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John Colson: Hit and Run

John Colson
Aspen Times Weekly
Aspen, CO Colorado

A blast from the past came to visit this week, in the form of a YouTube clip from a message that Hunter S. Thompson, the late writer and muse of Woody Creek, left on the answering machine of some local yokel audio/visual shop that messed with Hunter’s world.

I haven’t bothered to investigate the provenance of the clip, such as exactly when it occurred, because to hear HST’s voice again in all its raw splendor was a treat in itself, not to be spoiled by persnickety attention to detail and historical verification. It certainly was him, and I know that because a mutual friend can be heard in the background, providing factual backup when needed.

Ever since the Good Doctor killed himself back in 2005, not a day goes by, nor does a political controversy rear its ugly head, when I don’t greatly miss the man. His hellfire way of keeping a weather eye on the insanity of American politics was more indispensable than we ever knew.

And listening to him rant, even about so banal a matter as his unhappiness with the local service industry, was a tonic to my ears.

I should note, though, that the clip has been carefully edited to excise both the name of the yokel’s shop and HST’s home phone number, both of which are “bleeped” into anonymity. Such selective censorship is common enough in this benighted nation, and probably in perfect keeping with the wishes of those who guard Hunter’s legacy like Centurions at the Roman walls.

The unmitigated joy of the clip is Hunter’s pure rage at the machine, in every sense of the phrase.

Unexplained, but easily deduced, are the facts of the situation, such as what lead HST to call on a local audio/video shop to install a DVD player in his home. But, he did, and the results were explosive, to say the least. The installer screwed up the job, rewired and incapacitated Owl Farm’s telecommunications nerve center, and got what he deserved for his incompetence.

I can’t and won’t try to recite the diatribe HST leveled at this poor sap – catch it yourself at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VrOhvSvKIhc&feature=player_embedded# if you care to. And I’m certain that anyone with any feelings for our departed Dr. Gonzo will want to.

The messages inherent in the clip are good ones to keep in mind – e.g., Hunter’s genetic inability to quietly take it when the world got in his way, his delightfully phrased threats and bombast in letting the world know it when he was pissed off, and his insistence that wrongs should be righted immediately, if not sooner.

Even the comments that are logged with the clip – there were 80 of them when I last checked – show how deeply he can affect our current culture even five years after he left us.

Some, of course, wondered how high he was when the message was left, a sure sign of small-minded, jealous types once again trying to use his consumptive habits to condemn him. But these, thankfully, were few in number, and were ignored by other commentators, as they should be.

His rage against what passes for service in the realm of big-box, big-bucks commerce these days was splendid to hear, and touched a nerve in many. We’ve all been there, and felt the same anger and frustration as he did, even if we couldn’t give voice to our feelings in quite the same nuclear tone.

Yes, it was soothing to hear, and it sparked the imagination.

What would HST have made of Sarah Palin, the Supreme Court decision on corporate contributions to candidates, the elitist posings of the Republican party in Congress, or any of a number of domestic crises facing this country?

One thing’s for sure. He wouldn’t have taken all this shit quietly. And neither should the rest of us.


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