I haven’t been properly drunk in a while. Which is a shame. I should be drunk or otherwise lubricated to write this missive, but I am not and I am not inclined to fix that. It’s gonna make it hard to really dig into the stream of way too conscious ramblings, but I going to try, for America and other interested parties. Though I make a drink everyday to share, I rarely drink it all. The wife and I split it and go on with our evening. Proper drinking is a thing to be done in crowds, shared with friends, even if you just met them. In this year without contact, I just haven’t had much impetus to drink more than a couple of sips at a time. I need for people to come along, for me to really enjoy the ride. And today is all about the ride, so I need to be out there looking for the edge, but I am doing it sober and it is hard to get there on your own, well, hard to get there on your own without a handful of pills or other chemical assistance. The thing is, I never really liked drugs. Maybe I just did the wrong ones. If I’d have had some sort of shaman or spirit guide to lead me along that particular path of enlightenment, may be I would feel differently. But I didn’t, so I don’t. Sure I experimented with the light stuff, but I never found a really good fit, so, beyond social stuff other people offered, I left them alone and never got to experience the truly mind-altering things. Drinking was different, that one was easy for me. It was accessible and I am open minded. It worked for both of us. But you don’t really get those mind and consciousness expanding revelations from a bottle. You get a penchant for story telling, laughing too loudly and embarrassing your more sedate friends with your antics, but if there are any true and deep lessons to be learned they mostly get lost somewhere between the hangover and that first cup of coffee. So, in the spirt of a certain laissez-faire attitude toward the truth and self aggrandizement, let us gather at the river as we stand and make the Gonzo.
“Why the hell would anyone drink something called a Gonzo?” he yelled reflexively. “Well, it’s not because of the god damned Muppets, I’ll tell you that!” I shouted as I ran for the door, a cloud of mace blossoming behind me. Clearly, Hunter S. Thompson is on my mind today. Not actually on my mind, he’s never really on your mind. He’s crawling through the dark places, hiding, then peaking out to yell “Boo! Didya miss me?” before slipping back into the darkness trailed by legions of sentient bats. Unknowable because he didn’t know himself, or perhaps because he knew himself so well that he had to hide parts away. I didn’t get him. Not really. Maybe it was that whole game recognizing game thing. I saw him as a guy with a problem and a hook that he used to hide his fairly mundane issues. Hiding troubles with other, more flamboyant, troubles. I get that. Completely. My buddy Thomas, hereafter affectionately referred to as “Bub’s” actually got him as a serious writer, though. He would read his novels and see beyond the choppy, not quite stream of consciousness stuff, to the truths hidden just below the surface. The kinds of things that threatened to boil through and ruin a dinner party. I envied that. I figured he got Faulkner on the first pass too. Not me, I had to work at it and I was never good at putting in the work. He was, though and he did. While I was crashing through life, he was honing his craft. Today is his birthday, not sure which one. He’s older than me but barely, so maybe today is 50, I don’t think so, I am betting it is 49. I hope so, cause I’d like to celebrate the milestone in person rather than this pandemic thing of just writing an article under duress to show my love for my pal. Yeah, I could look it up or message his wife to confirm, but I figure he sort of expects me to go light on the facts and heavy on the hyperbole as I use a couple of lines explaining that I can’t be bothered to check the accuracy of my words, while artificially inflating my word and/or character count. Character counts, right?
Bub’s was created by his parents Tom and Melba fifty years and roughly nine months ago today. Of course, I knew which birthday it was, social media reminded me this morning, but I couldn’t lose that whole character counts thing, just because the facts of the matter were never in question. This drink, on the other hand, was created by Kaitlin Wilkes of Stockholm’s, Corner Club. The drink was named Gonzo as a tribute to Hunter S. Thompson and his legacy of gonzo journalism, where the writer injects themselves into the narrative. Bub’s was named so he and his dad could share monogrammed items, perhaps, or is it allegedly? The drink has a rum base in honor of Thompson’s early work in Puerto Rico, The Rum Diaries. Bub’s has a base in the English language, business and an encyclopedic knowledge of rock ‘n roll. So they are different and only one of them fits comfortably in a highball glass.
