(In Loving Memory of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson)
January 2006, Vol 22 No 1 p.17
© Norm Hacking 2006
The nights are getting darker. And, there are definitely more bats...
Another difficult stretch of seasonal holiday celebration has prompted
the house to once again fill up with ghosts. There are some rooms I no
Tonight, my small bedroom/study remains the preferred, though imperfect
midnight sanctuary for this aging writer. (At least here the visiting
apparitions appear to be passionately literate, and/or literate in their
This evening, John Keats is the first voice to whisper from high atop
a dusty book shelf:
Beauty is Truth, Truth, Beauty -
That is all ye know in this world,
All ye need to know.
His oft quoted words, from Ode on a Grecian Urn, fail to make this night
any less dark, however. (And, in no way do they properly address the serious
issue of all these bats!)
My eye falls upon an old newspaper classified section folded open at
the corner of my writing desk. It has been lying there for months, with
one circled listing:
Urgently Wanted - New lead
soloist for the Coyote Choir.
Loud voice, and aggressively
incautious spirit considered
essential assets. Benefits include
comprehensive drug plan.
Respond to www. gonzoville.com.
Truth is Beauty whispers Keats, stubbornly.
And, as the daily buying and selling of truth and beauty follows the
sun westward, tonight's newly risen moon once again prepares to play audience
to humanity's eternal chorus of howling lovers, broken hearts, and other
When Dr. Hunter S. Thompson was a featured voice in this Coyote Choir,
his song was a pterodactyl shriek-song, a big-game-in-death-throes song,
a Swim? Hell, the fall's gonna kill us! Butch and Sundance
Journalism requires an edge. Thompson knew that, and like a crazed and
cackling Michael Jackson, dangling a still almost innocent child from
a high balcony, Thompson's pen took me to the edge, time and again.
The view was, most often, frightening, as he showed predatory imperative,
and grotesque personal excess, to be precise metaphors mirroring American
politics and pop culture.
Savage and unapologetic in his vision, the good Doctor long realized
that, The Company was well beyond mere corruption. And, as
a shareholder, Thompson was not about to surrender his proxy, no matter
how much tequila and peyote it took to attend the meetings.
His message was frequently veiled in tsunamic waves of farce, dreamspeak,
and cartoon frontier bravado. But, the good Doctor could also sense where
the soft underbelly of the Mighty Lie was most vulnerable
to the knife. So, his journalistic scalpel cut and twisted, until the
stink of exposed rot filled the Glade freshened air, making the reader
The experience of climbing aboard Thompson's Fear and Loathing
Train felt like sitting out on your front porch, whacked on Jack
Daniels' and magic mushrooms, using your neighbor's plastic lawn ornaments
for target practice, while Frank Zappa was blaring real loud on the stereo
And yet, over the years, I came quickly to believe there was more love
contained in one savage, scathing line of Thompson's over-the-top, drug-crazed,
smoke and mirrors rants, than in a thousand odes and sonnets to life's
beauty, penned by those who felt they could somehow be writers, without
the taste of their own blood in their mouths.
But, now, the sound of the good Doctor's ghost, rummaging through the
contents of my liquor cabinet, rattles the silence. Also audible are several
high-pitched squeaks, and the occasional flutter of leathery wings.
There's not enough tequila for both of us - you'll have to drink
scotch tonight, mutters the apparition with his teeth clenched on
an absurd foot long cigarette holder protruding dangerously from beneath
the floppy brim of a well worn grey Tilley hat.
It's not much of a liquor cabinet, he continues. You
call yourself a writer?
Tonight, I confess to my opaque guest, all my pencils
are dull stubs, and the pens are dry of ink.
Nonsense, son, growls the good Doctor. Just review
the emotional economics you're stuck with, inventory your essential assets,
and then accept the fact that none of them buy peace of mind here on Earth.
If you really are a writer, you'll come to grips with this, and then just
write anyway. If your pencils are dull you'll chew the wood away from
the lead. If your pens are dry, you'll dip them in your own blood!
And as for that Keats fellow, I can tell you, there's an ode written
on every Jack Daniels' bottle I ever consumed. It says, 'Love is Rage,
Rage is Love.' Find the truth and beauty in that, and maybe you'll have
the courage to embrace the clarity of madness - with no quarter asked
or given. The good Doctor pours the last of the good tequila into
To the clarity of madness, I toast, raising my nearly empty
tumbler of Laphroaig.
I awoke alone at dawn's first light, bleary and still over medicated.
On the writing desk was a note that read:
We are united in our solitude, defined only by
the courage of our imaginations.
We were put here to invent new colors and paint
And, yet, with no sane reason to endure the stupidity,
indignity and cruelty of this life, we nevertheless remain
driven to thrust our mortal hands into the very flames of
Hell, on the remote chance we may, but briefly, touch
another human soul.
Go revisit Ralph Steadman, and then write something.
Or not. HST.
Leafing through the pages of Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las
Vegas, I came upon the famous illustration by Ralph Steadman of
a crazed skeleton driving through the Nevada desert, being pursued by
a locust swarm of bats.
Then I wrote:
There is no beginning and no end. Only a string of bleached cattle
skulls scattered along an endless Nevada desert highway. They are proof
positive that life's vultures rarely go hungry. And, it is the car-thieving,
soul murdering hitchhikers that make it all the way to the Great Mirage.
There, in the garish neon light of The Promised Land, the carrion
eaters roll the bones with bloody hands while sipping their complimentary
glasses of sand...
P.S. - In the last three or four decades, we have attended the funerals
of remotely meaningful pop culture, political process, and the sanctity
of the individual heart and mind.
Media attendance was negligible. Dr. Hunter S. Thompson was there...
- Rest In Peace -
See the list of Norm's on-line lyrics, poetry
and prose, including other "Race Track Hack" columns for
Taxi News. Norm's monthly column appeared February 1992
through October 2007, with one published posthumously in February 2008.
Taxi News website is www.taxinews.com
with Norm's current monthly column at www.taxinews.com/racetrackhack.html
(when one appears or is reprinted). Taxi News is a monthly
publication with news and commentary on Toronto's taxi industry and is
available by subscription or free at distribution points.
Added to Norm's website July 18, 2008