Scourge and Transparency

The Rise and Fall of Advanced Social Journalism during the Early Twenty-First Century

Posts Tagged ‘hunter s thompson

Blowin Out The Candles

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The people working at the Greyhound station in Houston weren’t very friendly or helpful. You don’t often come across an enthusiastic service person in the United States – aside from people working at restaurants or bars. I guess it’s because of low wages and having to live off tips. Anyway, it would seem the next bus going anywhere west was to Dallas. That day I had been hoping to catch an earlier route to New Mexico or El Paso at least. That day was my birthday.
I even had to wait a few hours in the Houston bus station before leaving. Although it was not all a waste – episodes of Gunsmoke were playing continuously over the monitor in the secured waiting area. I had learned early on not to take any shit from bus station security dicks. I had nothing dangerous on me and if they did thoroughly (or not-so-thoroughly in most cases) search my bag they’d likely find alcohol of some sort. So when it came my turn to be checked before entering the ticket-holders’ area I flatly told them they’d need to repack my bag if they wanted to see what was it in. To which the obviously underpaid security guard replied, “alright, go ahead.” Of course it wouldn’t be easy to drink openly for several hours at least. This pathetic worry was diminished by my surprise enjoyment of the classic Western series.
I also met a southern gentleman (well maybe not a gentleman but a southern man) who told me he had been married in Las Vegas not once but twice! when I had informed him that that was my next booked and scheduled destination. After arriving in Dallas I had hoped to switch buses that day and spend a night somewhere in the southwest before rolling into sin city. However after sitting on the coach eight hours and heading just as much north as west I decided to cut my losses and look for a cheap motel to spend my 27th birthday alone with some cold beer and maybe a meal.
This is not as sad as it sounds and interestingly enough the next 24 hours proved to be very eventful if not celebratory. I walked into a liquor store and bought a king can of something cheap and asked the patron along with the local guy you find in these liquor stores not doing anything but conversing with the person working there where one could find an inexpensive place to spend the night. Locals always want you to take public transportation or find something where close instead of walking. They don’t understand that to a traveller a 30-minute, 45 minute or even an hour walk through a place you’ve never been before can be a leisurely experience. They told me to keep heading down this one street out of the downtown area and the further I would go the cheaper the lodging would get. Just barely on the outskirts of the city core I noticed an oddly familiar street and hill that looked like something I had seen in a movie. It was not a crowded area at all but I saw someone take a photograph of the grassy hill and a section of the street. It was at this point that I realized I had unwittingly walked to the very point where John Fitzgerald Kennedy had been assassinated in November 1963. Obviously this was as good a place as any to drink a beer. So I sat up on the grassy knoll for a rest and read a few pages of Hunter S. Thompson.
HST’s book The Proud Highway had been my faithful companion for the past few weeks on the road. It was the perfect book for travelling. The back cover even had a picture of the author sitting on a backpack somewhere along the road in the desert. It’s a collection of letters written by Thompson to various peoples from the years 1955-65 – an early part of his career when he would have been around my age. While The Proud Highway read almost like a partial autobiography, because it was divided up into short letters it was also ideal for the low attention span of a spaced-out wonderer.
Eventually I moved on to find a place to rest my head. The area began to look like a place where they’d find a corpse on The First 48 on A&E. When I turned into a gas station, and bought a small cigar and glass bottle of coke, the operator could not tell me where I was or how far I was from anywhere I needed to go. This is the beginning of the Hispanic region of America. As the sun came down and I walked further I released I did have a “long haul” as the guy at liquor store put it. Exhausted after well over an hour of walking I picked up 24 cans of Miller High Life for $15 and finally found a $25 a night room. You know you’re in a classy place when they need to have a sign above the door that reads “no prostitution or drug use allowed.”
I spent the evening of my birthday with the fan on the full blast, stark naked with some cold ones. Kind of like Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now. Except that I also got text greetings from friends and watched a marathon of King of the Hill.
The first full day of my 27th year was arguably more self-destructive than mature. However, I did learn a thing or two and had enough of an unexpected and half-remembered time to make for a good story.
When I checked out I made for the grassing knoll again and talked to some conspiracy theory buffs about the history of the spot. Then I found a bar serving happy hour and drank some strong sangrias (regular sangria plus 151 rum). This was probably not a good idea since I had only eaten a rather disappointing Jack’n’Box breakfast on that very hot summer day. Another lone customer next to me was having his fill of food on the menu along with beers and whiskey. One thing I really love about the States is that people go to bars alone in the middle of day just to pass the time. I don’t know if it’s the price of drinks or the culture but that sort laid back indulgence isn’t practised enough Up North. I eventually started a conversation with the young guy over the similarity of our two shitty cellular phones. I quickly found that he was an Iraq War vet and when I told him that I had hours to kill before catching a bus to El Paso he was eager take me out for the rest of the day drinking on his dime.
I should have eaten some of the salty and cheesy dishes he had hardly touched so the booze wouldn’t have had such a lethal effect on me. The young guy didn’t care about money so he ordered anything he fancied at the moment. I, however, did care about my pride and couldn’t bring my self to speak the words “you gonna finish that?” no matter how broke and hungry I was. This, however, would have been the wiser choice. We went to the bar-infested end of town and got completely wickedly drunk. From what I can remember I had a good time. It was one of those afternoons when you meet a new person and ask every bartender “how long do you think the two of us have known each other?” to which they usually assume we’ve been friends for years. From spending an evening alone I had now met and got to know a perfect stranger.
When we really started hitting the vodka and beer hard my new buddy (whose name for obvious reasons completely escapes me) confided some of horrid shit he had seen and done while in The Shit in Iraq. I’m not gonna get into it here but let’s just say that people who have fought in combat have experienced things that have you view them with a mixed attitude of fear and respect.
I don’t remember how or when I made it back to the bus station but only came to in the middle of the night on some highway with a special issued military ring on my finger. When I went through my belongings I found missing the second pair of sunglasses I had lost on the trip and my personal bible: Hunter S. Thompson’s The Proud Highway. At this point such tragic depression hit that I was absolutely beside myself. I have tried not to give in to my obsessive side but when you fuck up and lose something that you felt was truly essential to what you were doing the only compulsion is to try and put yourself back to where you were before the shit hit the fan.
There was no getting the book back now but sunglasses could be bought at any pit stop. And because I was losing my mind over the wild stupidity of the situation I also purchased my first and only pack of cigarettes. Anyone who has got black out drunk, woke up the next day not knowing how they got there and feeling they had made mistakes will tell ya they prey on about how things were going so well till that tipping point when they went over the edge. I kept brooding about how I could have made things right by eating more or drinking something less hard. In the end one should realize: it is a lesson learned, don’t make any further mistakes in an attempt to rectify it and straighten out.
I had begun to become paranoid with worry that I could add getting on the wrong bus to my list of inebriated foolishnesses. Thankfully as I came in and out of sleep the sun rose to reveal the side of the road was filled with aridness and a bleak brown landscape. At the next pit stopped I walked off the bus with some black dudes who offered me their joint. When I looked around at the dry dirt and rust on everything I remarked “We’re in West Texas now,” and someone said “It’s desert from here on out.”

Written by shanedantimo

March 4, 2013 at 1:13 am