“Fear and Loathing in Elko” is a short story by Hunter S. Thompson
that appeared in Rolling Stone #622, January 23, 1992. In this sad screed,
our favorite gonzo journalist describes an alleged encounter with
Justice Clarence Thomas, prior to his nomination and appointment to
the U.S. Supreme Court. Shortly before this story’s publication,
Thompson was tried and acquitted on charges of sexual harassment
and assault. He referred to his arrest as a “lifestyle bust.”
This is in honor of the recent 5th anniversary of Hunter’s passing…
“Fear and Loathing in Elko”
A Wild and Ugly Night With Judge Clarence Thomas…Bad Craziness in
Sheep Country…Sexual Harassment Then and Now…A Nasty Christmas
Flashback and a Nation of Jailers
by Hunter S. Thompson
[Part I] Memo From the National Affairs Desk: Sexual Harassment Then
and Now..The Ghost of Long Dong Thomas…The Road Full of Forks
God damn, I wish you were here to enjoy this beautiful weather with
me. It is autumn, as you know, and things are beginning to die. It is
so wonderful to be out in the crisp fall air, with the leaves turning
gold and the grass turning brown, and the warmth going out of the
sunlight and big hot fires in the fireplace while Buddy rakes the
lawn. We see a lot of bombs on TV because we watch it a lot more, now
that the days get shorter and shorter, and darkness comes so soon, and
all the flowers die from freezing.
Oh, God! You should have been with me yesterday when I finished my
ham and eggs and knocked back some whiskey and picked up my Weatherby
Mark V .300 Magnum and a ball of black Opium for dessert and went
outside with a fierce kind of joy in my heart because I was Proud to
be an American on a day like this. If felt like a goddamn Football
Game, Jann — it was like Paradise…. You remember that bliss you
felt when we powered down to the farm and whipped Stanford? Well, it
felt like That.
I digress. My fits of Joy are soiled by relentless flashbacks and
ghosts too foul to name….Oh no, don’t ask Why. You could have been
president, Jann, but your road was full of forks, and I think of this
when I see the forked horns of these wild animals who dash back and
forth on the hillsides while rifles crack in the distance and fine
swarthy young men with blood on their hands drive back and forth in
the dusk and mournfully call our names….
O Ghost, O Lost, Lost and Gone, O Ghost, come back again.
Right. and so much for autumn. The trees are diseased and the
Animals get in your way and the President is usually guilty and most
days are too long, anyway….So never mind my poem. It was wrong from
the start. I plagiarized it from an early work of Coleridge and then
tried to put my own crude stamp on it, but I failed.
So what? I didn’t want to talk about fucking autumn, anyway. I was
just sitting here at dawn on a crisp Sunday morning, waiting for the
football games to start and taking a goddamn very brief break from
this blizzard of Character Actors and Personal Biographers and sickly
Paparazzi that hovers around me these days (they are sleeping now,
thank Christ — some even in my own bed). I was sitting here all
alone, thinking, for good or ill, about the Good Old Days.
We were Poor, Jann. But we were Happy. Because we knew Tricks. We
were Smart. Not Crazy, like they said. (No. They never called us late
for dinner, eh?)
Ho, ho. Laughs don’t come cheap these days, do they? The only guy
who seems to have any fun in public is Prince Cromwell, my shrewd and
humorless neighbor — the one who steals sheep and beats up women,
like Mike Tyson.
Who knows why, Jann. Some people are too weird to figure.
You have come a long way from the Bloodthirsty, Beady-eyed news Hawk
that you were in days of yore. Maybe you should try reading something
besides those goddamn motorcycle magazines — or one of these days
you’ll find hair growing in your palms.
Take my word for it. You can only spend so much time “on the
throttle,” as it were….Then the Forces of Evil will take over.
Ah, but that is a different question, for now. Who gives a fuck? We
are, after all, Professionals….But our Problem is not. No. It is the
Problem of Everyman. It is Everywhere. The Question is our Wa; the
Answer is our Fate…. and the story I am about to tell you is
I came suddenly awake, weeping and jabbering and laughing like a
loon at the ghost on my TV set….Judge Clarence Thomas….Yes, I knew
him. But that was a long time ago. Many years, in fact, but I still
remember it vividly….Indeed, it has haunted me like a Golem, day and
night, for many years.
It seemed normal enough, at the time, just another weird rainy night
out there on the high desert….What the Hell? We were younger, then.
Me and the Judge. And all the others, for that matter….It was a
Different Time. People were friendly. We trusted each other. Hell, you
afford to get mixed up with wild strangers in those days — without
fearing for your life, or your eyes, or your organs, or all of your
money or even getting locked up in prison forever. There was a sense
of possibility. People were not so afraid, as they are now.
You could run around naked without getting shot. You could check
into a motel in Winnemucca or Elko when you were lost in a midnight
rainstorm — and nobody called the police on you, just to check out
your credit and your employment history and your medical records and
how many parking tickets you owed in California.
There were Laws, but they were not feared. There were Rules, but
they were not worshiped….like Laws and Rules and Cops and Informants
are feared and worshiped today.
Like I said: It was a different time. And I know the Judge would
tell you the same thing, tonight, if he wanted to tell you the Truth,
like I do.
The first time I actually met the Judge was a long time ago, for
strange reasons, on a dark and rainy night in Elko, Nevada, when we
both ended up in the same sleazy roadside Motel, for no good reason at
all….Good God! What a night!
I almost forgot about it, until I saw him last week on TV….and
then I saw it all over again. The horror! The horror! That night when
the road washed out and we all got stuck out there — somewhere near
Elko in a place just off the highway, called Endicott’s Motel — and
we almost went really Crazy.
P.S. And, speaking of crazy, take a look at this riff on the Judge and
Sexual Harassment that I received yesterday from that brute who runs
the Sports Desk. He must have been drunk when he wrote it — but
whiskey is no excuse for this kind of brainless, atavistic gibberish.
I want that screwhead fired! He was harmless once, but ever since
Judge Thomas got confirmed for the High court, he has been mauling
women shamelessly. Last week he pinned my secretary against a hot wall
in the mainframe room and almost twisted her nipples off. Then he
laughed and said it was legal now, and if I didn’t like it, I could
take him to court [see enclosed memo, below]. It was addressed to me,
but I have a feeling we’ll be seeing it soon, taped up on the wall of
the Men’s Room — and probably the Women’s Room too.
Special Advisory From the Sports Desk
From: Raoul Duke, Ed.
I need your help, Doc. They’re trying to bust me on Sex charges. The
snake has come out of the bag, and soon they’ll be after you. Your
phone will be ringing all night with obscene calls from Radical
You know how I feel about Victims, Doc, and also how I worship the
First Amendment — along with the Fourth, of course….
And all of the others, including our God-given Right to praise the
President when he pulls off a Great Victory and rips the nuts off the
Enemy. It was wonderful, Doc. We beat them like shit-eating dogs. They
came, they failed, and now we will gnaw on their skulls. When the
going gets tough, the tough get going, eh? Right! Fuck those people!
Death to the Weird! We will march on a road of bones! Sieg Heil!
(Whoops. Strike that.) What I meant to say was Hot Damn! We’re back
in the Saddle again! And I don’t mean maybe….Right. You know me,
Doc. I’m a gracious Loser — but when I win, I must Kick Ass!
That is the Law of Nature: Life is a brainless struggle, and “the
Meek” will jabber and die like brain-damaged rats in a maze, long
before they will ever have time to even think about inheriting the
goddamn Earth — much less the White House.
