First posted on Mark Is Cranky:
- We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.
During the late 1970′s, my hormone-addled adolescent brain held a few things dear: my girlfriend, my Ted Nugent, Black Sabbath and Kiss records and my copy of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
The funny and/or ironic thing about the Fear and Loathing book is that I had absolutely no experience with the drug thing beyond the pot smoke infusion my clothes would get while attending rock concerts. That didn’t seem to matter. I was attracted to Thompson’s high-inertia style of storytelling. Way beyond what a ‘normal’ person would consider out-of-control, our Gonzo journalist had the ability to get right to the essence of a situation while simultaneously blowing it to smithereens.
Fear and Loathing mixed in nicely with the other stuff in my rock stewpot: Rolling Stone and Creem. Looking back, I can see how all of that material pushed me toward writing. There was just so much kinetic energy and passion in what Thompson and Lester Bangs did. I was in awe.
Did it matter that much of the subject matter was twisted through a drug prism? Pterodactyls, blood and a Samoan attorney (from Fear and Loathing), Ed Muskie’s “whistlestop” nightmare train during 1972 presidential campaign (Fear and Loathing: On The Campaign Trail), the outlaw misfits (Hell’s Angels)…all of these tales crystallized into a funny and frightening view of America’s underbelly (or at least the underbelly dragged through Thompson’s quivering brain cells.)
Somewhere between those years when this stuff gripped my entire existence, I got lost. College happened (Engineering? What the hell was I thinking? Computers science paid off, but never shook me to the core the way some of those pages did.) Marriage did shake me…for good and for bad.
And then I stumbled across Kerouac’s On The Road (this was more like: “On The Road smacked me upside the head”) and those dreamy thoughts of being a writer, long gone dormant and covered up under a layer of life dust, made themselves known again. I was compelled to drag out my old copy of Fear and Loathing (with the paper all crinkly because of a ‘beer accident’ on a camping trip)….and then some Lester Bangs…and then more Hunter (The Great Shark Hunt.) The ‘life dust’ was blown away, allowing me to write stuff that had been stored up for decades.
I can’t say that I owe it all to Hunter S. Thompson, but he was definitely one huge influence on how I view things. That, and he was one cranky bastard.