Dr. Gonzo takes his last trip: Hunter S. Thompson, dead at age 67
This is the guy who inspired me to get into journalism in the first place. His prose was like condensed napalm blazing from the pages. It was strong stuff. I think I've read almost all his stuff, and I want to get into that which I have missed.
Hunter S. Thompson was recovering from spinal surgery, and the recovery must not have been going well. One could argue that HST had access to any pain meds, legal or illegal, that he wanted, but sometimes pain is absolutely intractable, and worse, it's not taken seriously by a lot of doctors.
If depression had been part of it, I suspect the reelection of George W. Bush might have played a significant role. HST was one of the best chroniclers of Nixon's decline and fall, and it must have galled him that Bush had done things far worse than Nixon and still been reelected. I wish he would have hung on to see how it all played out. Who knows: maybe in 2006 people will be sick and tired enough of the Bush-shit to elect a metric ton of Democrats to the House and Senate, and then it would be time for the mother of all impeachment trials. It would have been great, in that case, if we could hear Dr. Gonzo's take on it all.
In one of my Daria fanfics, I have Daria meeting a certain Dr. Raoul Duke in a Vegas bar and discussing her indecision about her major. I think this sums up why I still write, whether it be in my blog, in Toon Magazine, or in other places.
"Now kid...listen. I know what you are going through. You're not sure whether you want to take the ride and become a journalist. Thing is, being a journalist is like being a shaman. It's thrust upon you by fate. You don't ask to be one. You are and that's it. Most people out there...they don't see the things we do. They can't look at their lives and see just how absurd and fucked up it all is. We can see it. We were born with special eyes and special ears...we see and hear so much and have to write it down on paper.
"You get the call and if you don't answer you are still a journalist whether you study to be one or not. You work a shit job, and you are observing everything around you regardless of what else you are paid to do. Fate's a savage thing. You either take the ride or the ride takes you."
The waitress brought Daria her Coke and limes. Daria took a few chunks and squeezed them into the Coke, stirring the resulting mixture up with her straw.
"I'm not a fatalist, Mr. Duke. I think that we all make choices and we have to live with them. Any other view is superstitious bullshit."
"Trust me. I'm a Doctor of Journalism and I've been doing this crazy shit for almost 40 years. You came out of your mother's womb a journalist and being anything else would betray everything you are. Most native tribes have their shamans. They have to have at least one or the tribe dies. In Western Civilization we have to have journalists or we'd all drown in bullshit. You have to declare a major, otherwise you lose your full scholarship and what you're left with is a king-hell monster student loan you have to repay. That's what you're up against."
"True. But what worth is a degree in journalism, Mr. Duke?...."
"And you think there is a surplus of journalists? Hell, there's a surplus of pretty talking heads. There's a surplus of hacks who grind out copy for tabloids. There's a surplus of people writing fluff pieces for their corporate masters. Journalists, Daria? We're an endangered species. Do you want the assholes to win? Do you want big corporations and power-mad politicians to succeed in fleecing the body politic? If you do, then major in Business or Psychology or whatever the fuck you were thinking about."
"I can't save the world as a journalist, though! That's unrealistic."
"But you can make people aware enough to where they can maybe save themselves."
It's not a real conversation, I never got to meet the man, but it's a measure of how much he has inspired me that I was able to write that prose. Yeah, I changed my major when I went back to College. I wound up following my head rather than my heart. But I still write and I suppose that's partially because of his influence.
I'm sure the reasons for his killing himself will make themselves clear. I don't think a guy like him wouldn't leave this world without one last poison pen letter, targeted at everything he had contempt for. Then again maybe it was just the act of a guy in horrific pain who was failed by his pain meds. Whatever the case...I hope you're free, Dr. Gonzo. I hope you are somewhere that's a measure of home. Peace, dude.
The Great Thompson Hunt
HST obit, MTV.Com
HST obit, San Francisco Chronicle
John C. Dvorak blog: HST, RIP
Paul Krassner looks back at gonzo days with HST
The last ESPN column: Shotgun Golf with Bill Murray
Fear and Loathing On The Campaign Trail 2004: the last Rolling Stone article.