No. don’t worry about that, Doc. The Nigger is on the run all over
the World, and we want to keep him that way. (Or “her” or “it” or
“them” if you what I’m saying….) They are not necessarily Black,
Doc, and many are not of our Gender….
But so what? They are Niggers, and we’re Not! Hell, yes! That’s
what it comes down to. They were Fools! It was like the Charge of the
Light Brigade. They rode into the Valley of Death, and We stomped
them….They were Wrong from the start, but they fooled a lot of
people, for a while….
Thank God we got off that stinking Death Ship while we still had the
chance, eh?….They screeched like Hyenas for a while, but then they
ran like Rats. Shit on them. That’s what I say. Those bitches got
their tits caught in a wringer.
Okay. Congress is a sinkhole of Whores. We all know that. Shit.
Sexual Harassment is what Congress is all about. It was the Way of Our
Forefathers, and it is Right!
Hot damn: I feel good about Myself today, Doc. I feel innocent for a
change…. and I guess you feel the Same Way, eh?
Jesus. They had us on the run there, for a few days. The Fat Lady
was ready to sing, and I was starting to guilty about almost
Everything…. Especially touching Women — or even myself, for a
while. It was Horrible. It got so I was afraid to ride the same
elevator with a woman. It was too risky. What if she was one of these
crazy New Age bitches that want to kick you in the nuts and then get
you busted for “fondling” them?
What kind of life would it be if you went to jail or got ruined
every time you tried to flirt with a pretty woman? Let’s face it, Doc.
We are all Rapists, one way or another. The trick is not to get Busted
for it….Which is almost what happened, Doc. BUT IT DIDN’T No! We
were NOT Guilty! They called us bullies and Mashers, but we were only
falling in Love….
–Raoul Duke, Sports
[Part II] Fear and Loathing in Elko: Bad Craziness in Sheep
Country….Side Entrance on Queer Street….O Black, O Wild, O
Darkness, Roll Over Me Tonight
It was just after midnight when I first saw the sheep. I was running
about eighty-eight or ninety miles an hour in a drenching, blinding
rain on U.S. 40 between Winnemucca and Elko with one light out. I was
soaking wet from the water that was pouring in through a hole in the
front roof of the car, and my fingers were like rotten icicles on the
It was a moonless night and I knew I was hydroplaning, which is
dangerous…. My front tires were no longer in touch with the asphalt
or anything else. My center of gravity was too high. There was no
visibility on the road, none at all. I could have tossed a flat rock a
lot farther than I could see in front of me that night though the rain
and the ground fog.
So what? I though. I know this road — a straight lonely run across
nowhere, with not many dots on the map except ghost towns and truck
stops with names like Beowawe and Lovelock and Deeth and
Jesus! Who made this map? Only a lunatic could have come up with a
list of places like this: Imlay, Valmy, Golconda, Nixon, Midas,
Metropolis, Jiggs, Judasville — all of them empty, with no gas
stations, withering away in the desert like a string of old Pony
Express stations. The Federal Government owns ninety percent of this
land, and most of it is useless for anything except weapons testing
and poison-gas experiments.
My plan was to keep moving. Never slow down. Keep the car aimed
straight ahead through the rain like a cruise missile….I felt
comfortable. There is a sense of calm and security that comes with
driving a very fast car on an empty road at night….Fuck this
thunderstorm, I thought. There is safety in speed. Nothing can touch
me as long as I keep moving fast, and never mind the cops: They’re all
hunkered down in a truck stop or jacking off by themselves in a
culvert behind some dynamite shack in the wilderness beyond the
highway….Either way, they wanted no part of me, and I wanted no part
of them. Only trouble could come of it. They were probably nice
people, and so was I — but we were not meant for each other. History
had long since determined that. There is a huge body of evidence to
support the notion that me and the police were put on this earth to do
extremely different things and never to mingle professionally with
each other, except at official functions, when we all wear ties and
drink heavily and whoop it up like the natural, good-humored wild boys
that we know in our hearts that we are..These occasions are rare, but
they happen — despite the forked tongue of fate that has put us
forever on different paths….But what the hell? I can handle a wild
birthday party with cops, now and then. Or some unexpected orgy at a
gun show in Texas. Why not? Hell, I ran for Sheriff one time, and
almost got elected. They understand this, and I get along fine with
the smart ones.
But not tonight, I thought, I sped along in the darkness. Not at 100
miles an hour at midnight on a rain-slicked road in Nevada. Nobody
needs to get involved in a high-speed chase on a filthy night like
this. It would be dumb and extremely dangerous. Nobody driving a red
454 V-8 Chevrolet convertible was likely to pull over and surrender
peacefully at the first sight of a cop car behind him. All kinds of
weird shit might happen, from a gunfight with dope fiends to permanent
injury or death….It was a good night to stay indoors and be warm,
make a fresh pot of coffee and catch up on important paperwork. Lay
low and ignore these loonies. Anybody behind the wheel of a ca tonight
was far too crazy to fuck with, anyway.
Which was probably true. There was nobody on the road except me and
a few big-rig Peterbilts running west to Reno and Sacramento by dawn.
I could hear them on my nine-band Super-Scan shortwave/CB/Police
radio, which erupted now and then with outbursts of brainless speed
gibberish about Big Money and Hot Crank and teenage cunts with huge
They were dangerous Speed Freaks, driving twenty-ton trucks that
might cut loose and jackknife at any moment, utterly out of control.
There is nothing more terrifying than suddenly meeting a jackknifed
Peterbilt with no brakes coming at you sideways at sixty or seventy
miles per hour on a steep mountain road at three o’clock in the
morning. There is a total understanding, all at once, of how the
captain of the Titanic must have felt when he first saw the Iceberg.
And not much different from the hideous feeling that gripped me when
the beam of my Long-Reach Super-Halogen headlights picked up what
appeared to be a massive rock slide across the highway — right in
front of me, blocking the road completely. Big white rocks and round
boulders, looming up with no warning in a fog of rising steam or swamp
The brakes were useless, the car wandering. The rear end was coming
around. I jammed it down into Low, but it made no difference, so I
straightened it out and braced for a serious impact, a crash that
would probably kill me. This is It, I thought. This is how it happens
— slamming into a pile of rocks at 100 miles an hour, a sudden brutal
death in a fast red car on a moonless night in a rainstorm somewhere
on the sleazy outskirts of Elko. I felt vaguely embarrassed, in that
long pure instant before I went into the rocks. I remembered Los Lobos
and that I wanted to call Maria when I got to Elko….
My heart was full of joy as I took the first hit, which was oddly
soft and painless. No real shock at all. Just a sickening thud, like
running over a body, a corpse — or, ye fucking gods, a crippled 200-
pound sheep thrashing around in the road.
Yes. These huge white lumps were not boulders. They were sheep. Dead
and dying sheep. More and more of them, impossible to miss at this
speed, piled up on each other like bodies at the battle of Shiloh. It
was like running over wet logs. Horrible, horrible….
And then I saw the man — a leaping Human Figure in the glare of my
bouncing headlight, waving his arms and yelling, trying to flag me
down. I swerved to avoid hitting him, but he seemed not to see me,
rushing straight into my headlights like a blind man….or a monster
from Mars with no pulse, covered with blood and hysterical.
It looked like a small black gentleman in a London Fog raincoat,
frantic to get my attention. It was so ugly that my brain refused to
accept it….Don’t worry, I thought. This is only an Acid flashback.
Be calm. This is not really happening.
I was down to about thirty-five or thirty when I zoomed past the man
in the raincoat and bashed the brains out of a struggling sheep, which
helped to reduce my speed, as the car went airborne again, then
bounced to a shuddering stop just before I hit the smoking, overturned
hulk of what looked like a white Cadillac limousine, with people still
inside. It was a nightmare. Some fool had crashed into a herd of sheep
at high speed and rolled into the desert like an eggbeater.
We were able to laugh about it later, but it took a while to calm
down. What the hell? It was only an accident. The Judge had murdered
some strange animals.
So what? Only a racist maniac would run sheep on the highway in a
thunderstorm at this hour of the night. “Fuck those people!” he
snapped, as I took off toward Elko with him and his two female
companions tucked safely into my car, which had suffered major
cosmetic damage but nothing serious. “They’ll never get away with this
Negligence!” he said. “We’ll eat them alive in court. Take my word for
it. We are about to become joint owners of a huge Nevada sheep ranch.”
Wonderful, I thought. But meanwhile we were leaving the scene of a
very conspicuous wreck that was sure to be noticed by morning, and the
whole front of my car was gummed up with wool and sheep’s blood. There
was no way I could leave it parked on the street in Elko, where I’d
planned to stop for the night (maybe two or three nights, for that
matter) to visit with some old friends who were attending a kind of
Appalachian Conference for sex-film distributors at the legendary
Never mind that, I thought. Things have changed. I was suddenly a
Victim of Tragedy — injured and on the run, far out in the middle of
sheep country — 1000 miles from home with car full of obviously
criminal hitchhikers who were spattered with blood and cursing angrily
at each other as we zoomed through the blinding monsoon.
Jesus, I though Who are these people?
Who indeed? They seemed not to notice me. The two women fighting in
the back seat were hookers. No doubt about that. I had seen them in my
headlights as they struggled in the wreckage of the Cadillac, which
had killed about sixty sheep. They were desperate with Fear and
Confusion, crawling wildly across the sheep….One was a tall black
girl in a white minidress…and now she was screaming at the other
one, a young blond white woman. They were both drunk. Sounds of
struggle came from the back seat. “Get your hands off me, Bitch!” Then
a voice cried out, “Help me, Judge! Help! She’s killing me!”
What? I thought. Judge? Then she said it again, and a horrible chill
went through me….Judge? No. That would be over the line.
He lunged over the back seat and whacked their heads together. “Shut
up!” he screamed. “Where are your fucking manners?”
He went over the seat again. He grabbed one of them by the hair.
“God damn you,” he screamed. “Don’t embarrass this man. He saved our
lives. We owe him respect — not this god damned squalling around like
A shudder ran through me, but I gripped the wheel and stared
straight ahead, ignoring this sudden horrible freak show in my car. I
lit a cigarette, but I was not calm. Sounds of sobbing and the ripping
of cloth came from the back seat. The man they called Judge had
straightened himself out and was now resting easily in the front seat,
letting out long breaths of air….The silence was terrifying: I
quickly turned up the music. It was Los Lobos again — something about
“One time One Night in America,” a profoundly morbid tune about Death
A lady dressed in white
With the man she loved
Standing along the side of their pickup truck
A shot rang out in the night
Just when everything seemed right
Right. A shot. A shot rang out in the night. Just another headline
written down in America….Yes. There was a loaded .454 Magnum
revolver in a clearly marked oak box on the front seat, about halfway
between me and the Judge. He could grab it in a split second and blow
my head off.
“Good work, Boss,” he said suddenly. ” I owe you a big one, for
this. I was done for, if you hadn’t come along.” He chuckled. “Sure as
hell, Boss, sure as hell. I was Dead Meat — killed a lot worse than
those goddamn stupid sheep!”
Jesus! I thought. Get ready to hit the brake. This man is a Judge on
the lam with two hookers. He has no choice but to kill me, and those
two floozies in the back seat too. We were the only witnesses…. This
eerie perspective made me uneasy….Fuck this, I thought. These people
are going to get me locked up. I’d be better off just pulling over
right here and killing all three of them. Bang, Bang, Bang! Terminate
“How far is town? the Judge asked.
I jumped, and the car veered again. “Town?” I said.
“What town?” My arms were rigid and my voice was strange and reedy.
He whacked me on the knee and laughed. “Calm down, Boss,” he said.
“I have everything under control. We’re almost home.” He pointed into
the rain, where I was beginning to see the dim lights of what I knew
to be Elko.
“Okay,” he snapped. “Take a left, straight ahead.” He pointed again
and I slipped the car into low. There was a red and blue neon sign
glowing about a half-mile ahead of us, barely visible in the storm.
The only words I could make out were NO and VACANCY.
“Slow down!” the Judge screamed. “This is it! Turn! Goddamnit,
turn!” His voice had the sound of a whip cracking. I recognized the
tone and did as he said, curling into the mouth of the curve with all
four wheels locked and the big engine snarling wildly in Compound Low
and the blue flames coming out of the tailpipe….It was one of those
long perfect moments in the human driving experience that makes
everybody quiet. Where is P.J.? I thought. This would bring him to his
We were sliding sideways very fast and utterly out of control and
coming up on a white steel guardrail at seventy miles an hour in a
thunderstorm on a deserted highway in the middle of the night.
Why not? On some nights Fate will pick you up like a chicken and
slam you around on the walls until your body feels like a
beanbag….BOOM! BLOOD! DEATH! So long, Bubba — You knew it would End
We stabilized and shot down the loop. The Judge seemed oddly calm as
he pointed again. “This is it,” he said. “This is my place. I keep a
few suites here.” He nodded eagerly. “We’re finally safe, Boss. We can
do anything we want in this place.”
The sign at the gate said:
DELUXE SUITES AND WATERBEDS
ADULTS ONLY/NO ANIMALS
Thank god, I thought. It was almost too good to be true. A place to
dump these bastards. They were quiet now, but not for long. And I knew
I couldn’t handle it when these women woke up.
The Endicott was a string of cheap-looking bungalows, laid out in a
horseshoe pattern around a rutted gravel driveway. There were cars
parked in front of most of the units, but the slots in front of the
brightly lit places at the darker end of the horseshoe were empty.
“Okay,” said the Judge. “We’ll drop the ladies down there at our
suite, then I’ll get you checked in.” He nodded. “We both need some
sleep, Boss — or at least rest, if you know what I mean. Shit, it’s
been a long night.”
I laughed, but it sounded like the bleating of a dead man. The
adrenalin rush of the sheep crash was gone, and now I was sliding into
pure Fatigue Hysteria. The Endicott “Office” was a darkened hut in the
middle of the horseshoe. We parked in front of it and then the Judge
began hammering on the wooden front door, but there was no immediate
response….”Wake up, goddamnit! It’s me — the Judge! Open up! This
is Life and Death! I need help!”
He stepped back and delivered a powerful kick at the door, which
rattled the glass panels and shook the whole building. ” I know you’re
in there,” he screamed. “You can’t hide! I’ll kick your ass till your
There was still no sign of life, and I quickly abandoned all hope.
Get out of here, I thought. This is wrong. I was still in the car,
half in and half out…The Judge put another fine snap-kick at a point
just over the doorknob and uttered a sharp scream in some language I
didn’t recognize. Then I heard the sound of breaking glass.
I leapt back into the car and started the engine. Get away! I
thought. Never mind sleep. It’s flee or die, now. People get killed
for doing this kind of shit in Nevada. It was far over the line.
