Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Two Drunks, a Bottle, Some Rifles....

Most of you who know what time zone you reside are probably aware by now that Hunter S. Thompson - gonzo journalist, Nixon-nemesis, high-volume shootist, and acclaimed alcoholic - died last weekend from a self-inflicted gunshot. I enjoyed his pieces but was never part of the HST cult that followed him to strange book signings, complete with obligatory drunken and oafish behavior (like last October in Los Angeles). So I wasn't too surprised to see that Christopher Hitchen's obit of HST today should begin with his own tale of distilled excess.

In early August of 1990 I went to Aspen, Colo., to cover what looked as if it would be a rather banal summit involving Margaret Thatcher and George Bush. (The meeting was to be enlivened by the announcement of the forcible annexation of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein, who would go on to trouble our tranquility for another 13 years.) While the banal bit was still going on, the city invited the visiting press hacks for a cocktail reception at the top of an imposing mountain. Stepping off the ski lift, I was met by immaculate specimens of young American womanhood, holding silver trays and flashing perfect dentition. What would I like? I thought a gin and tonic would meet the case. "Sir, that would be inappropriate." In what respect? "At this altitude gin would be very much more toxic than at ground level." In that case, I said, make it a double.

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