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February 20th, 2005

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11:33 pm - god damn.
I was all set to write a lot of words about the movie marathon I just participated in, but then I found a late-night news report that Hunter S Thompson has gone and shot himself to death. Now it'll have to wait.
Hunter S. Thompson and Ralph Steadman sit down with a funeral director to discuss Thompson's funeral plans, which include erecting a 150-foot tall 'gonzo' monument consisting of a giant cylinder topped with a double-thumbed fist, from which will be ejected a capsule containing Thompson's ashes, which will explode, thus distributing his mortal remains across the Colorado landscape. While Hunter is describing this bizarre edifice, Steadman sits quietly to the side, sketching out Thompson's mad vision for the funeral director, who seems to take the two maniacs sitting in his office at face value; when Hunter S. Thompson asks him 'We're looking for something 'Albert Speer-ish'...you know who Albert Speer is?', he gamely responds 'Yeah...I think so. I think I met him once...'

- excerpted from an online review of the BBC documentary Fear & Loathing on the Way to Hollywood
Oh, Uncle Duke. You madman. You goddamn madman. We were all set to believe you'd live forever, you fool, no matter how fatalistic you could be. But at least you outlived Nixon. I know you knew this, cause you crowed mightily about it. I'm going to have that as a consolation right now. At least you outlived Nixon, you crazy bastard.

It wasn't political, was it? It couldn't have been political, no matter how loudly you agonized when the prevailing climate wasn't the way you liked. And you'd have been the last person I'd have expected to do himself in just because some idiot is in office. That's a cop-out. We live through administrations we didn't like. You raged through them. When you ran against the Republican mayor with a crewcut in 1970, you shaved your head so you could refer to him as "my long-haired opponent." So that can't be it. So maybe it was a health thing. Maybe you knew something was up, something that you wouldn't be able to kick. You couldn't have turned into an invalid. There was no way. I can see you taking final control like that. It's not driving a speeding car off a hill into a gas station, though -- but it's one last stubbornly defiant scream.

You made us scream, too. You made us angry. You made us confused. You made us wonder what parts we were reading were real, and what were Gonzoed up for the benefit of the story. I stand by my opinion that Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 is the best piece of political journalism ever written, simply because while there may be bullshit there, it's not bullshit. If that makes sense.

So I poured the Wild Turkey 101. I poured one for you, too, but you're not here so I had to down it for you. I hope you don't mind. I wanted to get out and break stuff in your memory, I wanted to holler curses in foreign tongues at passersby, I wanted to be angry for you because you're not going to have the chance to be angry anymore.

Only I'm not. I'm staying at home writing in a LiveJournal as if I was writing directly to you, as you'd have given two wet ones about what an anonymous reader wanted to say about you online. (That's the difference between you and me, there. I say I'd want to do something; you'd have actually gone out and done it. Or at least written that you'd done it. Guess I wasn't a keen a student as I could've been -- but I recognize goddamn genius when I see it.)

And really, what would it serve besides gratification for the here and now? There's no battle to be won because of it. And there's always one fight you end up losing in the end.
And that, I think, was the handle--that sense of inevitable 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--the place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.
Even after showing defeat, you'd rear on back and find another trimuph to go for. And to that, you crazy motherfucker, I drink. Enjoy what's next.

And maybe Oscar Acosta will finally show up at your funeral.

(11 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:February 21st, 2005 05:38 am (UTC)
Thanks for this post. The health thing is my theory, too -- he was getting to be the age where a lot of shit can go wrong, and I can't imagine him doing the "go gentle into that good night" thing.

Apparently his son found him, which completely sucks.

It's funny in a not-very-funny sort of way -- I was watching the "first five years of SNL" special tonight and thinking about what a time that was and how those crazy times were gone, and how that wasn't necessarily a good thing -- now this. End of an era, in a way.
[User Picture]
Date:February 21st, 2005 06:04 am (UTC)
I watched the special too. What I found ironic were the parental disclaimers before each hour, the mosaic blurring of Eric Idle's naked form, and the bleeping of Patti Smith just seconds before she says "Kill censorship" at the end of a musical number.

The show was considered dangerous and groundbreaking at its inception. Somewhere around the 90s, though, the stuff from the original days looked dated, almost tired and tame in comparison to what we could see on network TV. Now it's come full-circle and our culture is so scared of anything taboo that they feel the need to warn us when this thirty-year-old footage is shown on our screens at 10 PM.

It's crazy.
[User Picture]
Date:February 21st, 2005 06:14 am (UTC)
I graduated from high school in '79, which means that when SNL first hit the airwaves I was old enough to stay up and watch it but still young enough (and sheltered-Midwestern enough) to be a little shocked by some of the content. The show was SUCH a huge part of the culture in those days. I remember when I was an undergrad, most people didn't have TVs in their dorm rooms, but we'd all gather in the tv lounge in the basement to watch SNL every week.

I remember watching Patti Smith and just being in awe. She scared the crap out of me but I adored her.

Not that I ever lived anything but a tame and boring life, but I miss knowing that kind of wildness -- destructive as it was, for some -- existed in the world. (And it was always wilder than the "edgy" and "shocking" stuff of the 90s -- that just always seemed so calculated to me, really.) Maybe HST just couldn't take living in a world without that. I don't know.

Man, I feel old tonight.
[User Picture]
Date:February 21st, 2005 05:43 am (UTC)
Said it far better than I could have. Thank you.
Date:February 21st, 2005 07:37 am (UTC)
Thanks, Spatch.

Maybe later I should paste some of his obituary for Oscar later.

Jesus. Man, Hunter...
[User Picture]
Date:February 21st, 2005 11:10 am (UTC)
Thank you, Spatch. I teared up reading what you wrote.
[User Picture]
Date:February 21st, 2005 02:50 pm (UTC)
good god, i'm still in shock. i think i must feel like most people felt when princess di died.
[User Picture]
Date:February 21st, 2005 08:47 pm (UTC)
(this is Tory) That was an excellent eulogy, Spatch. Guess we always knew he'd go out with a bang and not a whimper.
[User Picture]
Date:February 22nd, 2005 04:11 pm (UTC)
Amen brother. You're far more coherent about this than I am.
[User Picture]
Date:February 24th, 2005 12:04 am (UTC)

Amen, brother

You've perfectly said what I was feeling.

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