Unacceptable behavior. This is why God made shotguns…
I saw lights come on in the Office. Then the door swung open and I
saw the Judge leap quickly through the entrance and grapple briefly
with a small bearded man in a bathrobe, who collapsed to the floor
after the Judge gave him a few blows to the head…Then he called back
to me. “Come on in, Boss,” he yelled. “Meet Mister Henry.”
I shut off the engine and staggered up the gravel path. I felt sick
and woozy, and my legs were like rubber bands.
The Judge reached out to help me. I shook hands with Mr. Henry, who
gave me a key and a form to fill out. “Bullshit,” said the Judge.
“This man is my guest. He can have anything he wants. Just put it on
“Of course,” said Mr. Henry. “Your bill. Yes. I have it right here.”
He reached under his desk and came up with a nasty-looking bundle of
adding-machine tapes and scrawled Cash/Payment memos….”You got here
just in time,” he said. “We were about to notify the Police.”
“What?” said the Judge. “Are you nuts? I have a goddamn platinum
American Express card! My credit is impeccable.”
“Yes,” said Mr. Henry. “We know that. We have total respect for you.
Your signature is better than gold bullion.” The Judge smiled and
whacked the flat of his hand on the counter. “You bet it is!” he
snapped. “So get out of my goddamn face! You must be crazy to fuck
with Me like this! You fool! Are you ready to go to court?”
“Please, Judge,” he said. Don’t do this to me. All I need is your
card. Just let me run an imprint. That’s all.” He moaned and stared
more or less at the Judge, but I could see that his eyes were not
focused….”They’re going to fire me,” he whispered. “They want to put
me in jail.”
“Nonsense!” the Judge snapped. “I would never let that happen. You
can always plead.” He reached out and gently gripped Mr. Henry’s
wrist. “Believe me, Bro,” he hissed. “You have nothing to worry about.
You are cool. They will never lock you up! They will Never take you
away! Not out of my courtroom!”
“Thank you,” Mr. Henry replied. “But all I need is your card and
your signature. That’s the problem: I forgot to run it when you
“So what?” the Judge barked. “I’m good for it. How much do you
“About $22,000,” said Mr. Henry. “Probably $23,000 by now. You’ve
had those suites for nineteen days with total room service.”
“What?” the Judge yelled. “You thieving bastards! I’ll have you
crucified by American Express. You are finished in this business. You
will never work again! Not anywhere in the world! Then he whipped Mr.
Henry across the front of his face so fast that I barely saw it.
“Stop crying!” he said. “Get a grip on yourself! This is
Then he slapped the man again. “Is that all you want?” he said.
“Only a card? A stupid little card? A piece of plastic shit?”
Mr. Henry nodded. “Yes, Judge,” he whispered. “That’s all. Just a
stupid little card.”
The Judge laughed and reached into his raincoat, as if to jerk out a
gun or at least a huge wallet. “You want a card, whoreface? Is that
it? Is that all you want? You filthy little scumbag! Here it is!”
Mr. Henry cringed and whimpered. Then he reached out to accept the
Card, the thing that would set him free…The Judge was still grasping
around in the lining of his raincoat. “What the fuck?” he muttered.
“This thing has too many pockets! I can feel it, but I can’t find the
Mr. Henry seemed to believe him, and so did I, for a minute….Why
not? He was a judge with a platinum credit card — a very high roller.
You don’t find many Judges, these days, who can handle a full caseload
in the morning and run wild like a goat in the afternoon. That is a
very hard dollar, and very few can handle it….but the Judge was a
Suddenly he screamed and fell sideways, ripping and clawing at the
lining of his raincoat. “Oh, Jesus!” he wailed. “I’ve lost my wallet!
It’s gone. I left it out there in the Limo, when we hit the fucking
“So what?” I said. “We don’t need it for this. I have many plastic
He smiled and seemed to relax. “How many?” he said. “We might need
more than one.”
I woke up in the bathtub — who knows how much later — to the sound
of the hookers shrieking next door. The New York Times had fallen in
and blackened the water. For many hours I tossed and turned like a
crack baby in a cold hallway. I heard thumping Rhythm & Blues —
serious rock & roll, and I knew that something wild was going on in
the Judge’s suites. The smell of amyl nitrate came from under the
door. It was no use. It was impossible to sleep through this orgy of
ugliness. I was getting worried. I was already a marginally legal
person, and now I was stuck with some crazy Judge who had my credit
card and owed me $23,000.
I had some whiskey in the car, so I went out into the rain to get
some ice. I had to get out. As I walked past the other rooms, I looked
in people’s windows and feverishly tried to figure out how to get my
credit card back. Then from behind me I heard the sound of a tow-truck
winch. The Judge’s white Cadillac was being dragged to the ground. The
Judge was whooping it up with the tow-truck driver, slapping him on
“What the hell? It was only property damage,” he laughed.
“Hey, Judge,” I called out. “I never got my card back.”
“Don’t worry,” he said. “It’s in my room — come on.”
I was right behind him when he opened the door to his room, and I
caught a glimpse of a naked woman dancing. As soon as the door opened,
the woman lunged for the Judge’s throat. She pushed him back outside
and slammed the door in his face.
“Forget that credit card — we’ll get some cash,” the Judge said.
“Let’s go down to the Commercial Hotel. My friends are there and they
have plenty of money.
We stopped for a six-pack on the way. The Judge went into a sleazy
liquor store that turned out to be a front for kinky marital aids. I
offered him money for the beer, but he grabbed my whole wallet.
Ten minutes later, the Judge came out with $400 worth of booze and a
bagful of Triple-X-Rated movies. “My buddies will like this stuff,” he
said. “And don’t worry about the money, I told you I’m good for it.
These guys carry serious cash.”
The marquee above the front door of the Commercial Hotel said:
WELCOME: ADULT FILM PRESIDENTS
FULL ACTION CASINO/KENO IN LOUNGE
“Park right her in front, said the Judge. “Don’t worry. I’m well
known in this place.”
Me too, but I said nothing. I have been well known at the Commercial
for many years, from the time when I was doing a lot of driving back
and forth between Denver and San Francisco — usually for Business
reasons, or for Art, and on this particular weekend I was there to
meet quietly with a few old friends and business associates from the
Board of Directors of the Adult Film Association of America. I had
been, after all, the Night Manager of the famous O’Farrell Theatre, in
San Francisco — “the Carnegie Hall of Sex in America.”
I was the Guest of Honor, in fact — but I saw no point in confiding
these things to the Judge, a total stranger with no Personal
Identification, no money and a very aggressive lifestyle. We were on
our way to the Commercial Hotel to borrow money from some of his
friends in the Adult Film business.
What the hell? I though. It’s only Rock & Roll. And he was, after
all, a judge of some kind….Or maybe not. For all I knew he was a
criminal pimp with no fingerprints, or a wealthy black shepherd from
Spain. But it hardly mattered. He was good company (if you had a taste
for the edge work — and I did, in those days. And so, I felt, did the
Judge). He had a bent sense of fun, a quick mind and no Fear of
The front door of the Commercial looked strangely busy at this hour
of night in a bad rainstorm, so I veered off and drove slowly around
the block in low gear.
“There’s a side entrance on Queer Street,” I said to the Judge, as
we hammered into a flood of black water. He seemed agitated, which
worried me a bit.
“Calm down,” I said. “We don’t want to make a scene in this place.
All we want is money.”
“Don’t worry,” he said. “I know these people. They are friends.
Money is nothing. They will be happy to see me.”
We entered the hotel through the Casino entrance. The Judge seemed
calm and focused until we rounded the corner and came face to face
with an eleven-foot polar bear standing on its hind legs, ready to
pounce. The Judge turned to jelly at the sight of it. “I’ve had enough
of this goddamn beast,” he shouted.” It doesn’t belong here. We should
blow its head off.”
