Monday, February 21, 2005

Savage Journeys

I started the day by glancing through a few feeds in Bloglines and there I learned about Hunter S. Thompson's suicide, which so many others have taken up in entries today.  These two pages sat open in separate Firefox tabs all day, tucked behind other more active tabs, although today has been, by and large, rather quiet in terms of blogging, blog-reading.  I'm writing an essay for a class tomorrow morning, and it has been a drudge working through saying saying saying stuff that reads as careful, polished and seamless.  And I walked (a rather deep-snow high-knee march across the park) to campus for a 670 (teacher-practicum) meeting.  But that essay has tied me up.

I haven't even read the articles about Hunter S., and I haven't been moved to dig into the entries posted by others.  It's an effect of other presiding forces that such an event hasn't really drawn more than a few minutes of my attention.  Family in town.  And that essay.

I didn't know what I'd blog tonight, or even if I'd have time.  Still need to scrape smooth the many rough edges of the essay, an essay yet in need of expanding by another paragraph or two (especially brilliant ones, the sort that rescue us from textual disasters, if possible).  I just printed a copy in the office, and when I went to grab it from the printer, instead I took Fear and Loathing from the shelf, flipped through it quickly to see whether I'd left any notes or paper scraps in there when I last read it, maybe three years ago.  Just one page is dog-eared; a folded sticky note book-marks another page.  Hmm.  And I returned to crank out this entry (over the noise of Ph. and T. playing silly chess, UConn vs. Notre Dame on the tube, and a match of bickering wits between J. and three-year-old T.) without even thinking to grab the draft of that disappointing essay from the printer.  It's still there, ink drying.

So it's enough, for today, to post the two paragraphs I think I must have been flagging with the bent page a few years ago.  They're sufficiently panegyric, insufficiently funereal:

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 run...but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch the 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 find flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time--and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened. (67)

Bookmark and Share Posted by at February 21, 2005 8:16 PM to Slouching Toward

The sixties in San Francisco reference caught my memory's eye. We came out here, newly married, in Sept. 1965, and would drive around the city, just gawking. Only had enough money for gas then, anyway. I had just started teaching full-time.

But the Hunter Thompson moment came in July, 1967--the Summer of Love--in the Haight-Ashbury. We'd been hearing "something's happening in the Haight" so this one sunny Sunday, we drove up, parked the Volvo, took the English pram out of the trunk and plunked 7-month-old T in it and paraded from one end of Haight to the other, checking out all the long-haired, spaced out, hippie-ish young people. We, of course, were the odd ducks, looking suburbanish. I remember a couple of the street kids coming over to look in the pram and exclaiming, "It's a bayyyybeeee!"

My hunch is that what Thompson wrote in the quoted passage referred to hundreds of those kind of quirky moments that emerged out of the culture clash that had not yet been documented and explained and stereotyped.

Posted by: John at February 23, 2005 7:28 PM

To be honest, I haven't read much of HST beyond _Fear and Loathing_ and a few shorter essays. But I think he was successful at locating quirks and wrapping them around broader events as a way both to comment on cultural oddities (as well as the larger, central thing) and also to keep us hungrily guessing. My experience with reading his stuff was like that, anyway.

Posted by: Derek at February 26, 2005 5:19 PM