Saturday, September 17, 2005

Fear, loathing, and an incredible need to pee

When gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson killed himself earlier this year, it probably didn't come as much of a shock to friends or fans. Considering the lifelong love of booze, drugs and firearms, it may be more shocking that he made it to the age of 67.

While Thompson's writing had pretty much existed as a pale imitation of itself for the past 30 years, that doesn't take away from what the man accomplished over an incredibly fruitful period of creativity in the late sixties and early seventies. When I first read Thompson when I was a teenager, probably like many teenagers, I was initially taken by the craziness, weirdness and the overall drug-induced madness of it all. Had the good doctor really zoomed across the Nevada desert with a suitcase full of illegal pharmaceuticals alongside his Samoan attorney? Did he really lock himself up in first-class hotel suites with a study supply of grapefruits and Wild Turkey, haphazardly faxing sheets of notebook paper to Rolling Stone in an effort to come close to meeting his deadlines?

If all that Thompson had to offer readers was a prodigious appetite for drugs and bad behavior, there likely wouldn't be too many people around today who would continue to read his books or care about his life. The best of his writing, Hell's Angels, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, and many of the magazine pieces collected in the Great Shark Hunt, holds up today because Thompson was a man filled with righteous indignation who worked at sharpening his prose like a razor. While he undoubtedly had a large appetite for drugs and whiskey, the Hunter Thompson who appeared in his books was largely a creation of Hunter Thompson the writer.

For the better part of a decade, Thompson consistently hit his target, usually with President Nixon squarely in the bulls-eye. It's probably not a coincidence that his writing started to falter at about the same time that Nixon left office in disgrace. Sure, the drugs had an effect, as did the success of Hunter Thompson the character at the expense of Hunter Thompson the writer.

Sometime around 1988, I went to see Hunter Thompson at the Somerville Theater with Randy and a friend of his from college. I don't remember anything Thompson said that night, which may just be because he was mumbling incoherently and drinking from a pitcher of (presumably) Wild Turkey that was in front of him on the stage. I also remember that he was also 45 minutes late for his appearance, although I wouldn't be surprised if it was stipulated in his contract that he would have to make a late entrance. Most of his appearance consisted of taking questions from hippie-wannabes in the audience. Stupid hippies.

The most memorable part of the evening for me, and this is not necessarily memorable in a good way, is that on the red line to the Somerville Theater, I had the single worst urge I have ever had to urinate. About six stops from the theater, my face was red, legs crossed, and I was bouncing up and down madly. About four stops from the theater, I mentioned to Randy and his friend that I really had to go and that there was no way in hell I was going to make it to our stop. Randy's friend pretty much told me to hold it, cause he wasn't going to be late for the show. Randy's friend was pretty much a four-foot-two little weenie who thought he was a ladies' man and never failed to treat me condescendingly. One stop before the Somerville Theater, I couldn't take it anymore. I told Randy and his little shit of a friend that I was getting off the train and would meet them at the theater. And that was the first, and so far, only time I urinated in the dark of a construction zone of and MBTA station - just like a homeless person!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, I was there man. I don't very much remember you having to pee; but I do remember not understanding hardly anything Hunter had to say. And someone in the audience kept trying to offer him 'a really cool hat'. Finally, there was an unlocked vehicle that we turned the headlights on and locked. When we came back there was someone sitting in that dark vehicle with a dead battery. We were idiots...but it was sure funny at the time. God I sure hope karma is just a hippie word that don't mean nothin'


11:17 AM  

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