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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