FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Doctor Thompson is Out

by KEN KRAYESKE

 

My sister in Denver picked up the phone, and before she could say hello, my mouth in Connecticut tried to catch up with my mind somewhere in hyperspace.

“Omigod Rubi help me,” I said. “I saw Alan and Stacy when they got out of school and we all ate a hit of acid then I went to mom and dad’s to change my jeans and get some money mom met me at the door to tell me the sports editor called so mom accepted an assignment for me tonight to cover a state tournament high school basketball game for tomorrow’s paper and what am I going to do?”

“Pretend your Hunter S. Thompson,” the wise Rubi coolly said. “And send me a copy of the article.”

I could do that. Me, a college freshman, experimenting with Gonzo! At a right wing newspaper! I always wanted to be HST, from the moment I first read Rubi’s Rolling Stone mags in the 1980s, when RS still had balls. I devoured Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I lived for Hunter’s tale of hitting golf balls off a skyscraper into Caracas slums. I dreamed of jumping in a limousine with Nixon and talking football.

I wore holes into my unofficial HST t-shirt, the one screen-printed by my friend, with the Steadman drawing of Thompson carrying the suitcase on the front, and the American Dream quote on the back: “To sleep late, have fun, drink whiskey and drive fast on empty streets with nothing in mind except falling in love and not getting arrested.”

Yes, pretend you’re Hunter S. Thompson, pretend everything is normal when its not, then try to communicate the schizophrenia. The acid kicked in at the dinner table, over BLTs and mac and cheese, when Robert Parrish’s eyes bulged off the cover of Sports Illustrated like Roger Rabbit’s and my little sister laughed with me but she didn’t know why, and my mom suspected something in the non-stop giggles. But I was cool.

I managed that spring night 14 years ago inspired by Thompson’s pioneering. I loved the madness, red trails peeling off brake lights of cars in front of me, Ming the Merciless barking from one team’s uniform, and the ball spinning in rhythm to the cheerleaders’ incomprehensible cheers.

Thompson’s ethereal ramble through the Circus Circus helped me weather the post-game interviews. While questioning the seven-foot center on the losing team, I felt the athlete’s crushing depression. I wanted to shake him and say, “Losing is no big deal. I’m tripping man, and if I lose it, I’m screwed. But it’s all ok. The Gulf War is over. You won’t get drafted. We’re young. The best is yet to come.”

Dutifully, I played reporter. I transcribed the “we did our best” quotes and studied the universe of red veins on his massive black chest. Back in the Waterbury Republican-American newsroom, I thought that Thompson had the chance to polish his material after the drugs wore off.

The keyboard melted under my fingertips and the vaulted brick ceilings twisted the sounds of the newsroom’s hustle, but my editor never suspected anything in my mixed metaphors. Even better, I got paid $36 – $2 an inch for 18-column inches about one well-oiled basketball team bombing the other. Two weeks later, I repeated the thrills, gobbling white blotter before covering a Harlem Globetrotters game for Syracuse’s Daily Orange.

I reveled in Thompson’s joy at hoodwinking straight-edge America: to pass the turnstiles, sit next to the Joneses, and trip face in the absurdity of our deepest held illusions. The referees always fall for the paper in the water-bucket trick. He he he he. Hey kids, work hard, and you’ll do better than your parents. Ha ha ha ha.

But the masquerade ball grows old. One can only stomach so much bourbon. Thompson’s recent columns on ESPN.com flirted with vigor. I know Ralph Nader hated it this fall when Thompson labeled him a “Judas goat.” More often, though, HST’s football prognostications ventured towards incoherence.

Considering Hunter’s obsession with guns, his Hemingway-esque suicide is no surprise. And considering Thompson’s obsession with his place in history, I wonder if he thought people would look to Papa for answers. I would have preferred to see Thompson meet his end like Huxley, eating mushrooms on his deathbed.

