Fear and Loathing at CSUN 2006: Gonzo Fiction
[Author’s Note: Today’s article is dedicated to the memory of the late great Hunter S. Thompson who died at his own hand in 2005. Whether you know him for his articles in Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, , The New Yorker or elsewhere, his many books, his outstandingly bizarre lectures or as the Doonesbury character “Uncle Duke” you probably enjoyed some of his weird and wonderful, purely American genius. His writings invented the concept of gonzo journalism, which would later be called the “New Journalism” by more mainstream authors like Truman Capote, Joan Didion, Norman Mailer, Tom Wolfe as well as others who, like Thompson, through objectivity to the wind, inserted themselves in their narrative and never let facts get in the way of a good story. Any American who writes creatively today has, consciously or otherwise, been influenced by Dr. Gonzo and his Samoan attorney Laslow Toth.
I did my best to write in a style as close to Hunter’s as I could. I don’t have his tremendous command of the language nor his ability to make the grotesque sound beautiful but I hope I succeeded in bringing our readers on a short literary adventure into the gonzo world that Hunter helped us all visit when we needed to.]
Fear and Loathing at CSUN 2006
By Gonz Blinko
Freelance Reporter for Blind Confidential
“Coming into Los Angelees, Carrying a couple of keys, Don’t look in my luggage please, Mister customs man,” I sang while walking up the jet way at L A X.
“Do they play Arlo Guthrie in your country?” I asked the airport employee sent to help me up the jet way, while wondering why I needed a guide in a structure that has only one way in and one way out.
The five foot tall man struggling with my carry on bags grunted something in a foreign language and, remembering my location, I asked the question again in Spanish. He sounded more confused and his second response contained enough words that I could tell he didn’t speak Spanish either. I asked, “Where are you from?”
He paused to catch his breath and responded with a couple of syllables that I couldn’t parse. We exited the jet way and he handed me over to an airline employee. I pulled a $20 bill from my pocket and stuffed into his hand as he patted me good bye. “Thank you!” He exclaimed in a heavily accented but exuberant English. As the person from Delta started gathering my carry on bags, I could only think my jet way guide had probably sat in some rat infested refugee camp a few months ago and now, here he was, grasping the American Dream in the form of a twenty dollar bill handed to him by a blind journalist stuck on old folks songs from the hippy days. “Where do you want to go?” Asked the large man from Delta.
“My attorney has a gate pass, she will meet me here momentarily,” I said, “I called her from the plane.”
“Can she see you?” asked the Delta person.
“I’m blind, not invisible,” I retorted.
“Is she visually challenged too?” Asked the airline employee as I grew increasingly impatient.
“The word is blind. B L I N D. You freaking dolt!” I couldn’t help myself, this moron had my arm in a vice grip as if I could possibly fall off of the floor. Pulling rational thought back into the forefront of my mind, “No, she’s not blind, she can see me, she can see you and she can see herself if there is a mirror available.”
“Would you like a wheelchair?” This guy just wouldn’t stop so I whacked him with my cane.
“Does it look like I have something wrong with my damned feet?” I hollered.
“I’m only trying to be helpful, uh, uh, Mr. Blinko, uh, uh…”
“Then let me sit down and leave me alone. I have important work to do. Don’t you realize I’m a doctor? A doctor of journalism and I’m in this god forsaken city to cover a very very important event. I need to concentrate. Get me a coffee.”
The man from Delta finally let me sit and, rather meekly, said, “We don’t have coffee up here.”
I didn’t give him any money but wished my refugee would come back so I could learn about whatever horrible dictatorship he had escaped from. It seems that a lot of refugees from truly horrific places work in airports. I pulled out my PAC Mate and started typing a new document about the use of refugees as slave labor in US airports. I had no evidence that these people suffer the humiliation and bondage of slavery but it makes a better story and I’m more likely to find a buyer than with some heartwarming tale about a nice immigrant helping a blink.
As I waited for my attorney, she often ran late, my cell phone rang. It played the tone that I assigned to that annoying Blind Confidential editor. MSP screamed out his name from my PDA phone. “Crap,” I thought and hit the call button, “Blinko.”
“Did you arrive safely,” the jerk asked.