I took him by the arm “Calm down, Judge,” I told him. “That’s White
King. He’s been dead for about thirty-three years.”
The Judge had no use for animals. He composed himself and we swung
into the lobby, approaching the desk from behind. I hung back–it was
getting late and the lobby was full of suspicious-looking stragglers
from the Adult Film crowd. Private cowboy cops wearing six-shooters in
open holsters were standing around. Our entrance did not go unnoticed.
The Judge looked competent, but there was something menacing in the
way he swaggered up to the desk clerk and whacked the marble
countertop with both hands. The lobby was suddenly filled with
tension, and I quickly moved away as the Judge began yelling and
pointing at the ceiling.
“Don’t give me that crap,” he barked. “These people are my friends.
They’re expecting me. Just ring the goddamn room again.” The desk
clerk muttered something about his explicit instructions not to….
Suddenly the Judge reached across the desk for the house phone.
“What’s the number? I’ll ring it myself” The clerk moved quickly. He
shoved the phone out of the Judge’s grasp and simultaneously drew his
index finger across his throat. The Judge took one look at the muscle
converging on him and changed his stance.
“I want to cash a check,” he said calmly.
“A check?” the clerk said. “Sure thing, buster. I’ll cash your
goddamned check.” He seized the Judge by his collar and laughed.
“Let’s get this Bozo out of her. And put him in jail.”
I was moving toward the door, and suddenly the Judge was right
behind me. “Let’s go,” he said. We sprinted for the car, but then the
Judge stopped in his tracks. He turned and raised his fist in the
direction of the hotel. “Fuck you!” he shouted. “I’m the Judge. I’ll
be back, and I’ll bust every one of you bastards. The next time you
see me coming, you’d better run.”
We jumped into the car and zoomed away into the darkness. The Judge
was acting manic. “Never mind those pimps,” he said. “I’ll have them
all on a chain gang in forty-eight hours.” He laughed and slapped me
on the back. “Don’t worry, Boss,” he said. “I know where we’re going.”
He squinted into the rain and opened a bottle of Royal Salute.
“Straight ahead,” he snapped. “Take a right at the next corner. We’ll
go see Leach. He owes me $24,000.”
I slowed down and reached for the whiskey. What the hell, I thought.
Some days are weirder than others.
“Leach is my secret weapon,” the Judge said, “but I have to watch
him. He could be violent. The cops are always after him. He lives in a
balance of terror. But he has a genius for gambling. We win eight out
of ten every week.” He nodded solemnly. “That is four of five, Doc.
That is Big. Very big. That is eighty percent of everything.” He shook
his head sadly and reached for the whiskey. “It’s a horrible habit.
But I can’t give it up. It’s like having a money machine.”
“That’s wonderful,” I said. “What are you bitching about?”
“I’m afraid, Doc. Leach is a monster, a criminal hermit who
understands nothing in life except point spreads. He should be locked
up and castrated.”
“So what?” I said. “Where does he live? We are desperate. We have no
cash and no plastic. This freak is our only hope.”
The Judge slumped into himself, and neither one of us spoke for a
minute…. “Well,” he said finally. “Why not? I can handle almost
anything for twenty-four big ones in a brown bag. What the fuck? Let’s
do it. If the bastard gets ugly, we’ll kill him.”
“Come on, Judge,” I said. “Get a grip on yourself. This is only a
“Sure,” he replied. “That’s what they all say.”
[Part III] Dead Meat in the Fast Lane: The Judge Runs Amok…Death of
a Poet, Blood Clots in the Revenue Stream…The Man Who Loved Sex
We pulled into a seedy trailer court behind the stockyards. Leach
met us at the door with red eyes and trembling hands, wearing a soiled
bathrobe and carrying a half-gallon of Wild Turkey.
“Thank God you’re home,” The Judge said. “I can’t tell you what kind
of horrible shit has happened to me tonight….But now the worm has
turned. Now that we have cash, we will crush them all.”
Leach just stared. Then he took a swig of Wild Turkey. “We are
doomed,” he muttered. “I was about to slit my wrists.”
“Nonsense,” the Judge said. “We won Big. I bet the same way you did.
You gave me the numbers. You even predicted the Raiders would stomp
Denver. Hell, it was obvious. The Raiders are unbeatable on Monday
Leach tensed, then he threw his head back and uttered a high-pitched
quavering shriek. The Judge seized him. “Get a grip on yourself,” he
snapped. “What’s wrong?”
“I went sideways on the bet,” Leach sobbed. “I went to that goddamn
sports bar up in Jackpot with some of the guys from the shop. We were
all drinking Mescal and screaming, and I lost my head.”
Leach was clearly a bad drinker and a junkie for mass hysteria. “I
got drunk and bet on the Broncos,” he moaned, “then I doubled up. We
A terrible silence fell on the room. Leach was weeping helplessly.
The Judge seized him by the sash of his greasy leather robe and
started jerking him around by the stomach.
They ignored me and I tried to pretend it wasn’t happening….It was
too ugly. There was and ashtray on the table in front of the couch. As
I reached for it, I noticed a legal pad of what appeared to be Leach’s
poems, scrawled with a red Magic Marker in some kind of primitive
verse form. There was one that caught my eye. There was something
particularly ugly about it. There was something repugnant in the harsh
slant of the handwriting. It was about pigs.
I TOLD HIM
IT WAS WRONG
By F.X. Leach
A filthy young pig
got tired of his gig
and begged for a transfer
Police ran him down
on the Outskirts of town
and ripped off his Nuts
with a coathanger.
Everything after that was like
coming home in a cage on the
back of at train from
New Orleans on a Saturday
with no money and cancer and
a dead girlfriend.
In the end it was no use
He died on his knees in a barn
with all the others watching.
Res Ipsa Loquitur
“They’re going to kill me,” Leach said. “They’ll be here by
midnight. I’m doomed.” He uttered another low cry and reached for the
Wild Turkey bottle, which had fallen over and spilled.
“Hang on,” I said. “I’ll get more.”
On my way to the kitchen I was jolted by the sight of a naked woman
slumped awkwardly in the corner with a desperate look on her face, as
if she’d been shot. Her eyes bulged and her mouth was wide open and
she appeared to be reaching out for me.
I leapt back and heard laughter behind me. My first thought was that
Leach, unhinged by his gambling disaster, had finally gone over the
line with his wife-beating habit and shot her in the mouth just before
we knocked. She appeared to be crying out for help, but there was no
I ran into the kitchen to look for a knife thinking, that if Leach
had gone crazy enough to kill his wife, now he would have to kill me,
too, since I was the only witness. Except the Judge, who locked
himself in the bathroom.
Leach appeared in the doorway holding the naked woman by the neck
and hurled her across the room at me….
Time stood still for an instant. The woman seemed to hover in the
air, coming at me in the darkness like a body in slow motion. I went
into a stance with the bread knife and braced for a fight to the
The thing hit me and bounced softly down to the floor. It was a
rubber blow-up doll: one of those things with five orifices that young
stockbrokers buy in adult bookstores after the singles bars close.
“Meet Jennifer,” he said. “She’s my punching bag.” He picked it up
by the hair and slammed it across the room.
“Ho, ho,” he chuckled, “no more wife beating. I’m cured, thanks to
Jennifer.” He smiled sheepishly . “It’s almost like a miracle. These
dolls saved my marriage. They’re a lot smarter than you think.” He
nodded gravely. “Sometimes I have to beat two at once. But it always
calms me down, you know what I mean?”