Once, Thompson’s confrontation with the life-or-death question was hilarious. In Fear and Loathing, the good doctor, tripping out in a hotel, begs his Samoan attorney to electrocute him by throwing the radio into the bathtub when Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” peaks. The attorney pelts the bathtub with citrus fruit instead.

I’m sad that Thompson fed his head with lead. It makes Bush’s America that much more difficult to deal with. As I try to soldier on, I know one of my heroes determined the act of writing political commentary was meaningless in the face of a depraved would-be dictator.

KEN KRAYESKE has written for the Harfort Advocate, High Times and Poynter.org. Visit his website: the40yearplan.com. He be reached at: wtcards@earthlink.net

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 23, 2017
Chip Gibbons
Crusader-in-Chief: the Strange Rehabilitation of George W. Bush
Michael J. Sainato
Cybersecurity Firm That Attributed DNC Hacks to Russia May Have Fabricated Russia Hacking in Ukraine
Chuck Collins
Underwater Nation: As the Rich Thrive, the Rest of Us Sink
CJ Hopkins
The United States of Cognitive Dissonance
Howard Lisnoff
BDS, Women’s Rights, Human Rights and the Failings of Security States
Mike Whitney
Will Washington Risk WW3 to Block an Emerging EU-Russia Superstate
John Wight
Martin McGuinness: Man of War who Fought for Peace in Ireland
Linn Washington Jr.
Ryancare Wreckage
Eileen Appelbaum
What We Learned From Just Two Pages of Trump’s Tax Returns
Mark Weisbrot
Ecuador’s Elections: Why National Sovereignty Matters
Thomas Knapp
It’s Time to End America’s Longest War
Chris Zinda
Aggregate Journalism at Salon
David Welsh
Bay Area Rallies Against Trump’s Muslim Ban II
March 22, 2017
Paul Street
Russiagate and the Democratic Party are for Chumps
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer, the Progressive Caucus and the Cuban Revolution
Gavin Lewis
McCarthyite Anti-Semitism Smears and Racism at the Guardian/Observer
Kathy Kelly
Reality and the U.S.-Made Famine in Yemen
Kim C. Domenico
Ending Our Secret Alliance with Victimhood: Toward an Adult Politics
L. Ali Khan
Profiling Islamophobes
Calvin Priest
May Day: Seattle Educators Moving Closer to Strike
David Swanson
Jimmy Breslin on How to Impeach Trump
Dave Lindorff
There Won’t Be Another Jimmy Breslin
Jonathan Latham
The Meaning of Life
Robert Fisk
Martin McGuinness: From “Super-Terrorist” to Super Statesman
Steve Horn
Architect of Federal Fracking Loophole May Head Trump Environmental Council
Binoy Kampmark
Grief, Loss and Losing a Father
Jim Tull
Will the Poor Always Be With Us?
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s “March Massacre” Budget
Joe Emersberger
Rafael Correa and the Future of Ecuador: a Response to James McEnteer
March 21, 2017
Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt
On Being the “Right Kind of Brown”
Kenneth Surin
God, Guns, Gays, Gummint: the Career of Rep. Bad Bob Goodlatte
David Rosen
Popular Insurgencies: Reshaping the Political Landscape
Ryan LaMothe
The Totalitarian Strain in American Democracy
Eric Sommer
The House Intelligence Committee: Evidence Not Required
Mike Hastie
My Lai Massacre, 49 Years Later
James McEnteer
An Era Ends in Ecuador: Forward or Back?
Evan Jones
Beyond the Pale
Stansfield Smith
First Two Months in Power: Hitler vs. Trump
Dulce Morales
A Movement for ‘Sanctuary Campuses’ Takes Shape
Pepe Escobar
Could Great Wall of Iron become New Silk Roadblock?
Olivia Alperstein
Trump Could Start a Nuclear War, Right Now
David Macaray
Norwegians Are the Happiest People on Earth
March 20, 2017
Michael Schwalbe
Tears of Solidarity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit, Nationalism and the Damage Done
Peter Stone Brown
Chuck Berry: the First Poet of Rock and Roll
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail