THREE

I was lying there on the med-bed and my eyelids began to droop as the Ambien began to take hold….

Wait just a minute!  Do you realize how pathetic that sounds?   The fucking Ambien began to take hold?  Get a grip, you blithering asshole.  If you think back a ways, the fact is, you were around during those halcyon days of yore when we waited impatiently for a hit of mescaline the size of a goddamned Twinkie to take hold.  Yes indeed, it’s all coming hack now…the memory hole disgorging its slime…

Remember that night in Brooklyn out at Pete Hamill’s house when you and Thompson and Phil Tracy swallowed three gelatin capsules of organic Mescaline straight from Colorado Springs and sat back and waited for that grim alkaline powder to…what, exactly?  To take hold?   Are you kidding?  When that shit finally hit it was like being run over by a truck filled with screeching hyenas.  But at first, as usual, there was the sickening feeling that we had been burned, or that the Mescaline had gone bad.  Well, we waited and waited and Thompson began to curse the entire universe of weasely dealers you had to count on every day.  And then, not suddenly, and not subtly either, there was a chilly shiver of sheer terror in the room.  There was a moment…just a fleeting little teeny instant…when you thought all would be well, and then you saw Tracy crawling on all fours at top speed across the kitchen floor ramming his head into the pantry door again and again.  Great, sickening THUNKS shuddered the entire kitchen and then the door cracked and Jerry Kretchmer came running down the hall with Hamill close on his heels.

The one-time candidate for Manhattan DA and future professional restaurateur yelled, what the hell was that?  Thompson pulled another capsule from his pocket and offered it up.  You should try this, Kretchmer.  It will do you good.  Just look at Tracy over there.  His headache is all better now.

Kretchmer peered at the white capsule in Thompson’s hand.  What is it?  Mescaline, you explained.  Looking over at Thompson, you could see his eyebrows lift just enough to signal that he had been seized by the stuff.  Where did you park your Bonneville, Thompson growled.  He checked his watch, eyebrows jumping uncontrollably as he tried to focus.  We have an appointment on Houston Street in Manhattan in 20 minutes and the Bonneville is the only thing that will get us there on time….

Wait a minute…where were we?  Back in the nut-house lying on the med-bed waiting on the Ambien?

Nuthouse?  Med-bed?  What are you talking about, you fool?  You meddled with your medulla long before Prozac was a gleam in a psycho-pharmacologist’s eye, back when the word “med”  came with the pre-fix “club.”  Nuthouse?  This is a fucking spa!  The real nuthouse was under underfoot back then:  beneath every step you took through the 60’s, the 70’s, hell even 80’s because they were no picnic either.  A breakdown was what sane people had for breakfast; lunch was usually liquid and there was a lot of it; and for supper the menu included skewers of seared human flesh washed down with a flagon of bat blood followed by a salad of leafy green home grown organic psychedelic delusions.  What was it that suck-ass song said?  Paranoia strikes deep…into your life it will creep…

Paranoia will creep?  Who the fuck did they think they were kidding?  Your ’64 Bonneville Grand Prix equipped with a 400 cubic inch V-8 and an 850 cfm four-barrel carburetor wasn’t fast enough to outrun the paranoia out there everywhere around us.  That shit didn’t creep…it flew through windows and beat down doors and left hoof prints up and down the back of your tie-dyed t-shirt, that’s what it did.  It wasn’t a diagnosable psychiatric condition with shit like Risperdal on tap next to the Guinness Stout to keep the demons at bay.  It was in the air you breathed.  It was molecular.  It was on fucking TV.  It had a name.  We called it Nixon, or Agnew, or Hoover, or John fucking Wayne.  But gazed upon with eyes full of Mescaline, it was us.  We were the ones who broke the promises we made to ourselves and each other.  We were the ones who broke our own hearts and the hearts of so many others.  We were thieves in the night, speeding down Flatbush Avenue to an appointment on Houston Street and we let nothing get in our way.

Ah-Ha!  I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking this sounds like a bad parody of Fear and Loathing, or perhaps a lame version of Lono?  Yeah, well fuck you. I’ve got it on tape!

Scene:  Inside Pontiac Bonneville Grand Prix speeding down Flatbush Avenue.

Dramatis Performa:  Driver:  Hunter S. Thompson, National Correspondent for Rolling Stone; Shotgun:  Lucian K. Truscott IV, Village Voice Staff Writer; Back Seat:  Phil Tracy, Village Voice Albany Bureau Chief.

LKT:  We just keep straight on Flatbush.  Stay in the right lane.  I’ve got it under control.  I know right where we are.

HST:  That’s what you think.  Wait ‘till we hit these fucking ramps.  I’ve done this before.  It all makes plenty of sense until you start doing it.

LKT:  Don’t turn left.  Keep straight!

HST:  We want to go north.  I had to do this alone before, trying to read the map and driving at the same time, heavy traffic.  I was supposed to meet somebody, I’m not sure who – I had a Cougar, a goddamn monster car.  That’s what you ought to get, next time you get a chance:  a Mercury Cougar, just slam it down in this super low gear, it throws black rubber all over the fucking highway.

PT:  There it is!  See?  Just keep to the right around this circle…

HST:  See, it’s all mysterious, until it begins to make sense…Aaaarrrrgh!  That little fucker in the Volkswagen is dangerous!  This steering is fucking imprecise.  I didn’t want to change lanes, the car just did it.

PT:  Stay right.  You’re okay.

HST:  That’s what you think.  It makes sense now, but just wait.

LKT:  Not far now.

HST:  Aaaahhyy!  Did you see that?  I almost crushed the little fucker!  Jesus!  (motions to a pint of Wild Turkey between his legs)  We’ll have to stop and get a quart of this, or perhaps Old Fitz, and a pack of cigarettes.  We need supplies.

LKT:  We can get into that once we’re across the bridge.

HST:  Jesus!  Another one!  I nearly crushed him like a rodent.

PT:  Right hand lane…

HST:   That’s okay.  I think people are alerted now;  they’re managing to stay away from me.  That next guy gave us plenty of room…do you see what I mean?  Shit – so many decisions.

PT:  Left lane now.   I see the signs for the ramps.

HST:  More reverb, Lucian.  I need more reverb.  Turn the fucker up!  I can’t stand this silence!  Where is the air?

LKT:  Right there.  (punches button, turns knob)

HST:  Ahhh, that’s much better.  We’re doing all right now.  I remember this.

(Sound of screeching brakes…car skids wildly to left, Thompson tromps on gas, slams it into low, car comes back around, squirts between a concrete bridge abutment and a gray Cadillac just in time.  Sound bottle hitting floor of car.)

HST:  You goddamn…the bastard almost hit us.  Did you see that concrete embankment on the left?

LKT:  Yeah, that was close.  (Picks up bottle.)

HST:  Holy fuck.  Lucky I was paying attention.  Hand me the whiskey…Wild Turkey all over my lap…the bastard!  We should teach this motherfucker a lesson!  (Points bottle toward other car.)

LKT:  Just leave him alone.  It’s important we get to our appointment.

HST:  You think so?  He almost drove me into that fucking abutment.

(Sounds of car horns honking wildly.  Thompson rolls down window.)

HST:  You Nazi cocksuckers!  Get out of the way!  (Deep breath.)  Bastard almost crushed us back there.  If it wasn’t for the power this Bonneville’s got, we’d be over the fucking embankment.

LKT:  You’re on it now.

HST:  No, I have a terrible feeling this isn’t right.  This asshole on my left…

PT:  Right through the middle.  That’s what we want.

HST:  This car is weird.  I feel so low, I don’t have any sense of control.

PT:  Take a right.  Yeah, that one.

HST:  I don’t think so.  See this guy up here…ask him, the one in the hat…stop and ask him where we should go.

PT:  He looks harmless.  He looks diluted.  He doesn’t know what the fuck.

HST:  The bastard’s turning right in front of me!  He’s gonna hit…(sound of screeching tires, car swerves)  We missed him!

PT:  Wow, that was close.

HST:  I don’t mean the car!  I mean the guy in the hat!  Who are we going to ask now?  I don’t know where the fuck I am.  (car swerves again, more tire screeching)  This thing’s a little heavy on the fishtailing.  It’s hard to control.

LKT:  Use the accelerator.  Turn into the skid.

HST:  Easy for you to say…wait a minute!  What’s this fucker doing?  Jesus god, he’s going to catch us in a squeeze play!  (more screeching, skidding)  There’s the guy in the gray Cadillac again!  (screeching brakes)  Jesus God!  That’s the rest of the Wild Turkey.  Goddamnit.  Every emergency takes about 4 or 5 ounces.  Where to now?

