Thursday, March 17, 2011

We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert ...

I just finished the documentary Gonzo, a sometimes too-polished (but still enjoyable) account of Hunter S. Thompson's life and writing. I learned about George McGovern, saw Rolling Stone editor Jann Weber cry, and got inspired to resuscitate my blog, which is limping along at an average of one entry per year. I may not have a salt-shaker of cocaine at my disposal, but I'm still obligated to commit some words to a page once in a while to continue to call myself a writer. One of the most moving parts of the documentary was at the end, when his ex-wife refused to glamorize his decline and 2005 suicide. She pointed out that another generation, post-September 11th and in the grip of Bush II, could have benefited from his writing.

Concurrently, I just started reading Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, in which HST follows the 1972 presidenital campaign. I was delighted to discover that the introduction to the book was written at the Seal Rock Inn, close to my original San Francisco home in the Outer Sunset. Rolling Stone put him up there for a 50+ hour drug-fueled attempt to wrench some publishable material out of him. (It's still available, low-season, for $114 a night if anyone has writer's block and an impending deadline.)

I recently returned from a trip out to the Salton Sea. I wish I could write a truly gonzo account of the experience, but my anger and shame have solidified around the event like that jar of bacon grease John keeps in the kitchen.

For the past few years, this trip has been an annual mini-Burning Man for some segments of the Los Angeles cycling community, but this year we collectively managed to botch the event, piss off the locals, and get ourselves permanently banned from the off-the-grid colony of Slab City and nearby Niland, CA. We paid a fitting pyrotechnic tribute to our too-soon departed friend Tomatoes, but did it too close to many homes and a local landmark, Salvation Mountain. We made too much noise, and left too much trash. HST would have disapproved, not of the copious consumption of mind-altering substances (my vice: Stone Smoked Porter), but of our aimlessness. There is so much Fear and Loathing still out there today, far too much to squander our gonzo energy in a lost weekend in someone else's desert backyard.

I apologize -- that's as much lecture as I hope to ever produce in one sitting. Contact me for the complete PowerPoint presentation "Salton Sea IV: Why Everyone Thinks I'm a Narc."

Bottom line: my project to revive some personal gonzo has begun. Read more, write more, ride more. Live more.

PS: I'm so angry that the NYT is putting me on a diet of 20 free articles a month, but hopefully it will force me to embrace a wider range of media sources. I've gotten a little too comfy with the cadences of the Times and The New Yorker.

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