February 22, 2005

A Floppy and Useless Scion of Gonzo


Jon Neal called me sometime between Saturday afternoon and Monday morning to leave a glum message that Hunter S. Thompson had fatally shot himself. Bryn had already emailed me about it, along with Brian, thanks to a tip from Adam Hill via new Colorado resident Tim Rathmann, but I didn't have the heart to call Jon back and talk about it. Jon has been in the middle of several political campaigns by now, and I thought that meditating on the genius of Thompson's documentation of the 1972 presidential campaign might hit a little close to home. Either that or dredge up long-dead tales of various late-'90s maniacal substance-fuelled episodes in the nubile cesspool of Isla Vista, which I won't do here. The pissing rain that drenched southern California this weekend put me in an equally pissy mood that only this coming Saturday's gig might cure.

Anyway, nor will I subject everyone to my history of Thompson-appreciation. The people who'd care about that already know anyway, and since I'm not as big a fan or as eloquent a writer as so many others offering up obligatorially astute reminisces about the Doctor I won't bother about that. It did make me think about people I know who are off pushing life to their own particular limits, however, while I sit floppy and useless creating things for my own amusement.

Sean Blaschke came to mind immediately, of course, living in crazed, self-imposed exile on the coast of west Africa. Sean has been emailing the rest of us about his epic conquest of the Gambia for four years now, elaborating in lucid detail things that most of us are too lazy and Westernized to ever voluntarily participate in. The overworked guardian angel that Owen swears will eventually give up on Sean must be a harried and tortured creature indeed, and perhaps one day Sean will see fit to bless the rest of us with his prescence again- not to mention with his unique ability to evade capture and punishment for his many, many transgressions against all things animal, mineral, and vegetable.

That may be yet some time coming, though; not content with the fame that goes with having a Honey White song named for him, Sean is in the early stages of a cross-continental drive across Africa, after two years working for the Peace Corps in the bush and one year working in the capital. Now he and Tuuli and some friends are barreling across the Sahara in a fragile Stingray. Sean's mass emails from the bush over the past few years have been vividly gonzo, so we are expecting great screeds from him as he braves Nigeria, Congo, Angola, and at least a dozen other countries; the planned itinerary involves a nearly complete circle around the continent. The team began their journey in the Gambia, and they hope to sustain the trip all the way down to Cape Town, then all the way up the continent's east side, through Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, and the Sudan, and ultimately stopping in Cairo. If they can do it, they'll be heroes several times over.

In a similar vein, Thompson’s willingness to grab life by the balls also reminded me that I've been severely remiss in my harassment of 2nd Lt Nick Clemente, who used to lead our mildly hell-raising antics in high school ten years ago and now leads a group of soldiers somewhere in Iraq. Nick shipped out with his unit in January, and was nice enough to be polite with me when I 1) bitched and moaned about the election on my birthday and 2) called him at J.C.'s just before New Year's to belatedly wish him well before he left the continent and try to not sound like an absolute tit doing so.

I don't know Nick's wife and son- I haven't met them and indeed haven't been in contact with him since he jumped from Sacramento to Tucson and then North Carolina and Kansas, but I hope they get to talk to each other as often as they possibly can. So, I of course had to spit Nick an email about the latest haps in Venturaland, and spared him the relatively meaningless saga of poor Allison Royer Versus The Reunion Companies. He'd laugh and Ali wouldn't care anyway.

In a way I'm glad he's in charge of something over there (i.e., big fuck-off tanks). If any chickenshit College Republicans actually do enlist (we're waiting, kiddies), he would whip them into shape fast. Keep your head down, Nick.

Oh, hell. Might as well write something about the topic, I guess. My first real date with Emily, almost 7 years ago, was to go see the film of "Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas", the book of which I was a nut for since the age of 16 (and yes, I soon graduated to the superior '72 Campaign version). To her vast and unflappable credit, Em took "Vegas" and plunged right into it, finishing it just in time for the film and liking both. Until her recent unexplainable tolerance for U2, she had not so appreciated any of my more obsessive fanboy leanings about anything, so when we walked back to the parking lot after seeing Johnny Depp do his Hunter impression, her laughing at my lame attempts to approxiomate the lurchings and ravings of gonzo convinced me that Em was a keeper.

Okay, that's it. The rain is still coming and it's time to write some good choruses. Mahalo/Selah.

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