The Weather

Hunter S. Thompson and The American Dream

I was on the can with a cowboy hat on, and I got to thinking Hunter S. Thompson went looking for the American Dream where he knew he’d never find it: the rabbit hole of Las Vegas, the neurotic circle of the Kentucky Derby, the oblivion of Big Kahuna. With his visor and gun, he was after the chase not the game, leaning forward forever falling. He was a writer and as such craved motion, the moving words, making money with every word like a trucker does with every mile. Writers must move, must fall, with no such thing as a landing soft or hard, or a happy or sad end. Hunter Thompson wryly mistook the value of speed often enough, sacrificed for velocity, sacrificed the marathon for the sprint, could never write a novel—a man of articles.

He went to the fast places: Vegas, the Derby. He didn’t go to the vast, abiding places which are another glory of America. He never went to Yellowstone; he might have found the American Dream there. On a Sunday afternoon: father and sons squat riverside, fishing poles crossing the brims of their hats, the father pointing and the boys looking. Down the way: a family picnicking by the water on a beautiful Sunday: nothing wrong with that at all. In the campground, a teenage boy with Downs Syndrome laughs running from his older brother’s playful chase; both are wearing too-big cowboy boots. In line for ice cream, leggy girls are growing more beautiful than their mothers, while in the parking lot: boys are growing taller than their fathers, and offering to drive. The roads are full of leather clad gods on motorcycles, like mating mantises. There’s some excitement, and the bikers turn from centaur to man as they dismount with a stiff strut, turn their leathery face to the Lamar Valley. The one I watch has a Harley Davidson Jacket embroidered:

KABUL

HARLEY DAVIDSON

AFGHANISTAN

Looking out, he chats amiably with the pale beer bellies who waddled out of their minivans to catch the same sight: a pack of wolves now gone, which had moved like a mercury reflection spilling out over the valley in chase of an elk. Onward, near the Grand Prismatic Pool, a skater kid races down river, plucking off his shoes one two in step wading to retrieve a floating sombrero: the crowd applauds as he hands it back to the chicken-legged cubicle jockey who’d spent five minutes in impotent chase, too timid to wade in, always hesitantly reaching. Oh the nightmares that man will have, should have. The American Dream.

Eric Gelsinger is part of the old House Press in Buffalo, NY. His work can be found in Fence, LUNGFULL!, Ecopoetics, and Flim Forum. During the last seven years he has worked for the United Nations, and as an Equity Trader for D. E. Shaw. His interests include the economy of literature, Latin American poetry and prose, and comedy. He lives in Brooklyn.