Saturday, August 8, 2009

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson

I was living in Marin County reading the Hunter S. Thompson column in the San Francisco Examiner in 1986. I'd walked arm in arm through the streets of San Francisco in the love or peace demonstration of 1970 San Francisco. I'd go on to read Hunter's book on the Hell's Angels and later Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas. He gave new meaning to the word lateral thinking. Bill Murray did him justice in 'Where the Buffalo Roam'.

In AA they say about booze and drugs, that at first its' fun, then it's fun and trouble, then it's just trouble. Not ironically, they can lead to a meteoric rise in success that plateaus and fizzles. You can see a lot of evidence of this in tenured university positions and government jobs. In AA they say alcohol will eventually lead to jails, institutions or death. The trick is to get off the garbage truck before it gets to the dump. Hunter S. Thompson killed himself with his own gun. It's sad he didn't turn the handle on the door in the other direction. I would have liked to read him sober. His insights would have been as profound in old age as they were when he was a young man.

Gonzo, the movie by Alex Gibney is really good. A friend whose a professor of English and lived next door to Hunter, cursing the racket of his peacock's in the morning, told me what it was like having Hunter as a neighbour. The movie catches that soft person as well as the hard legend. Seeing McGovern, and hearing Hunter's son Juan and watching the old clips of Nixon and Barger, with this incredible sound track, I couldn't help but think, like Thompson that we're living on grace. We're the generation who wanted to kill everyone over 30. And here we are today. "When the going gets weird, the weird turns pro." Hunter S. Thompson certainly was a pro. The trouble with drugs and alcohol though is that they while they put you on the plane they don't provide a pilot and eventually they take away the sky.

But who am I to moralize. There but for the grace of God, go I. Thanks for the Gonzo, Hunter. If you don't find the American Dream in Hell, check out Purgatory, if they ever let you out of Heaven.

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