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When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Recovering from surgery in the mid-sixties by taking daily sitz-baths in my neighbor's tub, I read a book Linda had checked out of the library: Hell's Angels by Hunter S. Thompson. I remember thinking to myself, "This guy is dangerously crazy."

I forgot about HST for five years. Until the publication of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, a book so immediate, stream-of-consciousness, unfettered, wigged-out, and fearless that I wandered around for a week after reading it feeling obliviously mad and rebellious, even though I'd never tried any of Thompson's drugs. The New York Times said it well: "Mr. Thompson managed to live and write his own version of the Heisenberg principle: That the observer not only changes events by his presence, but his presence also frequently surpasses the event in terms of importance."

Gonzo! Some say that Hunter abandoned all pretense of objectivity. I'm not so sure about that. Hunter told you up front that he was full of crap. Every writer is part of his story; Hunter was up-front about it. He told a story, and he told his story, and you constructed your story. Reality is like that.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas begins:
We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like "I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive." And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us, and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screaching and diving around the car, which was going about 100 miles per hour with the top down to Las Vegas. And a voice was screaming: "Holy Jesus! What are these goddamned animals?"

Then it was quiet again. My attorney had taken his shirt off and was pouring beer on his chest, to facilitate the tanning process. "What the hell are you yelling about?" he muttered, staring up at the sun with his eyes closed and covered with wraparound Spanish sunglasses. "Never mind," I said. "It's your turn to drive." I hit the brakes and aimed the Great Red Shark toward the shoulder of the highway. No point mentioning those bats. The poor bastard would see them soon enough.

You never know what's coming next. Two days ago I was talking with Murray Gell-Mann about whether the breakdown of barriers between traditional disciplines wasn't part of a larger shift away from the Newtonian certainty and into the unpredictable chaos where any answer might be the right one, even if it's borrowed from someone else's cognitive toolkit. Have a seat next to Murray? No, I've got a spot at a table full of Italian entrepreneurship professors on the other side of the fountain. On my way back, who was in my path but the chairman of Boeing. Alone. "Lew, Abu Dhabi's a good place to sell airplanes, eh?" He replied that this is a GREAT place to sell airplanes. I joked "If Carly only knew what HP knew," and Lew related what he thought of Carly's performance but I won't go into it because some day a child might read this post. In the next hour we were buzzed by motorized parasails, entertained by dancers in 12' wide plastic bubbles, treated to stories from a former astronaut, and bored nearly to the breaking point by the beknighted CEO of Mitel and his tales of making oodles of money. Natural high is the best high of them all. Thanks for the vantagepoint, Hunter.



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