A young, disillusioned Hunter S. Thompson wrote bitterly in a letter to a friend who asked for advice on breaking into journalism: "Let me warn you to turn in the most bizarre copy imaginable. Never hesitate to editorialize with a vengeance or abuse anyone you disagree with."
I somehow found solace in that insight and occasionally dropped it on the end of my e-mails.
Never to an editor. It's not exactly the credo an editor wants to read at the end of a missive from a freelancer. Though I doubt, if there had been digital communication back in the 70s, that this would have bothered the young, uncontrollable HST.
Many might disbelieve the mottoes of gonzo journalism's founder: "Truth is weirder than any fiction I've seen" or "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." For those who speedily drive their red sharks in the weird-crazy lane, outlandish accidents involving politicians, lawyers and thugs are bound to happen - if you're lucky.
After gorging on Thompson-foolery, I've discovered my own penchant for shenanigans. Like what I ran into on day three, or possibly day four, of the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
The people at the alcohol-free dorm weren't overly suspicious of the two peaceful Canadians. No one could have known that the duo stashed several litres of vodka in their closet and kept dime bags of grass, scored on those mean Boston cop-heavy streets, hidden about their room.
It was after my associate had his photo taken with Ambassador Joe Wilson and then Senator Gary Hart that the protagonist of Fear And Loathing On The Campaign Trail '72 happened upon me.
Though I knew George McGovern was a real person, he was more at home in my mind with Sal Paradise or Dean Moriarity. The aging lefty former North Dakota senator and presidential hopeful wasn't supposed to be ambling around the Democratic National Convention. At least nowhere near me. But there he was.
McGovern stopped long enough to shake my hand while I blubbered, "Everything I learned about you, I read in Hunter S. Thompson's Fear And Loathing On The Campaign Trail." McGovern patted my shoulder softly, knowingly, as if saying, "Kid, I've heard that one a million times."
Old to him, but everything about Thompson was smoking to me. A keen scavenger sense, along with the discovery that it's often cheaper to buy an ancient HST-penned article in Rolling Stone than to buy the current pap on the newsstand, has had me rummaging for Thompson magazine material for years. Scaling a mountain of porn in a bookstore basement, I found the Playboy issue with HST's Great Shark Hunt. It was in great condition and cost me less than a new Playboy.
Two years ago, good financial timing and eBay allowed me to snag the winning bid for a lot of HST Rolling Stones. Included were beautiful copies of RS numbers 95 and 96, the Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas issues.
The whole lot of seven issues was less than $60. With eBayers now trading wild on all HST memorabilia, those two issues alone are attracting bids at $80 to $90 respectively. The Playboy issue is moving at $15 and will probably settle in the $20-to-$30 range. Thompson's death has more than doubled the value of some items in my collection.
Up until his death, eBay usually had a dozen or so HST items on the roster, most of which I had already picked over or were unfortunately priced out of my range. Over 400 were listed the day after his death, many I hadn't seen before.
One eBayer, listing an original 1971 mint 400 Jim Beam decanter, wrote in his product description: "What do you do when your idol dies? Maybe cash in on the American dream, sell your unmourned Hunter-associated wares to the bloodthirsty heathens ready to bid and make us rich like capitalist pigs! Gobble it up while you can - the father of gonzo has doomed our generation of swine! Hunter, why did you do it, you crazy bastard?"
In the world of pack journalism, Dr. Thompson nakedly swam upstream. Like many counterculture outlaws, he suffered the consequence of genius. Last Sunday, tragically, he made the final payment on his literary licence.