Whoops, I thought. Welcome to the night train. “Oh, hell yes, I said
quickly. “How do the neighbors handle it?”
“No problem,” he said. “They love me.”
Sure, I thought. I tried to imagine the horror of living in a muddy
industrial slum full of tin-walled trailers and trying to protect your
family against brain damage from knowing that every night when you
look out your kitchen window there will be a man in a leather bathrobe
flogging two naked women around the room with a quart bottle of Wild
Turkey. Sometimes for two or three hours…It was horrible.
“Where is your wife?” I asked. “Is she still here?”
“Oh, yes.” he said quickly. “She just went out for some cigarettes
She’ll be back any minute.” He nodded eagerly. “Oh, yes, she’s very
proud of me. We’re almost reconciled. She really loves these dolls.”
I smiled, but something about this story mad me nervous. “How many
do you have?” I asked him.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “I have all we need.” He reached into a
nearby broom closet and pulled out another one — a half-inflated
Chinese-looking woman with rings in her nipples and two electric cords
attached to her head.” This is Ling-Ling,” he said. “She screams when
I hit her.” He whacked the doll’s head and it squawked stupidly.
Just then I heard car doors slamming outside the trailer, then loud
knocking on the front door and a gruff voice shouting, “Open up!
Leach grabbed a .44 Magnum out of a shoulder holster inside his
bathrobe and fired two shots through the front door. “You bitch,” he
screamed. “I should have killed you a long time ago.”
He fired two more shots, laughing calmly. Then he turned to face me
and put the barrel of the gun in his mouth. He hesitated for a moment,
staring directly into my eyes. Then he pulled the trigger and blew off
the back of his head.
The dead man seemed to lunge at me, slumping headfirst against my
legs as he fell to the floor — just as a volley of shotgun blasts
came through the front door, followed by harsh shouts on a police
bullhorn from outside. Then another volley of buckshot blasts that
exploded the TV set and set the living room on fire, filling the
trailer with dense brown smoke that I recognized instantly as the
smell of Cyanide gas being released by the burning plastic couch.
Voices were screaming through the smoke, “Surrender! HANDS UP behind
your goddamn head! DEAD MEAT!” Then more shooting. Another deafening
fireball exploded out of the living room, I kicked the corpse off my
feet and leapt for the back door, which I’d noticed earlier when I
scanned the trailer for “alternative exits,” as they say in the
business — in case one might become necessary. I was halfway out the
door when I remembered the Judge. He was still locked in the bathroom,
maybe helpless in some kind of accidental drug coma, unable to get to
his feet as flames roared through the trailer….
Ye Fucking Gods! I thought. I can’t let him burn.
Kick the door off its hinges. Yes. Whack! The door splintered and I
saw him sitting calmly on the filthy aluminum toilet stool, pretending
to read a newspaper and squinting vacantly at me as I crashed in and
grabbed him by one arm.
“Fool!” I screamed. “Get up! Run! They’ll murder us!”
He followed me through the smoke and burning debris holding his
pants up with one hand….The Chinese sex doll called Ling-Ling
hovered crazily in front of the door, her body swollen from heat and
her hair on fire. I slapped her aside and bashed the door open,
dragging the Judge outside with me. Another volley of shotgun blasts
and bullhorn yells erupted somewhere behind us. The Judge lost his
footing and fell heavily into the mud behind the doomed Airstream.
“Oh, God!” he screamed. “who is it?”
“The Pigs,” I said. “They’ve gone crazy. Leach is dead! They’re
trying to kill us. We have to get to the car!”
He stood up quickly. “Pigs?” he said. “Pigs? Trying to kill me?”
He seemed to stiffen, and the dumbness went out of his eyes. He
raised both fists and screamed in the direction of the shooting. “You
bastards! You scum! You will die for this. You stupid white-trash
“Are they nuts?” he muttered. He jerked out of my grasp and reached
angrily into his left armpit, then down to his belt and around behind
his back like a gunfighter trying to slap leather….But there was no
leather there. Not even a sleeve holster.
“Goddamnit!” he snarled. “Where’s my goddamn weapon? Oh, Jesus! I
left it in the car!” He dropped into a running crouch and sprinted
into the darkness, around the corner of the flaming Airstream. “Let’s
go!” he hissed. “I’ll kill these bastards! I’ll blow their fucking
Right, I thought, as we took off in a kind of low-speed desperate
crawl through the mud and the noise and the gunfire, terrified
neighbors screaming frantically to each other in the darkness. The red
convertible was parked in the shadows, near the front of the trailer
right next to the State Police car, with its chase lights blinking
crazily and voices burping out of its radio.
The Pigs were nowhere to be seen. They had apparently rushed the
place, guns blazing — hoping to kill Leach before he got away. I
jumped into the car and started the engine. The Judge came through the
passenger door and reached for the loaded .454 Magnum….I watched in
horror as he jerked it out of its holster and ran around to the front
of the cop car and fired two shots into the grille.
“Fuck you!” he screamed. “Take this, you Scum! Eat shit and die!” He
jumped back as the radiator exploded in a blast of steam and scalding
water. Then he fired three more times through the windshield and into
the squawking radio, which also exploded.
“Hot damn!” he said as he slid back into the front seat. “Now we
have them trapped!” I jammed the car into reverse and lost control in
the mud, hitting a structure of some kind and careening sideways at
top speed until I got a grip on the thing and aimed it up the ramp to
the highway….The Judge was trying desperately to reload the .454,
yelling at me to slow down, so he could finish the bastards off! His
eyes were wild and his voice was unnaturally savage.
I swerved hard left to Elko and hurled him sideways, but he quickly
recovered his balance and somehow got off five more thundering shots
in the general direction of the burning trailer behind us.
“Good work, Judge,” I said. “They’ll never catch us now.” He smiled
and drank deeply from our Whiskey Jug, which he had somehow picked up
as we fled…. Then he passed it over to me, and I too drank deeply as
I whipped the big V-8 into passing gear, and we went from forty-five
to ninety in four seconds and left the ugliness far behind us in the
I glanced over at the Judge as he loaded five huge bullets into the
Magnum. He was very calm and focused, showing no signs of the drug
coma that had crippled him just moments before….I was impressed. The
man was clearly a Warrior. I slapped him on the back and grinned.
“Calm down, Judge,” I said. “We’re almost home.”
I knew better, of course. I was 1000 miles from home, and we were
almost certainly doomed. There was no hope of escaping the dragnet
that would be out for us, once those poor fools discovered Leach in a
puddle of burning blood with the top of his head blown off. The squad
car was destroyed — thanks to the shrewd instincts of the Judge —
but I knew it would not take them long to send out an all-points
alarm. Soon there would be angry police road-blocks at every exit
between Reno and Salt Lake City….
So what? I thought. There were many side roads, and we had a very
fast car. All I had to do was get the Judge out of his killing frenzy
and find a truck stop where we could buy a few cans of Flat Black
spray paint. Then we could slither out of the state before dawn and
find a place to hide.
But it would not be an easy run. In the quick space of four hours we
had destroyed two automobiles and somehow participated in at least one
killing — in addition to all the other random, standard-brand crimes
like speeding and arson and fraud and attempted murder of State Police
officers while fleeing the scene of a homicide….
No. We had a Serious problem on our hands. We were trapped in the
middle of Nevada like crazy rats, and the cops would shoot to Kill
when they saw us. No doubt about that. We were Criminally Insane….I
laughed and shifted up into Drive. The car stabilized at 115 or so….
