Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Hunter S. Thompson, A Final Post

In continuing its worthy coverage of Hunter S. Thompson, ESPN Page2 provides yet another kind service: a collection of tributes from those who knew him best. My favorite is from artist and long-time Gonzo compadre Ralph Steadman. Below is my favorite part, but I recommend the whole thing.

We spent many assignments together, bucking the trend, against the cheats and liars, the bagmen and the cronies -- me, an alien from the old country; and him raging against the coming of the light. "F--- them, Ralph," he would say. "We are not like the others."

Well, he wasn't anyway, but I was easily led. Before "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" we tried to cover the America's Yacht Race in Rhode Island for Scanlan's (who were just about to go bust and get onto Richard Nixon's blacklist), from a three-masted schooner, a rock band on board for distraction, booze and, for Hunter, whatever he was gobbling at the time. I was seasick and Hunter was fine. I asked him what he was taking and he gave me one. It was psilocybin, a psychedelic hallucinogen, my first and only drug trip apart from Librium.

I was the artist from England, so I had a job to do. He handed me two spray paint canisters.

"What do I do with these?"

"You're the artist, Ralph. Do what you want, but you must do it on the side of one of those multi-million dollar yachts, moored hardly 50 yards away from where we are."

"How about F--- THE POPE?" I said, now seeing in my mind red snarling dogs attacking a musician singing at a piano dressed as a nun at a shore-bound bar.

"Are you a Catholic, Ralph??"

"No," I replied. "It's just the first thing that came to mind."

So that was the plan and we made it to the boats and I stood up in the little dinghy with the spray cans and shook them, as one does. They made a clicking sound and alerted a guard. "We must flee, Ralph! There'll be pigs everywhere. We have failed."

He pulled fiercely on the oars and fell backwards with legs in the air. He righted himself and started rowing again. We made it back to our boat; and then while I was gabbling insanely, he was writing down all the gibberish that I uttered. I was now a basket case and we had to get back to shore and flee. Hunter shot off two Leery distress flares into the harbour and we hailed a boat just coming in. The flares set fire to one of the boats, causing an emergency fire rescue as we got to dry land.

That sounds about right. More tributes, including one from Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes fame, who was evidently a long-time friend and neighbor of Thompson's (which might explain Bradley's oddball earring), are listed in a box inset into both the Steadman and Bradley tributes.


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