O, woe unto us! Hunter S. Thompson has died! He has shot himself in the head while talking on the telephone with his wife. His children were in the home at the time. And now he is dead. There is not much more to say. This man is dead.
Who was he? He was the man who authored Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas among many, many other things. He was the counterculture icon who took quarts of booze, two bags of pot, a ton of acid and a million pills to that sinful city. He was there with his attorney, Dr. Gonzo, a Samoan, to cover a motorcycle race. They did all the drugs. It was a challenge and it was a new thing that Thompson called Gonzo journalism. I have never read this man’s famous work, but as a writer, I feel him in my soul. This man was an adventure in human life AND human chemistry, an experiment, a searching force unleashed out into the world. His rules only, thank you very much. He decided to die. It was time to die. It was on his own terms.
So that explains this column. I am drunk now on Wild Turkey bourbon whiskey, registered trademark, sitting in my room and doing this. Why? Because in 1974 Hunter S. Thompson came to Duke University. He was going to give a lecture about Mark Twain. When the Duke student emissary met Thompson at the airport, the student gave our man some hashish. He gave Thompson some Wild Turkey, too. Forty-five minutes late to his lecture here on our college campus, Hunter S. Thompson walked on stage and proudly proclaimed: “I am very happy to be here at the alma matter of Richard Nixon.” I must say something else now. Thompson covered the 1972 presidential campaign. He liked George McGovern, Nixon’s opponent, and thought he was the only honest politician ever. Thompson thought Nixon was scum. His opinion on Nixon’s funeral was to only go to make sure the SOB was really dead.
Anyway, Thompson was drunk on the stage. He accepted a question from the audience: Would Terry Sanford (president of Duke at the time) run for U.S. president in ’76? Thompson’s answer, in his own words: “I said he had been a party to the Stop McGovern movement and that he was a worthless pigf---er.” Thompson was removed from the stage by a small blond girl. Before leaving, however, he tossed his glass of Wild Turkey in the air against a curtain on stage so everyone would remember he’d been there for years in the future.
Think that’s where the connection stops? You’re wrong, bud. In Fear and Loathing, his pseudonym is Raoul Duke. This tells me only one thing: HUNTER S. THOMPSON DESERVES A MEMORIAL AT DUKE! And I am giving it to him. I feel I must. He showed that you could break convention, experiment with yourself and still entertain, challenge and downright frighten everyday people with a piece of paper and some ink.
Imagine the power and energy of that time. Imagine the drugs. This was all new! Thompson was living out front, in the open, out of control. He proved you could do it. And I think I am helping him to live on. This is Gonzo journalism. I challenged myself to write this very drunk. I took a risk. I am reaping the journalistic rewards. I also just ordered a pizza. Because who said you can’t use “I” when you write? Who said you couldn’t use abbreviations? That’s all BS, man. Writing is all about communication. Hunter helped to change the rules for us. And for that, having read none of his works (although I plan to), makes me love him.
At this point I stopped writing, left my room, ate some Fritos and went to bother my friends. I was too drunk to keep writing. The pizza did come and I ate some of it, although honestly I was surprised to find it in my fridge this morning. So yeah, it’s morning. About half of my Wild Turkey is gone and so is Hunter. Farewell, my man. And while they probably took that curtain down long ago, I still remember you.
Aaron Kirschenfeld is a Trinity sophomore. His column usually appears every third Monday.
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