The Judge was eager to get back to his women. He was still fiddling
with the Magnum, spinning the cylinder nervously and looking at his
watch. “Can’t you go any faster?” he muttered. “How far is Elko?”
Too far, I thought, which was true. Elko was fifty miles away and
there would be roadblocks. Impossible. They would trap us and probably
Elko was out, but I was loath to break this news to the Judge. He
had no stomach for bad news. He had a tendency to flip out and flog
anything in sight when things weren’t going his way.
It was wiser, I thought, to humor him. Soon he would go to sleep.
I slowed down and considered. Our options were limited. There would
be roadblocks on every paved road out of Wells. It was a main
crossroads, a gigantic full-on truck stop where you could get anything
you wanted twenty-four hours a day, within reason of course. And what
we needed was not in that category. We needed to disappear. That was
We could go south on 93 to Ely, but that was about it. That would be
like driving into a steel net. A flock of pigs would be waiting for
us, and after that it would be Nevada State Prison. To the north on 93
was Jackpot, but we would never make that either. Running east into
Utah was hopeless. We were trapped. They would run us down like dogs.
There were other options, but not all of them were mutual. The Judge
had his priorities, but they were not mine. I understood that me and
the Judge were coming up on a parting of the ways. This made me
nervous. There were other options, of course, but they were all High
Risk. I pulled over and studied the map again. the Judge appeared to
be sleeping, but I couldn’t be sure. He still had the Magnum in his
The Judge was getting to be a problem. There was no way to get him
out of the car without violence. He would not go willingly into the
dark and stormy night. The only other way was to kill him, but that
was out of the question as long as he had the gun. He was very quick
in emergencies. I couldn’t get the gun away from him, and I was not
about to get into an argument with him about who should have the
weapon. If I lost, he would shoot me in the spine and leave me in the
I was getting too nervous to continue without chemical assistance. I
reached under the seat for my kit bag, which contained five or six
Spansules of Black Acid. Wonderful, I thought. This is just what I
need. I ate one and went back to pondering the map. There was a place
called Deeth, just ahead, where a faintly marked side road appeared to
wander uphill through the mountains and down along a jagged ridge into
Jackpot from behind. Good, I thought, this is it. We could sneak into
Jackpot by dawn.
Just then I felt a blow on the side of my head as the Judge came
awake with a screech, flailing his arms around him like he was coming
out of nightmare. “What’s happening, goddamnit?” he said. “Where are
we? They’re after us.” He was jabbering in a foreign language that
quickly lapsed into English as he tried to aim the gun. “Oh, God,” he
screamed, “They’re right on top of us. Get moving, goddamnit. I’ll
kill every bastard I see.”
He was coming out of a nightmare. I grabbed him by the neck and put
him in a headlock until he went limp. I pulled him back up in the seat
and handed him a Spansule of acid. “Here, Judge, take this,” I said.
“It’ll calm you down.”
He swallowed the pill and said nothing as I turned onto the highway
and stood heavily on the accelerator. We were up to 115 when a green
exit sign that said DEETH NO SERVICES loomed suddenly out of the rain
just in front of us. I swerved hard to the right and tried to hang on.
But it was no use. I remember the sound of the Judge screaming as we
lost control and went into a full 360-degree curl and then backwards
at seventy-five or eighty through a fence and into a pasture.
For some reason the near-fatal accident had a calming effect on the
Judge. Or maybe it was the acid. I didn’t care one way or the other
after I took the gun from his hand. He gave it up without a fight. He
seemed to be more interested in reading the road signs and listening
to the radio. I knew that if we could slip into jackpot the back way,
I could get the car painted any color I wanted in thirty-three minutes
and put the Judge on a plane. I knew a small private airstrip there,
where nobody asks too many questions and they’ll take a personal
At dawn we drove across the tarmac and pulled up to a seedy-looking
office marked AIR JACKPOT EXPRESS CHARTER COMPANY. “This is it Judge,”
I said and slapped him on the back. “This is where you get off.” He
seemed resigned to his fate until the woman behind the front desk told
him there wouldn’t be a flight to Elko until lunch time.
“Where is the pilot?” he demanded.
“I am the pilot,” the woman said, “but I can’t leave until Debby
gets her to relieve me.”
“Fuck this!” the Judge shouted. “Fuck lunch time. I have to leave
now, you bitch.”
The woman seemed truly frightened by his mood swing, and when the
Judge leaned in and gave her a taste of the long knuckle, she
collapsed and began weeping uncontrollably. “There’s more where that
came from,” he told her. “Get up! I have to get out of here now.”
He jerked her out from behind the desk and was dragging her toward
the plane when I slipped out the back door. It was daylight now. The
car was nearly out of gas, but that wasn’t my primary concern. The
police would be here in minutes, I thought. I’m doomed. But then, as I
pulled onto the highway, I saw a sign that said, WE PAINT ALL NIGHT.
As I pulled into the parking lot, the Jackpot Express plane passed
overhead. So long, Judge, I thought to myself. You’re a brutal hustler
and a Warrior and a great copilot, but you know how to get your way.
You will go far in the world.
[Part IV] Epilogue: Christmas Dreams and Cruel Memories…Nation of
Jailers…Stand Back! The Judge Will See You Now
That’s about it for now, Jann. This story is too depressing to have
to confront professionally in these morbid weeks before Christmas….I
have only vague memories of what it’s like there in New York, but
sometimes I have flashbacks about how it was to glide in perfect
speedy silence around the ice rink in front of NBC while junkies and
federal informants in white beards and sleazy red jumpsuits worked the
crowd mercilessly for nickels and dollars and dimes covered with Crack
I remember one Christmas morning in Manhattan when we got into the
Empire State Building and went up to the Executive Suite of some
famous underwear company and shoved a 600-pound red, tufted-leather
Imperial English couch out of a corner window on something like the
eighty-fifth floor….The wind caught it, as I recall, and it sort of
drifted around the corner onto Thirty-fourth Street, picking up speed
on its way down, and hit the striped awning of a Korean market, you
know, the kind that sells everything from kimchi to Christmas trees.
The impact blasted watermelons and oranges and tomatoes all over the
sidewalk. We could barely see the impact from where we were, but I
remember a lot of activity on the street when we came out of the
elevator…. It looked like a war zone. A few gawkers were standing
around in a blizzard, muttering to each other and looking dazed. They
thought it was an underground explosion — maybe a subway or a gas
Just as we arrived on the scene, a speeding cab skidded on some
watermelons and slammed into a Fifth Avenue bus and burst into flames.
There was a lot of screaming and wailing of police sirens Two cops
began fighting with a gang of looters who had emerged like ghosts out
of the snow and were running off with hams and turkeys and big jars of
caviar….Nobody seemed to think it was strange. What the hell? Shit
happens. Welcome to the Big Apple. Keep alert. Never ride in open cars
or walk to too close to a tall building when it snows ….There were
Christmas trees scattered all over the street and cars were stopping
to grab them and speeding away. We stole one and took it to Missy’s
place on the Bowery, because we knew she didn’t have one. But she
wasn’t home, so we put the tree out on the fire escape and set it on
fire with kerosene.
That’s how I remember New York, Jann. It was always a time of angst
and failure and turmoil. Nobody ever seemed to have any money on
Christmas. Even rich people were broke and jabbering frantically on
their telephones about Santa Claus and suicide or joining a church
with no rules….The snow was clean and pretty for the first twenty or
thirty minutes around dawn, but after that it was churned into filthy
mush by drunken cabbies and garbage compactors and shitting dogs.