I am not going to get into how to make a Bub’s, I assume they used standard methods and practices, but if you want to make the drink grab a mixing pitcher and toss in 1 1/4 ounces of Rum, I went with El Dorado 5 year; 1/2 an ounce of Luxardo Maraschino Cherry liqueur, 1/4 ounce of Amontillado sherry and 2 dashes of Crude’s “Rizzo” Rosemary Grapefruit Peppercorn bitters. Add a handful of ice cubes and stir to the sounds of Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues“ cause I only got ten dollar bills and it is sort of the first lyrics video predating youtube and the internet and MTV and all the trappings of modern musicality. When the drink is well chilled and mixed, strain into a highball glass filled with ice and top with about 4 ounces of tonic water, I went with Q Tonic Water*, cause the truth, it’s out there, man. Just follow the money and do your own research. I mean it sounds crazy, but that’s only cause it is. Just turtles all the way down, standing on elephants, just waiting to rise up when the truth can finally be shared with all the sheeple. (*Q tonic water is perfectly lovely and is in no way batshit crazy…or is it?) Damn, I hate that Thompson punched his own ticket and had to miss all the fear and loathing going around these days, sure we’ve got James Carville but it is not really the same. Garnish with a pink grapefruit slice and pop in a leftover straw from a shamrock shake. Nope, those are not in season, damn it. Ok, grab a straw from Sonic, unless they forget to put one in the bag. Doesn’t matter, the order is wrong anyway. Just use a glass tiki straw or drink from the cup, frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.
Thompson once said, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” Neal Stephenson later stole it, which is where I picked it up. This drink is like that, a little weird, but in a totally professional manner. I dig it. It’s complex and refreshing. This one is going to shift around hard depending on your rum option, maybe El Dorado was the right one, maybe it wasn’t. Being topical and tropical would have suggested a nice Bacardi 8 year made in Puerto Rico like that first book, but I didn’t have that so I had to make do. You do what you can. No one can ask for more. Well, they can ask, but they aren’t getting it. Do your best or your best for that day and leave them wondering if they got it all or if you held something back. The point is whether it is damn good or just good enough, the drink is good. You don’t have to look under every stone, enjoy it for what it is, a tall, refreshing drink of tonic water, with flair.
I always sort of figured that between us, Bub’s and I would make a decent Thompsonesque figure. He’s got the righteous indignation and the writing chops and I have a certain charismatic flair for the dramatic and poor impulse control. In fact, this particular shout into the darkness would be much improved if I had outsourced the writing to Bub’s and just gone on a crazy binge dancing around the room while he cranked out words on the old Underwood, with me playing a reasonably convincing Doctor Gonzo to his Raoul Duke, things would have been of a much higher quality. He could’ve captured that story though dialogue thing. I just can’t do it, I am a monologuer from way back, I just never got the knack for putting the words into other people’s mouths. It’s a shame that we never wrote for the Rolling Stone, though. I don’t know if we needed more drugs or trips to Vegas or maybe we just lacked a decent Steadman to visually document our ramblings and help cement our brand. We’ve had fun though. I mean, not always, but a lot of the time. While we never speak of the T2 incident, we’ve had some good RSD’s and my fez and inability to communicate properly helped set a chain of events in motion that led to another Hunter taking the field, so yeah ups and downs. We’ve shared a lot over the years, without any drugs at all and rarely much alcohol. So, on this fiftieth birthday of my pal, raise a glass of Gonzo to Thomas with Thompson’s own words:
Let us toast to animal pleasures, to escapism, to rain on the roof and instant coffee, to unemployment insurance and library cards, to absinthe and good-hearted landlords, to music and warm bodies and contraceptives… and to the ‘good life’, whatever it is and wherever it happens to be.Hunter S. Thompson, The Proud Highway
It’s not perfect, but hey, there are only so many Thompson toast quotes out there to choose from. To be fair, I reckon we have enjoyed most of those things together or separately, so it sort of fits. And if it doesn’t then when have we ever ticked all the boxes anyway? It’s not like we fit into the construct they built for us or the training they ejected us from, ready to take on the world, only to find that the only real enemy we had to overcome was apathy, which we have done, with varying levels of success, depending on the decade. The man also said, “You can’t hoard fun, it has no shelf life” and we have had a lot of fun over the years, shared all kinds of truly amazing experiences from Sunday School right on through to crazy Saturday nights and I can’t wait till the world gets back to something normal-esque enough for us to celebrate together again. My life is much improved for you being in it and yours is only a little tarnished by the mutual association, so we are going to call that a win and move on. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay gonzo, my friend.