Posted by Jesse Jarnow

I knew I wanted to write long before I discovered Hunter S. Thompson, though he certainly made it easier. Likewise, I read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas long before I ever dosed, or even smoked pot. I must have been in seventh grade. I didn't understand most of what was going on, but I understood instinctively that it was hilarious. When I finally did take acid, I was disappointed (though maybe I never took enough). I discovered to my continued dismay that all of those swirls and fractals and exploding, electric neons that people often use to illustrate the psychedelic experience aren't what you see so much as things that just kinda look cool when you're tripping. It was -- perhaps literally -- disillusioning (dis-hallucinatory?), because there's a vast difference between the two.

It was -- as Mark Twain said about using the right word versus the almost-right word -- the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning. It was a difference Thompson knew well. Vegas is not what happens when you take acid, it's what happens when a deeply committed, politically aware investigative journalist (who knew how to edit himself like a motherfucker when he wanted to) takes acid and has Big Thoughts about Serious Things. To this day, *Vegas* -- the book, if it needs to be said -- is still more exciting, more lucidly crystalline, more enlightening, more plum interesting than any acid trip I've ever taken. (Mushrooms, on the other hand...) It is safe to say that Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a truly distinct work in American literature -- and as unique an act as taking psychedelics themselves.

Yes, a great voice was silenced, but -- Thompson buddy Keith Richards' mortality not withstanding -- it had to go silent sometime and, really, it'd been a while since anybody could've seriously called it that. The world in 2005 must have seemed pretty goddamn awful to Hunter S. Thompson -- the recoronation of his worst political enemy since Richard Nixon (made all the more Quixotic by the fact that Thompson was far from the thick of it), Chief Justice William Rehnquist virtually on his own deathbed (with Clarence Thomas's name even bandied about as a successor), and -- worst of all -- Thompson's own diminished skills to articulate the horror (the horror!) he was feeling. There was no room for him anymore. He was losing. We were losing. We are losing. We are lost.

Mistuh Thompson -- Doctor Thompson -- he dead.

-- Jesse.

Brooklyn, New York
February/March 2005

Jesse Jarnow is a writer, musician, artist and thinker who makes his home in Brooklyn, NY. His writing can be found in Rolling Stone, Relix, Salon.com, The All Music Guide and a bajillion other places. Check out more of Jesse at www.wunderkammern27.com

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