“I’m talking to you,” I mumbled, wishing the idiot from Delta could go over to the Starbuck’s I could smell from my seat and get me a triple shot vente late. I needed the caffeine to overcome the handful of valiums I took so I could sleep on the flight.
“Sounds like you’re still in the airport,” the editor stated inanely.
“An overstatement of the obvious on which you have such a terrific grasp.”
“Who’s paying the bills?” Asked the irritated editor who is always certain he is the smartest guy in the room.
“Who’s writing the article? Who flew out to the city of car exhaust and poisoned oceans?” I asked in response as I felt a hand land heavily on my shoulder. My attorney had arrived. “Samhara just got here, I got to run, talk to you in a few days…” I could still hear the rat turd of an editor yelling as I hit the button to hang up and put the phone back in its belt clip.
“What kind of car did you get us?” I asked my tall African attorney.
She replied, with her soft accent and British educated tone, “I couldn’t get a caddy, Eric MacDamery got the last one.”
“The Scottish golfer,” I asked.
“One in the same, he says he’s in town for the fight too.”
“So, what did we get?”
“I had to shop around a bit,” said Samhara, “I found us a Porsche 911 Turbo from some exotic rental place out in the valley. That’s why I arrived late.”
“Will BC pay for such a thing?”
“As your attorney, I made certain that the expense portion of the contract would permit a few extravagances.”
“But they’re so cheap; they made me pay for my own PDA on that other story.”
“That’s what you get for negotiating without your lawyer. Face it Gonz, you need a lot of legal advice and I’m the last attorney in the US willing to represent you.”
She always told the truth, brutal as it may be, I did find myself in a lot of legal troubles, and I’m always saying or doing the wrong thing without even knowing so. “What about weapons, we’ll need lot’s of weapons?” I asked, “This job has a high potential for danger, it has violence at its core, rooms filled with highly trained dogs and the usual conflicts that arise when a Cuban gets into the ring with an American.”
“I’ve got a Glock 9, a Ruger .22, your Mossberg M9, an AK and a few other goodies, all adapted for your needs.” Samhara responded coolly.
“Enough to take out most armies.”
“Let’s get some coffee.”
Our Porsche screeched out of the airport parking lot and I spilled a bit of my second triple shot vente laté onto my chin, “Damn that’s hot.” I mumbled.
Samhara quipped, “You didn’t ask for ice coffee,” as she barreled forward, taking speed bumps at 75 and turns far too quickly for my stomach’s taste. She hit a button on the dashboard and some kind of reggae inspired hip hop blasted out claiming that someone should shoot the sheriff and that they planned hurting on some guy named Ice quite badly. I think the song was titled, “I Hope You Got a Good Doctor ‘Cause I Got a Great Lawyer.” I could identify.
We arrived at the LAX Marriott within seconds. The airport is actually very close to the airport so we didn’t terrorize too many people with Samhara’s driving. The valet, upon seeing the cache of weapons in our trunk stuttered a bit so I gave him a hundred dollar bill from the tip roll I keep in my pocket while traveling. “Gracious!” he exclaimed, “My name es Ricardo, you want anything dis week, you aks for Ricardo.”
“Bueno,” I mumbled as I walked into the hotel and headed for the lobby Starbuck’s to seek old companions from previous CSUN and other nightmares. I guess I’ve been coming here for long enough that the girl behind the counter, upon seeing my face, said, “Triple shot vente laté, right?” The espresso machine whined as she steamed my milk and I handed her a twenty and said “keep the change.” I figured in a convention filled with blinks that her tips would probably hit a low for the year and she has kids to support.
I wandered into a crowd of people idly chatting and acted like I’d been there all night. I folded up my cane and stuck it into my pocket. The big fight, the World Blind Boxing Association (WBBA) championship would be won the following day and everyone had an opinion. I recognized the voice of old bookmaker friend, Harry the Hat and said, “Put two grand on Garbanzo for me. What’s the over/under?”
“Pedestrian in four,” he replied.
“What can I get on Garbanzo in five or less?”
“Eight to one.”
“Put two grand on that for me two.”
A delightful petite blind chick then spoke up, “Any of you tired of the booze and gossip and want to venture into the sex and drugs should follow me up to the party in my suite.”
