Sunday, June 26, 2011

Hunter S. Thompson and America's "High Water Mark"

The following is an excerpt from the novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by the Godfather of Gonzo Journalism, Hunter S. Thompson. The main theme of the book was the hippie generation of the 60s coming to grips with the so-called American Dream, as they understood it, dying right before their eyes in the age of Richard Nixon.

The book was written in 1971, as the Vietnam War was beginning to wind down, the Apollo Program was landing astronauts on the moon and American domestic oil production was reaching it's all time peak. A pivotal moment in our history, I think we can all agree.

Sadly, the drugs that helped fuel Thompson's best works led to him becoming an increasingly addled caricature of himself before he finally committed suicide in 2005. In his prime, however, he was also an absolutely brilliant writer, so I will stand aside and let him describe Peak America as only he could:

Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime...San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of...

History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of "history" it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons nobody really understands at the time--and which never explains in retrospect, what actually happened...

There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda...You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning...

So now, less than five years later, you can go up a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost SEE the high water mark--that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

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