Oh, yes, it really has been a long, strange trip

Published 2:05 am Wednesday, October 16, 2013

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

— Hunter S. Thompson

What a great quote! I remember reading it many years ago, probably in Rolling Stone magazine, where Thompson was chief of the National Affairs Desk for decades. Even then, when I was still young, somewhat starry-eyed and completely idealistic, I thought to myself that in one sentence he had summed it up — Life. That’s exactly how you should live it, I thought.

And for the most part I’ve followed his advice, or tried to. I have to say though that whenever I read the part about skidding in a cloud of smoke I think of The Lone Ranger. Lol. But I digress.

I had not thought about that quote or Hunter S. Thompson for years, until recently when shopping (locally) I saw a plaque with a variation of Thompson’s quote and it all came back to me. I have to say I like the variation as well, or maybe better than the original. So here it is:

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, wine in the other, body thoroughly worn out and screaming “Woohoo, what a ride!”

Well there you have it. The addition of chocolate and wine seals the deal for me. Who wants to be a good-looking corpse anyway? Bring on the Ghirardelli! And you know, of course, that drinking wine is good for the heart. Yeah.

For those who might not remember Hunter S. Thompson, here’s a fairly brief bio of a unique writer whose colorful life was totally representative of the tumultuous times in which he lived and wrote.

He was first and foremost a counter culture journalist writing in the 1960s and ’70s. For those too young to remember the counter culture, Google it.

Thompson is famous — or more accurately, infamous — for his experimental style of journalism that became known as “Gonzo.” His writing, which he intended to be humorous, colorful and even bizarre, was described by writer Tom Wolfe as “part journalism and part personal memoir mixed with powers of wild invention and wilder rhetoric.” Why does that sound familiar?

He published a number of books and magazine pieces as part of the New Journalism movement of the ’60s and ’70s while trying to live under the radar near Aspen, Colo.

Born in Kentucky, Thompson was incarcerated for robbery while still in high school and a week after being released enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. Following his discharge from the Air Force he led a completely unconventional life, from living with the Hells Angels motorcycle club for a year and writing a book about it (one of his first “Gonzo” efforts) to his unsuccessful campaign for sheriff of Pitkin County, Colo., on the “Freak Power” ticket. However, by the time 1980 had rolled around, his fame had become an albatross of sorts, and he became almost a recluse. In 2005 he committed suicide at the age of 67.

Always a heavy drinker and drug user, he was a man who lived life on his own terms. He said this about his life: “I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.”

Of course, it was quite a different time, the ’60s and ’70s. I started college just after the Vietnam War really began to heat up in the mid-’60s. So many of my friends and classmates were drafted and sent off to the jungles of Southeast Asia. Many, too many, were killed, more than 1,600 are still unaccounted for (MIA), and most who returned were never quite the same.

Do you remember? The war was fought every night on the six o’clock news. I can still recall hearing body count numbers read matter-of-factly by anchors on whatever network that I happened to be tuned in at the time.

For me it was surreal — the war as soap opera. Tune in tomorrow at this time to hear what’s happened to our soldiers, our Marines, our sailors, our airmen, overnight.

What a debacle was Vietnam. But it seems we are not capable of learning from our past mistakes. How else could it be that we went and did it again — Iraq and Afghanistan. When will we (America) learn that what works for us and our culture is not something that can be transferred to another?

But once again I digress. We’re no longer at war with anyone, although our young men and women remain armed and in danger in places halfway around the world. Maybe we won’t be again in my lifetime.

I can only hope, and pray.