Thursday, May 17, 2012

Letter to Anita Thompson, Written on the Anniversary of Hunter's Death

Dear Anita,

I have a question concerning the t-shirts you have for sale at the Gonzo Store: do you think you might consider knocking down the price a little, or at least holding a sale any time soon?

I hate to sound like a cheapskate, but for the last three years I've been living as an expat in Italy, sustaining myself on a diet of cheap wine and pasta, and attempting in my own way to follow in your late husband's footsteps.  $28 for a t-shirt plus the cost of international shipping would break my spine.  However, I'd still like to help you pay the bills at Owl Farm, and the shirts look undeniably cool.  What do you think?

Being the anniversary of Hunter's death, I've spent most of this morning thinking about the influence his work has had on my life.  I first read the Vegas book in the summer of 2003.  I was working twelve hours a day at a fireworks stand in Maryland just off exit 100 on I-95.  The stand was situated next to a liquor store, and right across the street from a gas station.  I couldn't have asked for a better time or place to be introduced to Gonzo: sitting at one point of a triangle of disaster in the middle of a sweltering hot summer, Dylan on the stereo, with the 227th anniversary of our nation's birth rapidly approaching.  It was the middle of the Bush era, and I was scraping out a living selling dangerous explosives to hillbillies.  It was the perfect moment to hop in a fire-apple red convertible with a renegade journalist and a fat Samoan lawyer for a drug-addled road trip to Vegas in search of the American Dream.

It would be hard to overstate the influence Hunter's work has had on both my writing and my life.  He instilled in me an urge to take life by the balls that was at least partially behind my decision to move abroad and start traveling the world.  My copies of The Proud Highway, Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72, Better than Sex, Generation of Swine,and Fear and Loathing in America have been carried by me on a countless number of buses and trains throughout Rome.  His simultaneous pride and disgust regarding America mirrors my own as I watch the pro-wrestling match of American politics from a distance.  While I understand and respect his decision to end his life, I can't help but wish he'd at least lived to see the end of the Bush Regime, and wonder what he'd have to say about the lukewarm anticlimax of the Obama administration.  But I suppose the true magic of the artist is that though they can't be with us forever, their work that touched our lives at least has a shot at immortality.  I think you hit the nail on the head in Gonzo when you said, "Imagine a twisted universe where he died and took all his words with him."  Indeed.

Well, I've probably taken up enough of your time.  Let me know about the t-shirts.  Even if you can't knock down the price, know that I'm wishing you a brave new year.  Thanks for carrying the torch.


                                                                                                           Jonathan Balog

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