back to the Black Table

My doctor needs political attention. He's sick, a helpless junkie withdrawing in a secluded mountain cabin, surrounded by a carnival of nouns, insane things, remnants from interesting people and far-off places. The good Doc needs a serious fix, an adrenalized brown hypo packed with electoral carnage.

Welcome to Dr. Hunter S. Thompson's world, right here where nowhere meets the mountainside in Woody Creek, Colo. Welcome to his kitchen, which doubles as Hunter's lair, the epicenter where parts of speech are channeled through Dunhill fumes, just like the sticky tar caught in Thompson's trademark filter. Here he writes, at a kitchen counter on an old word processor, whose keys shall remain still during this election season.

I had to ask, even though I already knew the answer. Is Hunter covering the Gore-Bush fiasco?

"Oddly enough, I am not," he says. "I can't seem to get into it. Yeah. Yeah. I really feel quite sorry for you. Yeah. I was talking to Jann Wenner the other day. He's given up getting me to write something for him."

Wenner, the king of the Rolling Stone empire, is not alone. Many of Hunter's friends have tried to get him, a self-described political junkie, to take a hit of this year's drug. Hunter says that Ed Bradley, who lives just up the road, invited him to come to Philadelphia. Major magazines have offered him prime real estate in their pages, which he refused. It's almost like they're doing an intervention, only instead of cleaning him out, they're trying to cook him up.

I'm here for precisely the same reason. To tempt Hunter with an election so boring that he can't even come up with a description for the junkies who're mainlining it.

"Anyone with half a fucking brain would be apathetic," Hunter spits, before trailing off. "If you're excited about this thing you'd be, um, I don't know."

Even though Hunter's not writing about it, he still follows, muting and unmuting CNN, which plays constantly on a 27-inch television not 12 feet from his ashtray and keyboard. He's still biting with the same force, but the teeth are different - not as sharp. But he's still got opinions.

On Lieberman: "Based on his voting record, the man should be executed."

On Giuliani: "The people should hang him."

On the Republican National Convention: "I think it was scary. It was a really spooky party. The kind that you stumble in to. Y'know, crash a weird party and go, 'holy fuck!'"

On the Republican Party: "No, they're the same old fucking party. They're pigs - they're not wolves. They're the same old greedheads."

On today's protesters: "You know, you could at least promise someone would get beaten up, gassed."

On Nader: "I'm likely to vote for Nader. That's who I'd be inclined to vote for. And I probably will vote for Nader."

So he's willing to chew the political cud. But still, the doctor badly needs a fix, something to get the hackles up, something to irritate the bile duct, something to send the 62-year-old doctor into an apoplectic fit so severe that the weather changes.

This is clear when I first see him and immediately bring up politics. He's willing to riff for a bit, but no chords will be struck. Instead, Hunter receives an audience from various coworkers and friends. It's only natural. We're in the famous Woody Creek Tavern, where Hunter's been holding court for more than a decade.

He soon makes a $5 bet with the tavern's owner. The Colorado skies are darkening, some drops have already fallen, the majority right when Hunter pulled into the gravel drive on an old BMW motorcycle. Hunter brought the storm, but he gambled against it. And he won.

"Watch this fucker not deliver," Hunter comments, eyes skyward. "This could have been the promise of a real storm. The kind of thing that if I were 10 miles from home, I'd be all 'uh oh.' Huge drops like bullets in my eyes. Yeah. It'd be nasty, or we won't have anything at all."

We weren't talking about the election, but we might as well have been.