Randy Wyrick: Guest Opinion | AspenTimes.com

Randy Wyrick: Guest Opinion

Gonzofest started late and with an explosion, five pounds of ham shot out of a cannon and through a set of knives.

What could possibly go wrong with that?

“Welcome to the Gonzo Family Picnic. Now let’s shoot this thing before someone tries to tell us we can’t do this,” said Matt Moseley.

The stereo repeated Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky.”

Somewhere, Hunter S. Thompson was smiling.

To celebrate Dr. Hunter S. Thompson’s 75th birthday, a few dozen people gathered in a library, The Library in the Hotel Jerome, where the libations and laughter flowed freely, as did the live reading of Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”

Thompson’s wife Anita opened with what turned out to be a community recitation, “We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold …”

It seemed fitting that the first words a reader stumbled over were “irresponsible” and “depraved,” and the names of some of the drugs stuffed into the trunk of the Red Shark. It was a big trunk, so it was a long list.

The crowd smiled, both at the irony and at memories sparked by some of those same substances – or maybe the lack of memories. They could have corrected the reader’s pronunciation, but sometimes you just have to let art flow over you, like Thompson’s signature Chivas on the rocks.

It’s one thing to be somewhere near Barstow when the drugs begin to take hold. It’s quite another to make people laugh about it and care about it decades later.

That’s what great writers do. The rest of us are word whores.

Hunter’s grandson Will, 14, read artfully, dropping his grandfather’s F-bombs like he was strafing the Moral Majority.

Mayor Mick Ireland showed up, reading a proclamation declaring Aspen’s Dr. Hunter S. Thompson Day. The mayor showed up in full Raoul Duke regalia – a leopardskin robe, Outback hat and sunglasses.

It takes six hours and 10 minutes for a group of happy, well-lubricated people to read “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” and it was so much like Hunter’s house. People wandered out of the room to have conversations so they wouldn’t interrupt the reading. Some hadn’t seen one another in years, but their conversations picked up with, “Now, as I was saying,” the way you do when you’re around friends and not just acquaintances.

Sometimes we go from dawn to dusk, and when we get there we say, “Well, there’s a day of my life I won’t get back.” Dr. Hunter S. Thompson Day will never be one of those.

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