The Suspension Of Disbelief
I’ve had several conversations about Hunter S. Thompson that were noteworthy…stuck in my mind through the years.
Once, in the early 80s, I was sitting on the beach at Monterey Bay, watching the sunset and drinking a bottle of Night Train. I was in town because my family lived there (brother, sister, mother) and I had a run of bad luck on the road. I had sold my guitars and amps for travel money and was working at a car wash and biding time until I could get some gear together and join the next roving circus.
So, I was out there on the beach, sipping my fortified wine and a guy wearing a toga stumbled by and said “How’s it goin’?” He was there with a group of other folks all dressed in the infamous party attire who were dancing around a camp fire down the way.
He seemed about my age (early 20s) and we struck up a conversation. He was in the Air Force, stationed at the Presidio, the Defense Language Institute…the Spy School. Which was pretty interesting to me because it was during the winding down of the cold war and you know…you don’t often run in to a self-professed spy wearing a toga. He told me that he was from the East Coast somewhere and that he had joined up as a means to somehow make it to the Bay area because, his passion was writing and his goal was to meet his hero, Hunter Thompson. Which, by the way he claimed he had accomplished.
I pointed out that I thought Thompson was hanging his hat in Aspen to which, the guy replied; “No, I met him man. He’s working at a porno theater up in San Francisco. In the ticket booth. He isn’t writing…he’s out of it man”…And, he went on to describe a mysterious confab with a curmudgeonly figure that sounded far fetched.
But, the evening had it’s charm what with the technicolor sunset, the Night Train burning buzz and a friendly spy in a toga and all. The whole scene had a “Hunteresque” quality.
As it turns out, years later I found out that Thompson was indeed in the San Fransisco area at that time writing about the ill-fated kings of pornography, the Dark Brothers. Who the hell knows?
I bring up this episode instead of more scholarly, clinical ruminations in light of a documentary about Hunter Thompson that I watched last night. I can’t say that I was watching with an analytical mind. It was sad to hear his son talk about his suicide in matter of fact language and, there was an overall theme of extended demise.
Realizing that I haven’t read any of his stuff in many years, partly because the real time journalistic component doesn’t apply and I have a suspicion that would make it all painfully less than timeless, partly because it’s difficult to get past the fact that he checked out, it occurs to me that what really struck a nerve with me originally was that Thompson’s writing was better than the truth.
Certainly, there were elements of truth, real people real places. And, I don’t know, maybe all of those chemical-fueled journeys were captured verbatim. And, Thompson took the liberty of identifying certain real life, rat bastard villains as THE villains and, I suspect that the truth in that is more complex. But, for us the readers, it was better than the truth.
One thing I do know from experience; It’s OK to live like a rock star without actually being a rock star. Once, you become a rock star or believe you are one, that’s when it all goes down the shitter.
All of this observation this morning comes on the heels of actually going out to see the Batman movie yesterday. Beka and I had planned this previous to the Colorado massacre. We got the tickets online for the 3 o’clock matinee.
As we were getting ready to leave, I was watching a little cable news coverage…hold on…let’s go back a bit. Friday afternoon I was going through the pre-gig mental checklist and I flipped on the cable news (MSNBC again because that’s where I left off from my previous cable news viewing) and they were showing a press conference from Aurora that involve the Mayor, the D.A., some F.B.I. guy and the police chief out there who is presumably ramrodding the investigation.
The police chief is the one that really caught my interest. At one point, some reporter interrupted and shouted out a question about the possibility that the shooter did not act alone. This seemed to really raise the chief’s hackles…he seemed pretty defensive and said something along the lines that they were 100% certain that they had their man and that he was the only one involved. The same reporter followed up with a “How can you be sure?” and the chief said stoically “From the over 200 witness interviews we’ve conducted”.
Then, directly after that, the host on MSNBC was interviewing a witness by phone and this witness clearly described that he had seen a suspicious guy sitting off to the side of the theater, by the exit, that got a phone call that he took and went OUT of the exit that soon after the shooter entered. In other words, this witness described a very possible accomplice right there, live on National TV and the host of the show for some reason not only didn’t follow up but, changed the subject. Now, that’s pretty damn strange I think.
Yesterday, I saw one article that stated the police were following up on investigating the possibility that there was an accomplice but, not any big coverage of this.
So then, back to getting ready to go see the big show. I’m watching the MSNBC again and, they report that Warner Brothers wouldn’t be releasing any box office figures from the release “out of respect for the victims and their families”. How the hell does covering up the millions you take in show any respect? (btw, the figures are easily found, last night I read that they were a bit under expectations).
Then, the stellar coverage turned to a man in the street interviewing people who had just seen the movie or were about to and, the tone of all this was that America feels that we should not let an isolated incident keep us from our daily lives…shades of 9/11 when not going to a ball game would give the enemy some kind of victory.
Then, right after that piece, there was some guy, a criminal psychologist who wrote some book that stated flat out that he was 100% sure that the shooter acted alone.
I guess I’m going in to all of this to set the surreal scene as I was getting ready to see a film that requires a high degree of suspension of disbelief.
And, it turns out that it’s not possible for me under the circumstances to buy in to a simple good guy vs. bad guy plot no matter how much CG wizardry is thrown at me and no matter how much blaring superfluous bass frequencies are pumped through my body.
Given all of this along with the fact that a real-life shooting at a Unitarian church happened right up the road from here a few years back, I guess I feel a bit of longing for those simple post-Watergate, pre-”Tear down this wall!” days when I could access better than the truth with no remorse…..