalist and writer from the 1960's until his death in 2005. He would regularly contribute to many magazines and newspapers, none more so than Rolling Stone (before it was hip and then really hip and then blithely unhip again in the Bieber days). In Rolling Stone, Thompson was one of the only non-musical writers on staff, and would regularly contribute his on personal style of journalism while exploring politics and counter cultures in America. The name of his war cry would be called “Gonzo”, a style of writing that is similar to a stream of consciousness, placing the author in the center of the action rather than writing from above in an invisible hot air balloon. Also, the author was often the instigator of the action, writing about the happenings as they would occur. A great and bizarre example is “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”, in which our hero of the day, Raoul Duke (Thompson) and his lawyer Dr. Gonzo (some Samoan lawyer), drive to Vegas to find the American Dream while covering the Mint 400 race. So of course, they completely blow off the race and experiment with mind bending drugs like LSD (hello pink lemon lizards), ether (can you feel your face, I highly doubt it), cocaine (snort hard, snort far, and your dreams will smell like blood) and booze (also known as breakfast). This is a drawing made for the occasion of the publishing of Fear Vegas (again, not responsible for things like titles when there is a SQUID ON THE WALL CAPS LOCK WHY YOU SO ANGRY) by Thompson’s close friend and partner in crime in his article “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved”, Ralph Steadman.
Steadman was one trippy ballsack. Don’t you just feel the drugs settling in?
You may have noticed that the previous two paragraphs are pretty out there. In honor of Mr. Thompson, I wanted to experiment with writing in the Gonzo style. Admittedly, no one can be as perverse or oddly charming as Thompson was. Even with the drugs and booze, he was a prolific writer of politics, following many campaign trails throughout the seventies. He would also explore culture and counter culture, ranging from the psychedelic drug scene on the west coast to sports to the new generations versus the old to riding with the Hells Angels. Thompson is brutally honest in his writing, not sparing anyone in his path. Famously, he absolutely hated Richard Nixon. Really, hate is a soft word for the absolute disgust this man had for Nixon, as can be seen in his book "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72. Nixon’s one redeeming quality for Thompson? Football. Go figure. Other interesting occurrences were travels in Puerto Rico (which produced the Rum Diaries) and in South America. Rather horrifyingly, Thompson took a job reporting on the war in Vietnam, and arrived in Saigon to find that the job had been scrubbed just as American troops were evacuating the country. Rough right?
After a failed trip to report on a boxing match in Africa, our intrepid writer began reducing  his output during the 80's up through his death. Fame itself seemed to get to Thompson, who did not want to write just because it was expected of him. Never wanting to live to an age of dullness and infirmity (amongst other reasons), Thompson committed suicide on his ranch in February 2005. To commemorate his life, friends and family gathered to give him a proper send off in the form of Thompson’s last wish: his ashes were shot out of a canon on top of a massive monument of a double thumbed fist (the symbol for Gonzo) with red, white, blue, and green fireworks, all to the tune of Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky" and Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man." It is in the honor of this bizarre, brutally intelligent and incredible writer that we say happy birthday to Hunter S. Thompson. Cheers.
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