Blake Dowling: Celebrating ‘Fear and Loathing’
Thompson001_HO.JPG File photo of Hunter S. Thompson from 1977. Associated Press LaserPhoto Ran on: 02-21-2005 Photo caption Dummy text goes here. Dummy text goes here. Dummy text goes here. . Ran on: 02-21-2005 Hunter S. Thompson flashes a victory sign in May 1990 after learning that prosecutors planned to drop felony charges against him, including possession of explosives and narcotics.

If Hunter’s work had a reoccurring theme, it was to chase your dream.

One of my roommates in college, Powell, gave me a book in 1994 that he insisted I read as soon as possible.

It was “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”

Powell was an intelligent chap; he had given me “Pillars of the Earth” (by Ken Follet) around the same time, which I loved, so I took his recommendations seriously.

This one had a pretty goofy cover, so it rode around in my Celica for a while.

But one day, I picked it up and didn’t put it down until it was finished. Almost 30 years later, I still recall the read like it was yesterday.

In the following months, Powell started dating my girlfriend, but we will not dwell on that. What is important is that we remain good friends and that he put me on a literary journey that continues today.

I had discovered a lot of new authors around that time, Tom Wolfe, Kerouac, William Johnstone (he wrote apocalypse books before they were cool) but the author of Fear and Loathing, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, was something else.

I spent the next couple of years reading his complete body of work. His shift between politics, sports, motorcycle gangs and a story about a trip to Las Vegas was all effortless; maybe that was the appeal.

Then came the movies. “Where the Buffalo Roam” with Bill Murray was a staple at my house in Atlanta.

But it was film gold when Johnny Depp hit the big screen as Hunter. Me and my pal Sharp caught that on the day it was released.

However, my fan experience was incomplete until we made the quest to Aspen, which Hunter called home.

We got this on the calendar for the summer of 1995. The actual point of the trip was a series of Allman Brothers shows in Colorado. Still, as the guy that wrote the agenda for the trip, I penciled in an afternoon at the Woody Creek Tavern for lunch.

This way, we could pay homage to our literary hero and have a lovely happy hour and meal on our journey. He lived not too far from that spot, and the walls were plastered with Hunter memorabilia; it was a museum to his legacy.

Waiting for our table many years ago at the Woody Creek Tavern.

I will certainly not try to incorporate his writing style into this, as only HST could weave the words swine, thieves, and the hunt The American Dream into a cohesive sentence. So, we might as well get some authentic HST quotes in the mix.

This was a classic:

Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run, but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant.” ― Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Our ’90s trip to Colorado felt like that; Aspen, Vail and the surrounding area, great friends, concerts, hikes, it did not get much better in that corner of the world.

For our purposes today, I offer you the following now that you have my backstory as a fan.

Did you know Dr. Thompson began his career in Florida? Like all things — college football, elections and vacations — Florida is the place to be, and such was the tale of Hunter S. Thompson.

In 1956, Thompson enlisted in the military. He was stationed at Eglin Air Force Base in Ft. Walton Beach for a couple of years. It went about as you would expect if you were familiar with Thompson’s antics at Rolling Stone Magazine and elsewhere.

While in Florida, he wrote for competing papers under fake names and played both sides of various local issues. The military did not allow this as he was supposed to write only for them, but that’s how it goes.

In one of his collections of letters, he wrote of the time: “In short, we both know I’m no more qualified for a post like this than I am for the presidency of a theological seminary, but here is one major fact that makes it possible for me to hold this job: the people who hired me didn’t bother to check any too closely on my journalistic background.”

From the walls of the Woody Creek Tavern.

Thompson was discharged honorably from his service, and in just a few short years, in 1967, he would become a star with his first big book, The Hells Angels, A Strange and Terrible Saga.

The books, the movies, and the magazine contributions that followed were some of the most entertaining ever put on paper until the ride ended on Feb. 20, 2005.

His last quote went as follows: “No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun — for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax — This won’t hurt.”

After his passing, a private ceremony was held where his ashes were blasted out of a cannon at his home in Woody Creek. Attendees included Bill Murray, Depp, Jack Nicolson, members of his family, and a performance by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

A funny closing story would be one I heard about Depp asking Murray (who both played Hunter in movies) how long it takes to get Hunter out of your system?

Murray replied, “You don’t.”

Outside of his literary work, there are so many good stories out there. Like one my friend Cameron shared with me last week about Hunter “borrowing” antlers from Ernest Hemmingway.

If Hunter’s work had a reoccurring theme, it was to chase your dream. While some writers give you food for thought, Hunter gives you the entire 24-hour Las Vegas all-you-can-eat buffet to consider. He was the only Gonzo journalist; if you are reading this, I assume you bought a ticket for the ride.

My takeaway is this: somewhere between the Gonzo gibberish, there was heart, there was a life well lived outside of the norm. There was indeed the American Dream for us all to celebrate together, one chapter, one letter and one swine-filled quote at a time.

I still have a souvenir from the trek West in my office today; you will note that the actual print was $1K from a gallery in Aspen, so I took a photo of it and blew it up, hence the clamps, American Dream indeed.


Blake Dowling is the CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. He can be reached at [email protected].

Blake Dowling

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. His technology columns are published by several organizations. Contact him at [email protected] or at


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