Samhara had joined me and said that she want to go to the party. “I want to stay fresh, got to keep my eyes open for this fight article.”
After interviewing a few other sports fans, I tapped my way to the elevator and pushed the button for my floor. Upon arrival, I had no idea which way to turn. The LAX Marriot has its elevator bank arranged with three on each side facing each other. The floors with rooms are arranged in a giant figure eight, I had no idea which way to turn. So, I guessed and embarked on my annual walk through the corridors of an airport hotel.
I noticed the sweet smell of hashish smoke as I walked through a cloud outside the door of the party that the young and cute blind woman had invited us to. I could overhear lots of happy sounding voices, blasting punk rock and an occasional farm animal bleat; I didn’t want to get involved. I heard the voice of Mike Pedestrian yelling something about Velcro and lime Jell-O and knew for sure I didn’t want to go in there.
Upon reaching my suite, I noticed that Ricardo had brought everything up, hung up my clothes and arranged the weapons in order of caliber. “Nice work,” I thought and made a note in my iPAQ to tip him again.
Thus situated safely in my room, I took my Glock, made sure its clip was full, and sat down to go over the notes for my assignment. “A boxing match,” I thought. “This will feel a lot different from most of my stories.”
On the plane I had read up on the fighters. One Andres “The Giant” Garbanzo would duke it out with the heavily favored, Mike “The Streetwalker” Pedestrian. The odds makers gave Andres, a political refugee who had escaped Castro alone, quite a feat for a blind person going it solo, little chance because of his age, higher than Pedestrian’s and his reach, a bit shorter than his opponents. Pedestrian, who never escaped from Fidel but spent a lot of time in the Castro, did stand taller and had a longer reach but I didn’t think he had the killer extinct that Garbanzo brought with him on his inner tube ride across the Florida Straights.
The regulation 12 round championship bout would only accommodate for the blindness of the fighters by putting bells on their boxing shoes. Otherwise, the fighters had to feel and hear their way around the ring. “This could be quite a spectacle,” I thought.
The fight’s object, to determine which would rule supreme, PDF, (Proprietary Document Format) represented by Andres, an employee of Mud Hut Systems or ODF (Obfuscated Document Format) represented by Pedestrian. Far more than the championship was on the line, the future of documents read by Massachusetts State employees could go either way.
I read a few more statistics about the fighters and their sponsor companies. Mud Hut Systems seemed to have a strong lead so Garbanzo has history on his side, ODF, sponsored by Moon Macrosystems, had Jolting Joe Lazarro, a guy every blind boxer wants in his corner, working with Mike. Don King, representing Seattle’s Macrohard Corporation, said he didn’t have a dog in this race and that he wants to see who might emerge as the winner.
I must have nodded off in my chair as the sun, one of the few things I could still see, glared in through the window as I felt around for my Ray Ban sunglasses. I could smell coffee and then heard, “Ha Ha Ha,” as samhara’s deep laugh filled the room.
“Triple shot vente laté for the doctor,” she said as she handed me a piping hot paper cup. “You’ve been sleeping for twelve hours and missed the new seeing eye bottlenose dolphin at the beach.”
I sipped my hot beverage and asked, “What else?”
“A few dozen quarter sized low vision people took over the lobby for a while,” she added nonchalantly.
“It seems that the AI^3 people never tested ShrinkText with more than two people in the room. Their demo left a bunch of people shrunken and little nano-bits flying all over the place. It definitely stole the show.”
“Anything else?” I asked hesitantly.
“The BC people called about three dozen times…”
“Paranoid freaks,” I exclaimed and shot off a few rounds from my Glock into the ceiling. The LAX Marriot knows to put me on the top floor because of this little habit of mine.
“I calmed them down,” said samhara as she handed me a second laté” “As your attorney, I advise you to stop shooting and get dressed so we can go to the fight.”
“She has a point,” I thought as I stood up and walked to the bathroom. “How did the party go?” I asked as I started heating the water for my shower.
“Pretty good,” said my lawyer, “I brought home a lovely woman who sells bootleg screen readers in Iraq. We had a great time.”
“How’s her business going with the invasion and all that?” I asked as I pulled items from my toiletry case.
