What's All This Then?

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What's All This Then?

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Fear and Loathing
in Las Vegas

by Hunter S. Thompson

Field-Tested by David Pasquesi

in a Cadillac Sedan de Ville

I remember reading the Hunter S. Thompson novel in the early 1980s while driving back from Florida after Spring Break. It was in one of those ‘drive-aways’ where you drive some wealthy person’s car for them. The car was a 1980 Cadillac Sedan de Ville and the back seat had more room to lie down than we had for the previous week, as we stayed in a hotel room with two beds, eight girls, and a bathtub full of ice and cheap beer.

On our voyage, the co-pilot/navigator was given the additional task of reading aloud from the book as we made our way up from the sun of Florida to the winter of Chicago. One would drive to exhaustion as the passenger would read, and sometimes reread, paragraphs that were difficult to digest or too hilarious for a single pass.

I was hooked from the huge bats dive-bombing the car. The tales of chemically-fueled weirdness intrigued me. We enjoyed drawing comparisons between our trip in a Cadillac and theirs. Though ours was not stained with vomit, nor did it carry a shoebox full of narcotics, an attorney, and a fascinating writer; we did have a couple goofballs driving too fast. I had not found a book like this before, didn’t know people wrote about things like that. It was hilarious, and odd, and actually frightening. I shared his disdain for tacky Americana and his distrust of authority. Thompson was an intelligent, funny rebel.

I remember discussing the lore surrounding the veracity of the story, suggesting that everything was factual except for the adrenochrome, which was supposedly extracted from the adrenal glands of a living human. Oh, how I wished that was true as well.

That was my knowledge of Las Vegas; Hunter Thompson was my tour guide. I finally made it to Las Vegas in person 25 years later, and unfortunately, the Vegas of his days had faded and been replaced by a stucco world awash in a sea of rubes. Ordinarily on a long drive, the act of driving might be considered a chore, but when you are being read to from one of the great American novels, it is a pleasure. I wonder what would have happened if Sister Jude read to us from this book in the fourth grade instead of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi. I suppose I would know less about mongeese.

David Pasquesi, a Second City alumnus, improviser, and comedic actor, has written for stage, television and the silver screen. Find his credits at his website. He improvises in Chicago and New York.

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