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In which we laugh and laugh and laugh. And love. And drink.

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Location: Portland, Oregon

Otium cum Dignitatae

Sunday, February 20, 2005

stoned on the convention floor

Well, it finally happened, but not in the way I figured that it would. Hunter Stockton Thompson is dead. At age 30, he realized (literally; it's recorded in his letters) that either he would become a writer or starve. He was never going to be good at anything else, and even though he had already married someone and started making babies, he was a fucking loser. Mind you, that's most people.
They say that he shot himself. It's certainly possible; his lifelong love was firearms, and he loved to get so totally backwards on drugs and booze, that I am vaguely surprised that the most serious charge ever brought against him in his lifetime was grabbing an interviewer's boob. He was always a valuable voice against The Bullshit Engine, but he marginalized himself through his increasingly shitty writing, making himself sound like an idiot. When portrayed in movies (by Bill Murray and Johnny Depp), it was easy at first to think that the actors in question were overacting. Then you'd see actual interviews with Thompson, and realize that they'd gone easy. He was a living charicature, and was as fond, in his last years, of being The Doctor as he was of writing.
The 1972 presidential race was thick with good books being written about it. Timothy Crouse's "The Boys on the Bus", Norman Mailer's "Saint George and the Godfather", and better than any of them, Thompson's "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail" showed the whole sick mess for what it was. Perhaps more ominous than anything was the picture at the end (by a young David Kennerly, who would go on to be the offical photographer of the Ford administration, and would later be the loving documentor of many government figures, largely Republican), showing John and Martha Mitchell, going in to testify at the hearings that would eventually become Watergate. The caption is a quote from the book, as Martha, insane as always, screams at you: "This country is going so far to the right, you won't even recognize it."
And it did. With the exception of a few largely forgettable years in the '70's, we were already well on the way to the hideous simulacra of an empire that we are now. Arguably, a Democrat started it: Lyndon Johnson. He believed the lies that were told to him by a largely scattered and devious intelligence apparatus, and overruled the Senate War Powers Act, in the Gulf of Tonkin resolution (the only two senators to argue against it were Ernest Gruening, of Alaska, and Wayne Morse of Oregon, who filibustered for at least twenty-four hours). Ever since then, our president has basically been a king, and when they go to congress to ask for the right to go to war, they do so largely as a formality, a way of being nice. "Hey hey LBJ, how many Iraqis y' kill today?"
When I met David Kennerly, years later, he said that he had no idea that his picture provided the coda for a book that he almost certainly wouldn't have approved of. He loved Nixon. I suppose that there's room here for some comment as to what happens to you when you work for some photo archive outlet; that is, you sell your content. But I digress.
Yeah, everything they used to just joke about back in the days of The Revolution have since come sickenly true. We're well on the way to embarrassing ourselves somewhere to the tune of the Fall of the Empire. And Hunter won't be here to see it. It's his fault. Mind you, it's not impossible that some bunch of black ops idiots from the Gubment did him in. He had, as I say, seen to it that no one had taken him seriously since "The Curse of Lono", ca.1982. But I have also noticed that the present administration isn't especially shy about offing people who disagree with them (Paul Wellstone? Anyone?). Thompson wasn't going to be leading any revolts against the present Nazi regime running the show, but he did write a really incoherent book making fun of it, and a bunch of really un-funny articles in Rolling Stone, too. Sigh.
I was drinking with a lady this evening who was trying to outline the difference between Alzheimer's disease and yer basic garden variety dementia. It would seem that Alzheimer's is a bit more gradual, but the point was how she described her grandmother's reaction to (whichever one of the two she had): how she hopped from reality to reality. It's not-'oh, this is real, and this is clearly a hallucination'. It is all happening to you, and therefore is happening. During the very brief blurb on the local Fox news affiliate here tonight, they pointed out that the Doctor's writing was "hallucinatory". But the world was suffering a case of creeping surrealism, and it continues to metastasize. It is also worth noting that he described his writings as 'fictional accounts of actual events'. How else can you do it? We're all just basically describing our hallucinations; what happens in that thirtieth of a second between what actually occurs and how your sensory apparatus chooses to interpret it.
I wouldn't be entirely surprised if he viewed the last four years as I do: that the pinnacle of Western civilization had finally fucked up so badly that it was all over for the species. Looked around, easily found a gun, and just did it. Or, as always, the incredibly inept intelligence apparatus hereabouts overreacted, and killed an old drunk man nobody paid any attention to, up on Woody Creek in Colorado.



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