Obviously, when I said check back at the end of May, I meant the middle of June. I’m an Angeleno now, when we say we’ll be somewhere at 4, we’ll be there at 6 .. or maybe we just won’t turn up.
A lot of stuff as has been going on. I took a trip out of the state at the end of May for a wedding in Virginia, and to catch up with some old pals in Massachusetts. Along the way I stopped in Washington DC to see monuments, memorials, and the White House. We also threw in a quick trip to Ocean City for exotic burgers and mini-golf. I think it was Ocean City … I’m not a hundred percent sure on that, it was my turn to sit in the back of the car that day and I reverted straight back to childhood, gazing out the window for hours, day dreaming away, and not paying attention to anything other than my bladder.
I kayaked in the rain; I walked around Walden Pond, saw the hut where Thoreau lived for a year; I stood on the bridge where the first battle of the Revolutionary War was fought; I pootled around Salem; stumbled across the White house at three in the morning; had front row seats to an acapella (spelling anyone?) concert in the rain; ate more good food in 10 days than I have in the last six months; drank a considerable amount; put the world to rights with good friends; read books, entire books… in the plural; got yelled at by neighbours for keeping them awake; was asked to leave the premium coach seats on the flight and return to my place in the peasants’ quarters: and generally had a splendid time.
And then I came back and was depressed for three days.
But after that, I went to see Eddie Izzard at the Hollywood Bowl. Obviously he was superb. By the way, it’s true what they say about the nation getting fatter. I remember going to shows at the Hollywood Bowl 15-20 years ago, and it’s definitely more squashy these days. Also, full of roaring drunk senior citizens… there is a rigorous security bag check procedure when you first go in, and no one gets up to go to the bar that often. I can only assume they’re smuggling in flasks of hooch stuffed down their socks. Tsk, tsk, tsk
So yaaars, stuff has been happening, and in amongst all that stuff, I discovered Hunter S. Thompson and Ralph Steadman. ‘Discovered’ is misleading, I wasn’t completely ignorant of their existence, after all, Johnny Depp was in a Hunter S. Thompson film adaptation so there had been a point where worlds collided. But my knowledge was limited to a vague idea that Thompson and Steadman were a pair of creative drug addicts, and therefore were producing things similar to David Lynch’s Naked Lunch…which was fucking insanity, and left me wanting two hours of my life back. I saw the film, and then was scared to read the book. I saw it 24 years ago and I still occasionally have a shuddering glimpse of a grotesque spine creature at a typewriter, which seems unfair since it was David Lynch, not I, who was tripping balls.
Anyhoo, whilst in my friend’s living room I noticed a book with Steadman’s illustrations on the cover which manage to be scruffy and chaotic, but charming and irresistible at the same time. It turned out to be an ode to Hunter’s deceased cat, Jones, who was that charismatic brand of cat that is not a pet, but a houseguest who bestows upon you the honour of feeding and housing it for the rest of its life. After being thoroughly enchanted by that (and I’m not really the sort of person who is easily enchanted by cat books), I started poking my nose through the rest of the books, “Hmmn, what’s that then? Edward Gorey, love him. Ooh that looks like another Steadman cover, I’ll just wiggle that one out of the pile…”
The wiggled book was “The Curse of Lono” where Thompson very skillfully weaves the story of Captain Cook’s journey to Hawaii into a narrative of his experiences of living on the big island for six months, when he was only meant to be there for three weeks.
Bloody hell, he’s good. The prose is eloquent, and a little dark, and yet still really easy to read; and he’s SO funny. No one ever tells you this. Never have I had a conversation that has included the sentence, “Hunter S. Thompson? Damn near pissed my pants reading his book!” That’s a statement that should be being made in coffee shops, bars, restaurants, and living rooms all over the world, at least once a month. Plus everything is beautifully enhanced by Steadman’s illustrations. You start off thinking, “Well I could maybe sketch something a little like that…” which then turns to, “The man’s a bloody genius! I am worthless next to him… a child’s finger painting is more impressive than anything I can offer.”
Or at least, that’s how my thought process goes.
So in pondering why no one ever tells you that Thompson is a must read, I came to the conclusion that the majority of people are making the same mistake as me, and that he’s actually managed to become one of the least read, yet most famous authors.
Which is really rather clever of him… there’s a lot of free time in maintaining that reputation.