Hunter S. Thompson
“Some people can accept [the death of Christmas], and some can’t. That is why God made whiskey, and also why Wild Turkey comes in $300 shaped canisters during most of the Christmas season.”
Given my chosen career path it should be no surprise that a lot of my greatest friendships have been based, at least in part, on a shared love for the work of Hunter S. Thompson. I get Thompson quotes via text message at all hours from all time zones. A number of friends and former colleagues have done potentially irreversible harm to their bodies in attempts to emulate the father of Gonzo journalism, who in 2005 put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. Thanks in part to titles like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Thompson’s scathing commentaries on politics and pop culture are often overlooked. What stands out to many is the impossible amount of mind-altering substances the man ingested. While mood-elevating booze floats frequently on the surface of much if not most of his work, it’s easy to spot the undercurrents of desperation and doom that make his writing so powerful.
“I think I think too much. That’s why I drink.”
Amen, Janis. Amen. Ever since the dawn of my adolescence and despite the fact that it occurred three decades after her ’60s heyday, Joplin was at once a hero and a cautionary tale. She seemed to barely comprehend, let alone follow, convention and pursued an existence in which her innate weirdness was her badge. And it worked. At the same time the insecurity that can accompany weirdness seemed to incline her toward an extremely self-destructive and heartbreak-ridden path. She owned her blues. Grace Slick once said that talking to Joplin was like talking to a wise old crone; she seemed to carry the weight of someone who had been through it all. Joplin, whose signature accessory was a bottle of Southern Comfort, inspired a number of songs, including Leonard Cohen’s “Chelsea Hotel #2” (in which he recalls her telling him she “preferred handsome men”), and the Grateful Dead tune “Bird Song.” While it did play a role, it was not ultimately the sauce that did her in. Her 1970 death was officially attributed to a heroin overdose.
Fry: Why would a robot need to drink?
Bender: I don’t need to drink. I can quit anytime I want.
If we hadn’t included a cartoon robot this week’s edition of this column would have been a bit of a downer. We would hate to be responsible for bumming anyone out with such heavy things as the consequences of excess. (Consequences? What consequences?) Bender—one of the stars of Simpsons creator Matt Groening’s other show, Futurama—is so named ostensibly because he’s a robot who’s strong enough to bend steel. He also drinks like a fish and is awfully lascivious for a hunk of metal. While on a recent R&R my brother Steve decided to distinguish himself from the rest of humanity by way of a tattoo of this boozing icon on his left forearm. Ironically enough, Steve was relatively sober when he walked into the tattoo parlor, but with the help of a friend, a nearby bar and a ginormous Big Gulp cup he was pretty numb by the time the needling was over. To this day my brother has never admitted to having an ounce of regret over the animated robot now forever etched into his flesh. Lucky for him, I don’t think the Army would fire someone for being a too gung-ho about a cartoon. MTW