When I was in tenth grade, a friend of mine approached me sometime after February with a novel entitled Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas. The kid told me that the author of the book had very recently offed himself, and he suggested I read the book since he felt it was right up my alley. Having been a sixteen-year-old with better things to do than “read,” I ignored his sound advice and continued pursuing girls who would never want a thing to do with a skinny kid and his pathetic peach-fuzz goatee.
It was two years after that, in the middle of Journalism class during my senior year, that the name Hunter S. Thompson had been brought up once more. This time it was because the class was being taught about Gonzo Journalism. I instantly fell in love with the idea of super-subjective journalism, and wrote a shitty little Gonzo article that did nothing but prove that my mind was still feeble and I clearly did not grasp the concept of Gonzo at all.
Finally, four months after graduating high school, I went on a trip with two friends to a pal’s house in the mountains, and one night while stoned and plastered beyond oblivion we decided to watch a twisted film called Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas. My viewing of the film could not have been more harrowing unless I were on acid. However, the wild contents of the flick intrigued me. Several months down the line I decided to look into this Hunter S. Thompson guy. Had I tried reading Fear & Loathing in tenth grade or attempted to properly learn about Gonzo Journalism during my senior year, I know I would not have been able to truly appreciate Gonzo and Dr. Thompson.
Soon I bought Fear & Loathing, the novel, and read it in under a week, a record time for my typical slow-reading self. I wanted more. So I bought The Rum Diary (three years before the shitty film adaptation hit theatres) and finished that in under a month. I researched the genius behind the two fantastic books, and pretty soon I found that I could not put down Gonzo: the Oral Biography. While reading the insane in-depth bio, I found a plethora of random little things I had in common with HST. We were both pranksters at heart, we both shared a wicked sense of humor. I had been told more than once that I resembled the Good Doctor. Even tiny meaningless details, like the fact that we had both been arrested our senior years of high school, fascinated me to no end and forced me into an inevitable unhealthy obsession. This was the most interesting man in the world. I had spent years searching for a role model — somebody to mold my life after, or at least look up to not because he was “cool,” but because we led similar lives… somebody who not only made me feel like it was okay to be a little crazy, but encouraged such unorthodox behavior. Finally I had found that man in the poetic words written and the reckless stunts pulled and the infinite alcohol imbibed by Dr. Hunter Stockton Thompson. The man had been my hero before I even knew of his existence.
It’s been nearly five years since I first realized my adoration of Hunter S. Thompson, and now I think of myself as much more than a mere fan of his life and work. I am a dedicated follower; a depraved devotee. And as much as I wish the crazy bastard were still alive today, I know that his death was impeccably timed. If he could see the world we live in now — the scumbag politicians who run this country and the pig fucker media who warp the words of every man woman and child from California to New Jersey and all around the deteriorating globe — Hunter would very likely just repeat the act he executed on 20 February 2005. He left while he was on top — he accomplished everything he needed to accomplish and said everything that needed to be said. There was, realistically, nothing more he could do to change the fate of this once-great country. The American Dream, as he had so often told us, was long dead.
Today the man who has inspired millions, the fella who spoke for an entire generation, the Master of Gonzo himself would be seventy-five years old. Let us remember everything he’s done, and I’m not just referring to the cornucopia of whisky and LSD. Let’s remember his life, his work, and everything in between. Today let’s raise our glasses, empty or full, to Hunter Stockton Thompson, without whom many of us would be hero-less twits mindlessly wandering about this plane with no discernible direction in mind. Well, at least I speak for myself there. Thanks for the compass, Hunter, even though it’s pointing me in a direction I’m certain my parents would not approve of. Happy birthday, Duke.