Wednesday, April 2, 2014

NPM: Probably good advice, if you have shit for brains.

Towards the end of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, magazine journalist and multiple felon Raoul Duke/Hunter Thompson drops his attorney at the airport and sends him off with some advice:

No sign of alarm or pursuit. I wondered if maybe this kind of thing happened all the time in Vegas——cars full of late-arriving passengers screeching desperately across the runway, dropping off wild-eyed Samoans clutching mysterious canvas bags who would sprint onto planes at the last possible second and then roar off into the sunrise.

Maybe so, I thought. Maybe this kind of thing is standard procedure in this town. I swung in behind the van and hit the brakes just long enough for my attorney to jump out. "Don't take any guff from these swine," I yelled. "Remember, if you have any trouble you can always send a telegram to the Right People." He grinned. "Yeah...Explaining my Position," he said. "Some asshole wrote a poem about that once. It's probably good advice, if you have shit for brains." He waved me off.

"Right," I said, moving out. I'd already spotted a break in the big hurricane fence——and now, with the Whale in low gear, I went for it. Nobody seemed to be chasing me. I couldn't understand it. I glanced in the mirror and saw my attorney climbing into the plane, no sign of a struggle...and then I was through the gate and out into the early morning traffic on Paradise Road.

As it happens, the asshole who wrote that poem was Thompson himself. "Collect Telegram from a Mad Dog" was penned in 1965 and published in SPIDER (a UC Berkeley countercultural magazine) that October. Reading it makes me wish Thompson had written more poetry—it gives him the opportunity to untether his hallucinatory precision savagery from the fencepost demarcating prosaic narrative form.

Collect Telegram from a Mad Dog
Hunter S. Thompson (1937 2005)

Not being a poet, and drunk as well,
leaning into the diner and dawn
and hearing a juke box mockery of some better
human sound
I wanted rhetoric
but could only howl the rotten truth
Norman Luboff
should have his nuts ripped off with a plastic fork.
Then howled around like a man with the
final angst,
not knowing what I wanted there
Probably the waitress, bend her double
like a safety pin,
Deposit the mad seed before they
tie off my tubes
or run me down with Dingo dogs
for not voting
at all.

Suddenly a man with wild eyes rushed
out from the wooden toilet
Foam on his face and waving a razor
like a flag, shouting
It's Starkweather god damn I Know
that voice
We'll take our vengeance now!
McConn, enroute from L.A. to some
rumored home,
killing the hours till the bars opened
stranded on Point Richmond when they closed
the night before,
thinking finally he had come among friends
or at least one.

We rang for Luboff
on the pay phone, but there was
no contact
Some tortured beast of a bad loser has already
croaked him, said McConn
We'll have a drink.
But the Mariners' tavern was not open
for twenty minutes, so we read
a newspaper
and saw where just about everybody
had been fucked in the face
or some other orifice
or opening, or possibility
for one good reason or another
by the time the Chronicle went to press
before last midnight.

We rang for the editor
but the switchboard clamped him off.
Get a lawyer, I said. These swine have gone
far enough.
But the lawyers were all in bed
Finally we found one, limp from an orgy and
too much sleep
Eating cheese blintzes with sour cream and gin
on a redwood balcony with a
fine exposure.
Get your ass up, I said. It's Sunday and
the folks are in church. Now is the time to
lay a writ on them,
Cease and Desist
Specifically Luboff and the big mongers,
the slumfeeders, the perverts,

and the pious.

The legal man agreed
We had a case and indeed a duty to
Right these Wrongs, as it were
The Price would be four thousand in front and
ten for the nut.
I wrote him a check on the Sawtooth
National Bank,
but he hooted at it
While rubbing a special oil on
his palms
To keep the chancres from itching
beyond endurance
On this Sabbath.
McConn broke his face with a running
Cambodian chop, then we
drank his gin, ate his blintzes
But failed failed to find anyone
to rape
and went back to the Mariners' Tavern
to drink in the sun.
Later, from jail
I sent a brace of telegrams
to the right people,
explaining my position.


  1. Thank you for posting this. I was just re-reading that book and wondered if he was referencing a real poem. Sure enough I copy and paste the text and find this! Thank you.

  2. Another thank you for the roots of this phrase