World's Strongest Humor Writer
Realm: Indianapolis, IN
Nagging Concerns and Self-Doubt in Indiana
Laughing Stalk syndicate
It was a sad day for me this past Monday, when I read that Hunter S. Thompson, famed psychotic and drug-addled journalist, took his own life at his Colorado ranch. I've been a fan of the good doctor's for years, and have often imitated his style of gonzo journalism, the art form he perfected over the last 39 years.
Gonzo journalism is a style of writing that blurs the line between writer as a silent observer and story subject, between fact and fiction. It's also known as the Fox News Channel, but I digress.
Thompson's reputation as a writer was outweighed only by his reputation as a hard-core drinker and drug user. Some say his creative genius shone through in spite of, or perhaps, because of his week-long binges and day-long recoveries.
And I like to think that Thompson and I had a lot in common. . . except for the heavy drinking. Or the drugs. Or the penchant for guns. Or peacocks. Okay, we had nothing in common, except that we're both writers and we both wear glasses. And I'm starting to question the glasses part.
So it was a fitting tribute that I found myself in Louisville, Kentucky, his hometown, on the week of his death. And with my column deadline looming, I thought I would make this week's column a salute to Thompson, and his alter ego, Raoul Duke (who was the inspiration for Uncle Duke of "Doonesbury" fame).
But I wanted to re-immerse myself in his works, and reacquaint myself with gonzo journalism, so I could relate the experience to you, the Hunter S. Thompson novice.
The problem was that I left all my Thompson books at home. I needed one to write this column.
So I decided to go on a Hunter hunt at the local bookstores. But I couldn't go to one of the big book warehouses, because he would have probably hated those kinds of bookstores. He obsessively hated all things Establishment, so I shuddered to think what he would have thought if I bought one of his books at a giant book mall. Of course, I never met the guy, so what did it matter?
But still, it was important to the story that I remain true to Hunter's spirit and search for the book with true Hunter S. Thompson panache. So I grabbed my map of Louisville, tore the bookstore pages out of the hotel's phone book, threw the TV out the window, and ran out of my room.
I jumped into my rental car, slammed it into gear, and roared down the highway to find my book. It was 8:00 and my deadline was just two hours away.
I stopped at the first bookstore on the list. I wandered in slowly and looked around. The sign, "New Life Covenant Books" didn't tell me a whole lot about the place, although on further reflection, it should have. There were hundreds of Bibles, religious calendars, and "What Would Jesus Read?" t-shirts out front, so I figured they were having a sale.
I stopped a middle-aged woman walking by. Her nametag said "Bless you, my name is Caroline."
"Excuse me, do you have any Hunter S. Thompson books?" I asked her.
"Hunter S. Thompson?!" she shrieked at the top of her lungs. "The man was an alcoholic, a drug addict, and a sex fiend!!" Caroline's eyes bugged out as she flung holy water on me and began speaking in tongues. I blasted her with a fire extinguisher and raced out. Cries of "Heathen! Heathen" followed me to the car.
That's two minutes of my time wasted, two minutes closer to my deadline. The holy water turned out to be lukewarm coffee and it stained my favorite shirt.
I roared down Bardstown Street, weaving in and out of traffic to the next bookstore on my list. My attorney cackled in the seat next to me.
"As your attorney, I advise you to put club soda on that coffee stain," he suggested. Then I remembered I was actually traveling alone. My attorney vanished. Weird.
The rest of the evening was a 90 mile an hour blur, as I wrenched my rental car from bookstore to bookstore. "Inner Energy Spiritual Life and Bookstore" was no help, and neither was the "Book 'Em, Dano," mystery bookstore. The "Wish You Were Here" travel bookstore was a bust too.
Finally, I came to the last store on my list. It was nearly 10 o'clock, and time was running out. I flung open the door, ran inside, and hollered at the guy behind the counter: "Hurry, I need a Hunter S. Thompson book! I've got a deadline!"
He tossed me a copy of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." It was the movie printing ? the one with a deformed Johnny-Depp-as-Raoul-Duke on the front. I couldn't complain though. They'd had a run on all the Thompson books, and this was the last one.
So I threw some money on the counter, and raced out the door, stopping only to throw a TV out the window. I made it back to the hotel and sat down at the computer. I had the book. I could write the column, and finished it with just a few seconds to spare.
I never did get to reacquaint myself with gonzo journalism though.
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