“Excellent, she says war does great things for the blindness business.”
“You are a very sick lesbian, really, you are very sick.”
Samhara replied, “What other sort would accept you as a legal client you foul mouthed, loose cannon blink?”
I had to agree with her assessment and hopped in the shower.
After a hair raising race across town from the hotel to The Los Angeles Forum (or whatever corporate sponsor forum it’s called now), we tossed the keys to the valet, showed our press credentials to the large, imposing Mexican watching the VIP door and headed up to the press box to watch the fight. A lard butt blabbering about some kind of electronic kayak project got in my way so I stuck him in the ribs with the .22. “As your attorney,” Samhara started again, “I recommend you don’t pull the trigger.” The fat boy got out of my way and we started toward the buffet.
An overly drunk reporter for the Florida Blind Citizens Daily World puked onto the floor and a handful of guide dogs fought to lick it up. “Jeez,” I blurted, barely holding down my breakfast. “I thought that Moroccan jail you got me out of was pretty nasty but this crowd…”
Samhara slapped me, “Just don’t take out any guns. Let’s go downstairs to the press table. I bet Nicholson will be there and you can talk about your paranoid conspiracy plots with him and Sharpton.”
I agreed that this idea had many benefits over shooting up a room filled with assistive technology and blindness journalists and we headed down. Samhara, as usual was correct, Jack and Al had already taken their spots in their ringside seats and I, coffee in hand sat beside them. Al addressed me first, “Gonz, you can’t believe this punk, he really believes that Bill Clinton is from Araganola a planet in the sixth dimension when everyone knows he is a bot built by Ross Perot to keep America entertained while the corporate elites really run everything.”
“Jack,” I said, “I gotta go with Al on this one, Clinton’s definitely a bot. Dole, on the other hand might be an alien.”
Our conversation continued like this until the place was filled. Michael buffer, the legendary fight announcer, climbed into the ring and, speaking into the microphone suspended from the ceiling, yelled, “Now for our main event!” The crowd cheered and then fell nearly silent. “We have in the blue corner, coming in at 185 pounds at 5 feet six inches tall, from Havana, Cuba, with a record of 45 and oh Andres “The Giant” Garbanzo. Garbanzo handed his prosthetic eyes to a beautiful girl at ringside and I whispered to Jack, “They don’t call him the Spanish fly for nothing.” As Garbanzo danced about the ring.
Buffer returned to his microphone, “And in the red corner, coming in at five feet ten inches and weighing 175 and one half pounds, fighting out of San Francisco, California, Mike “The Streetwalker” Pedestrian!” The California crowd went wild for their home state hero.
“They’ll be disappointed,” I said to Al.
“I’m sure,” said the right reverend, “it’s ludicrous to even think that a white boy can take out a guy as tough as Garbanzo. If he does, I want to get out of LA quick as this might be worse than the Rodney King debacle.”
Buffer yelled, “Are you ready to rumble?” The crowd went into near hysteria as the referee told the fighters some rules which we couldn’t even hear from ringside. The fighters returned to their corners and we heard a loud Ding!
The fighters started toward each other, slowly at first and then faster. Pedestrian grabbed on and the referee separated them. Garbanzo led with two left jabs, Pedestrian took a step back, Andres pursued, and jab, jab, jab and a right cross to Mike’s jaw that caused blood to spurt from his mouth. “How do you like that?” Asked Nicholson as he started to dab at the blood on his tuxedo shirt. “I always get the fluids on me.”
Pedestrian took a standing eight count and Garbanzo returned to the attack. Jab, Jab, jab, Andres could hit The Streetwalker at will. Finally, with a right uppercut, Pedestrian went down. The referee counted to ten and it was all over.
“He might hang out in the Castro,” exclaimed an exuberant Garbanzo, “but I fought Fidel and came out on top!”
The stunned crowd shuffled out and Samhara and I headed for the valet to get our rental. We screamed back to the hotel with the same rap CD playing, I gave Ricardo another hundred and we sat for coffee. When our bags reached the front and Ricardo pulled the car around, we hopped in and headed back toward the airport. “I think we’re early enough for the last flight out,” she said.
“Flight to where?” I asked.
“Do you really care?”