CRUISIN’ THE MUSES: Aging with grace
October 19, 2012
The “Fear and Loathing” series from Hunter S. Thompson and the movie based on his Gonzo journalism reveal how tough a project aging with grace can prove.Thompson, whose journalistic chores for the counter-culture publication Rolling Stone were slashing and subjective, took his own life in 2005 at age 67.This column isn’t about suicide; it’s about aging with grace. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and the road to my point goes straight through hell.If you’re going through hell, Winston Churchill said, keep going. Good advice. So here goes. Many young journalists back in the day yearned to practice the new journalism or gonzo journalism. Throwing off the fetters of strict objectivity, playing fast and loose, became fashionable briefly. Writers like Thompson, Tom Wolfe (“The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” and “The Right Stuff”), Truman Capote (“In Cold Blood”) or Joan Didion (“Slouching Towards Bethlehem” and “The White Album”) were models for many.Your columnist caught the bug, but as a wire service reporter got over it quickly. The temptation made siren sounds, then faded for the most part.Related temptations, however, proved tougher. Remember that film about Thompson mentioned above? Called “Where the Buffalo Roam,” it starred Bill Murray as the Gonzo journalist acting crazy and covering politics. “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ‘72” was the model.An excerpt of dialogue:College student: “I was just wondering if you could tell me, um, if you thought drugs and alcohol would make me a better writer?”Gonzo guy: “That’s a good question. Let me see…” (Lights a joint; audience cheers, throws joints onstage). “I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.”Now that we’re through hell, Sir Winston, confession time requires a 70-year-old newsman to cop to three of Gonzo guy’s intemperate quartet — but only back in the day, of course.Abhorring violence, suicide never appealed. But in youth, what came out of the mouth or went in the mouth weren’t always the wisest of choices.Aging with grace, then, requires a shift from too much food and too many mind-altering substances to good mind- and body-altering habits. Best for us older folks are eating well; exercise; reading; chasing culture instead of thrills, and keeping active rather than hiding in the inner space of outer tokes, toots or tipples that make reality unreal.Good intentions and bad habits may lead to hell, but certainly promote demise. • John Barrette covers the arts, senior issues and health care. If you have a story or upcoming event that you want the public to know about, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 775-881-1213.