Opinion: The crazy never die

Jake Crissman

Jake Crissman

Jake Crissman is a sophomore English major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

On Feb. 20, 2005, the voice of a generation, the figurehead of the counterculture, died by his own hand. Today, we look back and remember the great work and the legacy left behind by the uniquely strange Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.

I regret I wasn’t aware of Thompson during the period when our lives overlapped. I like knowing I’m on the same planet and breathing the same air as people like Robert De Niro or Jimmy Page. I wish I could have had that same feeling with Thompson.

It was only in the past few years that I really got into his work. It started, for me, with the film adaptation of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” When I first saw it, I hated it; I had no idea what the hell was going on. It was like a strange orgy of narrative experimentation and gibberish; my mind couldn’t handle it, at least not without knowing the facts. After reading the book, I fell in love with the whole folklore that is Hunter S. Thompson. I read whatever I could get my hands on: his short stories, his novels, a collection of his works from Rolling Stone magazine. I yearned to read his word..

This past Halloween, I dressed up as the Good Doctor’s alter ego, Raoul Duke. I may have gotten way too into character with the role I was trying to portray, but I figured if I was going to pay him homage, then I was going to have to do it right. I mumbled incoherently, walked like the earth was Jell-O, smoked from a long cigarette filter incessantly and consumed to excess. I believe it was a success.

Thompson was a fiend, a nuisance and a threat to many. He represented the sickness that was sweeping America in the late-middle-20th century. The drug culture emerged and was threatening the way of life in the nation, and Thompson was deemed a corruptor of the youth.

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

Thompson was never one for following the rules; he was always pushing the envelope not only in his personal life but also in his professional life. He single-handedly invented a sect of new journalism, which he called Gonzo. He put himself into the stories that he covered. Instead of just giving the facts like any old journalist, he allowed the story to unfold around him; he was the story. Like a dirty sponge, he soaked up his environment and wrung out all the filth and grime with an elegance and charm that has yet to lose its sheen or relevance.

He remains to be one of the greatest literary icons of the 20th century. His work is as comical as it is critical. He has changed the world and, in my opinion, has made it better. He left us not only with his writings, but also with a model to live our lives by: “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, ‘Wow! What a ride!’”.