Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Malcolm, 40 years on

Two generations back, they took Malcolm on a Sunday afternoon in Washington Heights.

This is how I covered it: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6949163/

Monday, February 21, 2005

Fear and loathing in the next world

Hunter Stockton Thompson, the kinghell poliltical and cultural journalist who truly stomped terra in a savage career of more than forty years, committed suicide Sunday night at his compound in Aspen. Get your mind around that, folks, and if you haven't bid the 1960's, and its redolent, requisite ambience of personal freedom and out-of-hand laissez-faire goodbye before now, give it a serious sendoff.

Hunter Thompson may have been the last of the true wild men of the word, our pharma Hemingway, a writer of wild and outlandish gifts, part Teddy White and part Charles Bukowski. As it is with all poets, we did not have him for that long -- not in a condition to be at his best, anyway -- but were lucky to have had him at all.

The Associated Press reports that one of Thompson's closest friends said Thompson was in considerable pain after a broken leg and hip surgery. The specifics of the situation aren't really spelled out in news stories yet, though they will iron it all out.

But based what the stories are saying, it's hard to believe that Dr. Thompson, a warrior of the recreational pharmacopeia if there ever was one, couldn't summon whatever was needed to quell the pain from a broken leg. Hell, half the shit he and his attorney had stashed in the trunk of the Red Shark would have numbed that agony down to nothing! In a hurry! Cazart!

We will never know the depth of that pain, or the pain that drove him to put a gun to his head and pull the trigger, and how much of it was physical and how much was something else entirely. All we can do is revel in the work.

And the mystique behind the work. A personal recall: I saw Dr. Hunter S. Thompson speak at Denver University in January 1977. I was a green as grass reporter for the Colorado Daily, then the student newspaper at the University of Colorado. I came up with the assignment, a few years after reading "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," and less than six months after hitchhiking across half the country, from Boulder, Colorado to Los Angeles to San Francisco and back to Boulder, a journey that was my own feverish salute to the Bicentennial in general, and to the vagabond life of the good doctor and his nominal attorney in particular.

HST arrived at Boettcher Auditorium in his fashion: striped polo shirt, jeans and the trademark cigarette holder clenched in his teeth, on one shoulder was mounted the equally trademark ice chest bearing the doc's chosen recreational defibrillator of the moment, a bottle of Wild Turkey, along with ice and a plastic cup of the convenience-store variety (what they call "go cups" in the South).

In the course of discussing a variety of topical events, and answering questions from the audience, Thompson said something that went over people's heads back then, but which now resonates as people try to sort out his reasons for suicide. Looking back on his own life, Thompson observed that "I didn't expect to live to be 20. I didn't expect to live to be 30. I didn't expect to be 40. I'm 44 now. If this keeps up, I may take matters into my own hands."

Thus, a seemingly suddenly irrational act has a genesis that reaches back decades. Dr. Thompson's bootheels are wandering in some alternate universe, the good doctor now free to put said bootheels in Richard Nixon's ass around the cosmos til the end of time. We're left here in this world, wounded by the loss of a wild and volatile talent, awash in fear & loathing, which is to say, a little more today than usual.

Bad craziness.
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