Monday, August 22, 2005

It's All About The Fear

The events I'm about to describe all happened during the twilight of my first important relationship, a peculiar stage during which neither of you is sure exactly what it is you've got. Is it over, is it a break, should we still talk, do we see other people? A sad and confusing time, but because life never has actual fade-outs or curtains that conveniently close at the appropriate moment, you go on, making up the rules as you go along.

These were the circumstances under which my sort of but maybe not quite ex-girlfriend invited me to visit her for the weekend in Boston. This was after the years we had spent in Grand Rapids, Michigan (don't ask: like living inside of an iceberg run by Puritans) and Providence but before she moved to New York. Now, she had somehow gotten a job with a lecture tour agency that arranged for speakers to appear at colleges and special events. The weekend she had in mind was one in which her agency would be escorting the infamous Dr. Hunter S. Thompson to a speaking engagement at a nearby university and this promised to be fun and exciting. At the very least, she promised, I'd get to see him speak at this event and that in itself should be entertaining.

So I packed and set off for Boston by train, as I was still over another 20 years from setting foot on an airplane. If anyone ever asks you, it's a long ride from Philadelphia. But one during which you get to do a lot of thinking. Just what was involved with "escorting" Dr. Thompson? And how close would you want to get? I had read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas during its original serial publication in Rolling Stone and was more than a little confused by it.

The drawings didn't help, either.

This was the guy who, at the end of a scathing reply to a letter in the same magazine, capped it off with the endearment, "May God have mercy on your doomed ass." The guy who wrote, “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side.” The guy who went toe-to-toe with Nixon, for cryin’ out loud. What was I letting myself in for?

Not to mention the fact that I had very little personal experience with drugs. I mean, taking drugs. I knew people took them – I’d seen them take them. But I didn’t know what the difference was between uppers and downers and the laudanum inspired visions of Fear and Loathing were something I had to take the good Doctor’s word for. The closest I could come to them were those sparkly kaleidoscopic designs you’d get when you’d push your eyeballs in. Would he spike our drinks with mescaline and leave us alone to beat the bats away? Maybe this hadn’t been such a good idea after all.

And what was going on with my relationship? How am I supposed to behave now? Do we kiss? Is it just a friendly kiss? What about sex? Like most men in my situation, I figured, well, surely that's still acceptable. I can just keep the kisses noncommittal. Just follow her lead, son, follow her lead, I thought. See where it goes.

I hadn’t heard any talk about another boyfriend, or even a date, for that matter. Unless she was just trying to spare my feelings, which I supposed was possible. But it was certainly reasonable to assume that with her in Boston, me in Philadelphia, and the relationship being what it was, she could well be involved with someone. But then, why invite me? Between worrying about this, the ether-binging Doctor, and the usual cast of idiosyncratic fears, I arrived in Boston a jittery shell that jumped at the least provocation.

She met me at the train and seemed pleased to see me. Maybe there’s no other boyfriend after all, I thought. When we got back to her apartment, she began to show me some of the poetry she had recently had success in publishing. She, like me, had hopes of accomplishing something in the way of writing and it was beginning to look as if she was winning the race. She pulled out a number of small press publications and, most impressively, a collection of poems that had each been printed on its own separate page, unbound on quality paper, and each page a different color.

It was all quite a display and I was more than a little jealous.

It was only after reading these new and unfamiliar poems a handful of times that it began to sink in that most of them seemed to be meditations on the subject of lesbianism.

Next: Home On The Strange


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