PT:  Follow the Cadillac.

HST:  He’s the same asshole, right?

LKT:  No, I checked him out.  He’s okay.  He’s safe.

HST:  Better not be him.  I’ll mash this thing right up his rear end.

LKT:  You don’t want to do that to the Bonneville, man.

HST:  I came close.  It’d be a fantastic maneuver.

PT:  We’re okay now.  I see Canal Street up ahead.

HST:  Yeah, I got it now. It kind of glows.

PT:  Remember that night we drank all that jimson weed tea?

HST:  Jesus.

LKT:  My body felt like it was over here and my arms were over there.

HST:  I can’t believe what I did to that Rolling Stone office.  (laughter, hacking cough, more laughter)  I just tore it all to pieces, moved all the furniture, moved the couches…

LKT:  Jimson weed gives you this illusion, I mean at the same time you feel pretty straight…

HST:  STRAIGHT?  What the fuck are you talking about?

PT:  He means mentally straight.  Meanwhile, you can’t make your hands or feet move in any logical way…

HST:  What about Porter Bibb’s girlfriend wandering around naked on 56th Street?

LKT:  I forgot all about that.

HST:  Stark naked at five o’clock in the morning.  Some Puerto Rican janitor brought her in.

LKT:  He knew she could have come from only one place.

HST:  The Rolling Stone offices.  There were lights on.  The poor guy was really shaken up by it all.  He was a family man.

PT:  God, what happened?

HST:  I had gone totally amok, I didn’t know where I was, I wasn’t sure if I was at the North Pole…

LKT:  I went right home to the barge, and to get there, I had to walk across 150 yards of deteriorated dock…

HST:  Jesus.

LKT:  You know, like rotting boards hammered together and shit.

PT:  I could barely move.  I don’t see how you got across there.

LKT:  I made it out to the barge and got in bed and just immediately puked my guts out, and then I had visions I was swimming, and the thing was, I actually was swimming in it, like breast-stroking.

HST:  Puking probably helped.

LKT:  It did, until the next morning when I woke up.  My hair was…there wasn’t a hair on my head that wasn’t matted with the stuff, not an inch of my body.  Great chunks of it were stuck in my eyes…

HST:  I never puked.  I probably should have – I probably came close to death, because I had about four hours of complete black-out after I moved the furniture…(gagging laughter)  And a week later, I got a clipping from San Francisco saying two people had done that in Fresno and died…they brewed up some jimson weed tea, and it killed them.

PT:  I got curious a few days later and looked it up.  It’s deadly poison.

HST:  Right.  It’s like strychnine, you can get high on it up to a point, and at that point, you die.

LKT:  I know a few people who should drink some.  It would changes their lives.

(gagging laughter, choking…brakes slam, tires screech)

HST:  It was that damn Cadillac again!  I’m going to crush that fucker…

LKT:  (laughing)  No, please.  (Car moves forward again.)

PT:  I think I see Houston Street.

HST:  Jesus.  The poor Rolling Stone offices.  I moved the coke machine…I couldn’t get the ice out of it…I couldn’t figure out how to manipulate the trays, and I just beat them into fucking mangled pieces of aluminum, ice everywhere, just like an animal.

PT:  You lose control of your motor functions.  I mean, my mind was operating fairly normally…

HST:  Yeah, I could still think straight.  I thought I was going to work, can you imagine that.

PT:  To work?

HST:  To write.

LKT:  Did you finally get into the writing?

HST:  Oh, fuck no.  I got into that office and began to go crazy moving everything around.  Wenner didn’t even knew I had the keys.  They came in the next day and found the place…(laughter)…completely uprooted.

LKT:  Were you just kind of wading around in it?

HST:  Oh, no, I had gone.

PT:  Was it all fucked up?

HST:  Oh, no, I didn’t do any real damage.  All I did was move everything, re-arranging stuff, and I turned all the stereo stuff on, tried to get all the speakers hooked up to one gigantic amplifier, all kinds of rectilinear speakers, I couldn’t make them work, I was plugging things in and pulling wires out, and then I passed out, or something weird, and I departed for about three or four hours and when I came back, all the secretaries were standing there looking at the wreckage, wondering what happened.

LKT:  What did you tell them?

HST:  It looked like a burglary gone bad to me.  Insane vandalism.  Somebody broke out of the nuthouse.

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