How do you write a report on a book by Hunter S. Thompson without sounding like a total asshole? I’m glad he’s not alive to google his name and find this blog entry (not that he would, but one of his minions might). I picture him in his prime, driving to my house, tumbler of whiskey in one hand, skull-head pipe in the other, just a finger or two on the wheel, making it from Aspen outskirts to unincorporated Calistoga in a bleary 15 hours so he could shoot out my lights personally with a lovingly polished 45 magnum.
Just reading (in a club chair by the fire) about Hunter’s life and the Hell’s Angels nauseates and fascinates, repels and attracts. What guts, how glorious to live like there’s no tomorrow, to never give in to sleepiness or boredom, to springboard from uppers to alcohol to hallucinogens with incredible stamina and surprising physical well-being, able to produce such hilarity and wisdom, edifying and entertaining to so many.
From a sober standpoint, the drugs, constant bonkers activity and late night phone calls to famous people who always answer just seems like another–albeit much more glamorous–treadmill. A lot of us have tried the “like there’s no tomorrow” approach to life, but somehow tomorrow does keep coming and eventually we have to get out of bed and pay the rent. For me it’s not even that fun to vicariously–with no hangovers or legal tangles–live through it. I still feel like a motorcycle hoodlum stomped on my stomach after a few chapters.
Part of my issue is that I’m reading this as the huge #metoo movement has crested and from my vantage point today the misogyny in the rock and roll/gonzo journalism lifestyle is pretty tough to take. Thompson describes an alleged gang rape at the beginning of the book and by the end of the whole thing seems to exonerate the Angels, who were shit-faced drunk after all, and blame the teen girls for being on the beach with a bunch of motorcycle dudes in the first place.
What still intrigues me and what I admire about Hunter Thompson is his ability to participate in everything he reports on–it’s always mentioned by people who write about Thompson that he had a way of putting himself in the center of the action–yet always bring incredible research, uncanny perspective and deep understanding to his subjects.