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:
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Victor Grossman
Horror News, This Time From Munich
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
Bruce Lerro
Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business: Liberals and the Social Contract Theory of Violence
Mark Dunbar
The Politics of Jeremy Corbyn
Binoy Kampmark
Laura Ingraham and Trumpism
Uri Avnery
The Great Rift
Nicholas Buccola
What’s the Matter with What Ted Said?
Aidan O'Brien
Thank Allah for Western Democracy, Despondency and Defeat
Joseph Natoli
The Politics of Crazy and Stupid
Sher Ali Khan
Empirocracy
Nauman Sadiq
A House Divided: Turkey’s Failed Coup Plot
Franklin Lamb
A Roadmap for Lebanon to Grant Civil Rights for Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon
Colin Todhunter
Power and the Bomb: Conducting International Relations with the Threat of Mass Murder
Michael Barker
UK Labour’s Rightwing Select Corporate Lobbyist to Oppose Jeremy Corbyn
Graham Peebles
Brexit, Trump and Lots of Anger
Anhvinh Doanvo
Civilian Deaths, Iraq, Syria, ISIS and Drones
Christopher Brauchli
Kansas and the Phantom Voters
Peter Lee
Gavin Long’s Manifesto and the Politics of “Terrorism”
Missy Comley Beattie
An Alarmingly Ignorant Fuck
Robert Koehler
Volatile America
Adam Vogal
Why Black Lives Matter To Me
Raouf Halaby
It Is Not Plagiarism, Y’all
Rev. Jeff Hood
Deliver Us From Babel
Frances Madeson
Juvenile Life Without Parole, Captured in ‘Natural Life’
Charles R. Larson
Review: Han Kang’s “The Vegetarian”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail