Dr. Duke has cashed his check....
(c) David Volk 2005

Hunter S. Thompson is dead.  

It’s almost impossible to believe that someone so alive, so interesting, so amusing and so drug addled could actually have died. After decades of imbibing what seemed to be almost every recreational drug known to humankind in volumes that would have killed a lesser man, it’s hard to believe he’s gone.  

Granted, his writing had gone downhill in recent years as a result of the drug use, no doubt, but he earned my undying respect (despite and possibly because of his lifestyle) for writing what I consider one of the greatest leads of American journalism:

“We were somewhere near Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold…..”

Once I saw the first line of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” I knew I had to read more. How could I not?  

For those of you who missed it, missed him or don’t know what all this fuss is about, the man many Doonesbury readers know as Dr. Duke, is believed to have killed himself last night.  

Thompson, a longtime writer for the Rolling Stone, gained fame for creating a new type of reporting called “gonzo journalism.” Where most traditional journalists sat back, watched and covered events as they unfolded, gonzo journalism called for Thompson to inject himself into the story and record the results. Like spreading rumors about a presidential candidate being strung out on a non-existent drug while covering the 1972 campaign. Or giving away his pass to the press booth at the Superbowl and covering that.  

Yes, he was a strange and frightening man. One to be admired from a distance and feared up close because he always seemed to be heavily armed. Still, there was something to be admired about a man who had trained his dog to attack in response to the word, “Nixon.”  

I could babble on about the bad craziness that was Thompson, but I think it’s best to close with some of my favorite quotes. I’ll start with one of his most prescient and then mostly go for laughs:  

"We are living in dangerously weird times now. Smart people just shrug and admit they're dazed and confused. The only ones left with any confidence at all are the New Dumb. It is the beginning of the end of our world as we knew it. Doom is the operative ethic." --From “Hey Rube, Blood Sport, The Bush Doctrine, and the Downward Spiral of Dumbness Modern History From the Sport Desk.”  

“If I'd written all the truth I knew for the past ten years, about 600 people / including me / would be rotting in prison cells from Rio to Seattle today. Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism."

“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side."

“I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me.”  

“Every now and then when your life gets complicated and the weasels start closing in, the only cure is to load up on heinous chemicals and then drive like a bastard from Hollywood to Las Vegas ... with the music at top volume and at least a pint of  ether.” --Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

“There is nothing more helpless and irresponsible than a man in the depths of an ether binge." --From Fear and Loathing.

“For every moment of triumph, for every instance of beauty, many souls must be trampled.”

"A word to the wise is infuriating."

"Call on God, but row away from the rocks."

Row carefully, Hunter. We’ll miss you.  

From a man who realizes that the going’s gotten weird and that it’s time to turn pro….

David G(onzo) Volk