Anybody who acted happy on Christmas was lying — even the ones were
getting paid $500 an hour….The Jews were especially sulky, and who
could blame them? The birthday of Baby Jesus is always a nervous time
for people who know that ninety days later they will be accused of
So what? We have our own problems, eh? Jesus! I don’t know how you
can ride all those motorcycles around in the snow, Jann. Shit, we can
all handle the back wheel coming loose in a skid. But the front wheel
is something else — and that’s what happens when it snows. WHACKO.
One minute you feel as light and safe as a snowflake, and the next
minute you’re sliding sideways under the wheels of a Bekins
van….Nasty traffic jams, horns honking, white limos full of naked
Jesus freaks going up on the sidewalk in low gear to get around you
and the mess you made on the street…Goddamn this scum. They are more
and more in the way. And why aren’t they home with their families on
Xmas? Why do they need to come out here and die on the street like
I hate these bastards, Jann. And I suspect you feel the same….They
might call us bigots, but at least we are Universal bigots. Right?
Shit on those people. Everybody you see these days might have the
power to get you locked up….Who knows why? They will have reasons
straight out of some horrible Kafka story, but in the end it won’t
matter any more than a full moon behind clouds. Fuck them.
Christmas hasn’t changed much in twenty-two years, Jann — not even
2000 miles west and 8000 feet up in the Rockies. It is still a day
that only amateurs can love. It is all well and good for children and
acid freaks to still believe in Santa Claus — but it is still a
profoundly morbid day for us working professionals. It is unsettling
to know that one out of every twenty people you meet on Xmas will be
dead this time next year….Some people can accept this, and some
can’t. That is why God made whiskey, and also why Wild Turkey comes in
$300 shaped canisters during most of the Christmas season, and also
why criminal shitheads all over New York City will hit you up for $100
tips or they’ll twist your windshield wipers into spaghetti and
urinate on your door handles.
People all around me are going to pieces, Jann. My whole support
system has crumbled like wet sugar cubes. That is why I try never to
employ anyone over the age of twenty. Every Xmas after that is like
another notch down on the ratchet, or maybe a few more teeth off the
flywheel….I remember on Xmas in New York when I was trying to sell a
Mark VII Jaguar with so many teeth off the flywheel that the whole
drivetrain would lock up and whine every time I tried to start the
engine for a buyer….I had to hire gangs of street children to muscle
the car back and forth until the throw-out gear on the starter was
lined up very precisely to engage the few remaining teeth on the
flywheel. On some days I would leave the car idling in a fireplug zone
for three or four hours at a time and pay the greedy little bastards a
dollar an hour to keep it running and wet-shined with fireplug water
until a buyer came along.
We got to know each other pretty well after nine or ten weeks, and
they were finally able to unload it on a rich artist who drove as far
as the toll plaza at the far end of the George Washington Bridge,
where the engine seized up and exploded like a steam bomb. “They had
to tow it away with a firetruck,” he said. “Even the leather seats
were on fire. They laughed at me.”
There is more and more Predatory bullshit in the air these days.
Yesterday I got a call from somebody who said I owed money to Harris
Wofford, my old friend from the Peace Corps. We were in Sierra Leone
He came out of nowhere like a heat-seeking missile and destroyed the
U.S. Attorney General in Pennsylvania. It was Wonderful. Harris is a
Senator now, and the White House creature is not. Thornburgh blew a
forty-four point lead in three weeks, like Humpty Dumpty….WHOOPS!
Off the wall like a big Lizard egg. The White House had seen no need
for a safety net.
It was a major disaster for the Bush brain trust and every GOP
political pro in America, from the White House all the way down to
City Hall in places like Denver and Tupelo. The whole Republican party
was left stunned and shuddering like a hound dog passing a peach
pit….At least that’s what they said in Tupelo, where one of the
local GOP chairmen flipped out and ran off to Biloxi with a fat young
boy from one of the rich local families….then he tried to blame it
on Harris Wofford when they arrested him in Mobile for aggravated
Sodomy and kidnapping. He was ruined, and his Bail was only $5000, but
none of his friends would sign for it. They were mainly professional
Republicans and bankers who had once been in the Savings and Loan
business, along with Neil Bush the manqu‚ son of the President.
Neil had just walked on a serious Fraud bust in Colorado. But only
by the skin of his teeth, after his father said he would have to
abandon him to a terrible fate in the Federal Prison System if his son
was really a crook. The evidence was overwhelming, but Neil had a
giddy kind of talent negotiating — like Colonel North and the
Admiral, who also walked….It was shameless and many people bitched.
But what the fuck do they expect from a Party of high-riding Darwinian
rich boys who’ve been running around in the White House for twelve
straight years? They can do whatever they want, and why not. “These
are Good Boys,” John Sununu once said of this staff. “They only shit
in the pressroom.”
Well…Sununu is gone now, and so is Dick Thornburgh, who is
currently seeking night work in the bank business somewhere on the
outskirts of Pittsburgh. It is an ugly story. He decided to go out on
his own — like Lucifer, who plunged into Hell — and he got beaten
like a redheaded stepchild by my old Peace Corps buddy Harris Wofford,
who caught him from behind like a bull wolverine so fast that
Thornburgh couldn’t even get out of the way….He was mangled and
humiliated. It was the worst public disaster since Watergate.
The GOP was plunged into national fear. How could it happen? Dick
Thornburgh had sat on the right hand of God. As AG, he had stepped out
like some arrogant Knight form the Round Table and declared that his
boys — 4000 or so Justice Department prosecutors — were no longer
subject to the rules of the Federal Court System.
But he was wrong, And now Wofford is using Thornburghs’s corpse as a
landing pad for a run on the White House and hiring experts to collect
bogus debts from old buddies like me. Hell, I like the idea of Harris
being President. He always seemed honest and I knew he was smart, but
I am leery of giving him money.
That is politics in the 1990s. Democratic presidential candidates
have not been a satisfying investment recently. Camelot was thirty
years ago, and we still don’t know who killed Jack Kennedy. That lone
bullet on the stretcher in Dallas sure as hell didn’t pass through two
human bodies, but it was the one that pierced the heart of the
American Dream in our century, maybe forever.
Camelot is on Court TV now, limping into Rehab clinics and forced to
deny low-rent Rape accusations in the same sweaty West Palm Beach
courthouse where Roxanne Pulitzer went on trial for fucking a trumpet
It has been a long way down — not just for the Kennedys and the
Democrats, but for all the rest of us. Even the rich and the powerful,
who are coming to understand that change can be quick in the Nineties
and one of these days it will be them in the dock on TV, fighting
desperately to stay out of prison.
Take my word for it. I have been there, and it gave me an eerie
feeling…. Indeed. There are many cells in the mansion, and more are
being added every day. We are becoming a nation of jailers.
And that’s about it for now, Jann. Christmas is on us and it’s all
downhill from here on….At least until Groundhog Day, which is
soon….So, until then, at least, take my advice as your family
doctor, and don’t do anything that might cause either one of us to
have to appear before the Supreme Court of the United States. If you
know what I’m saying….
Yes. He is Up There, Jann. The Judge. And he will be there for a
long time, waiting to gnaw on our skulls….Right. put that in your
leather pocket the next time you feel like jumping on your new
motorcycle and screwing it all the way over thru traffic and passing
cop cars at 140.
Remember F.X. Leach. He crossed the Judge, and he paid a terrible
price….And so will you, if you don’t slow down and quit harassing
those girls in your office. The Judge is in charge now, and He won’t
tolerate it. Beware.
-To Be Continued-
Hunter S. Thompson