Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Random Notes on a Long Season

I was thinking about Dr. Hunter S. Thompson--what he might have thought about this election and last night; what he might have written. For no very good reason, I kept coming back to these few paragraphs, which are, I suppose, apropos of almost nothing. Perhaps the doctor was simply a drug-addled Ezekiel, meant for his time and not for this one.

Thompson writes:

Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era — the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run . . . but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant. . . .

History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of “history” it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time — and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.

My central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe forty nights — or very early mornings — when I left the Fillmore half-crazy and, instead of going home, aimed the big 650 Lightning across the Bay Bridge at a hundred miles an hour wearing L. L. Bean shorts and a Butte sheepherder's jacket . . . booming through the Treasure Island tunnel at the lights of Oakland and Berkeley and Richmond, not quite sure which turn-off to take when I got to the other end (always stalling at the toll-gate, too twisted to find neutral while I fumbled for change) . . . but being absolutely certain that no matter which way I went I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was: No doubt at all about that. . . .

There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda. . . . You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. . . .

And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting — on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

-Hunter S. Thompson, from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream (1972).


Blogger Cindy Hunter Morgan said...

This is it, isn't it? These are the right paragraphs. There is a surreal sort of clarity about this week, and the angle of the sun and the leaves that float down endlessly are all part of the energy and the victory and the beauty.

9:06 AM  
Blogger Radish King said...

My son (who has a tattoo of Raul Duke [of course a Ralph Steadman illustration] on his bicep) and I, were talking about this exact thing last night. If the good doctor had held out just a bit longer. But I understand why he did what he did, not at all a random act. Too bad. I would have loved to read what he had to say about the election Tuesday. Maybe it would have persuaded him to stick around a bit.


4:01 PM  
Blogger Justin Evans said...

Not so strange that I was thinking of HST on election night. I suppose many of us were. I almost icluded a strange little portion of my blog post that night to him, but I decided to go with the video selections instead.

When I was young, HST was my non-fiction God. Much of what I wrote was stylized after Gonzo writing, and I loved working in the form. It still flavors my occasional rants which I post from time to time.

I miss him.

5:13 PM  
Blogger Diane K. Martin said...

Yes, but not to poke holes but -- unless it was different back then, you don't pay toll on the Bay Bridge going East (to Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond).

Just sayin'

Hmm, I was just going to add that maybe Hunter was in an altered state -- and my word verification is:


6:26 PM  
Blogger greg rappleye said...


Sounds like someone owes Hunter a refund.

6:05 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

Hmm, I'm trying to remember when it was that the Bay Bridge changed. I think it was in the early 60's (late 50's?) that the traffic switched to its current format (one way on each deck). I can remember taking the electric train across the bridge when I was little. I can definitely remember paying toll both ways but can't remember when it changed. I do remember coming home to Oakland from a Giants game with a group of rowdy little boys, and one of them shot a rubber band and hit the driver stopped at the toll both next to ours and we got in trouble.

6:36 PM  

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