Page 2 columnist
Last week was a monster for the snowbound city of Aspen, which definitely needed the action. The merchants were crazy for it ... Hot damn! Yes siri! The X Games were coming to town! -- and a huge crowd of genuinely Wild boys was coming with them. Ho ho. Early estimates said there would be about 40,000 of them, all ripped to the tits on their own adrenaline and craving an orgy of speed. The weekend was going to be crazy, they said. The whole town was braced for it.
Why not? I thought, let's have a look at these games, this terrifying spectacle of risk and extreme danger that ESPN brings to town every year, along with TV crews and reporters and grifters and work crews and Security specialists who had been here all week. The whole valley was seething with excitement, as if the Olympics were coming to town.
"Let's get weird today," I said to Anita somewhere around dawn on Saturday. "I feel like whooping it up today -- and besides, we have a professional duty to cover these games." I smiled lazily and tried to cheer her up. "I am a sportswriter, remember? Yes, and these X Games are definitely Sports. It will be a madhouse, a huge and feverish mob. I can hardly wait."
She stared at me for a long moment, and then screamed, "You fool! Are you crazy? You have to speak at the Anti-War rally today. You are the main speaker. Get a grip on yourself," she said. "The sheriff will be here to pick us up at three o'clock. What shirt will you wear?"
"What?" I screeched. "What are you talking about? I was thinking about wearing my police uniform and a wig, in order to mingle in peace with the cranked-up crowd and have a few speedy conversations with strangers."
And then I remembered. "Of course! The Rally, the marchers! ... I must have been drinking last night," I muttered.
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Why is this happening? I felt my confidence oozing away as I looked at the situation. In a matter of hours, just as the X Games were peaking, I was scheduled to make a speech to thousands of cranked-up anti-war protesters who had swarmed into Aspen from all over the state of Colorado to protest the looming war in Iraq and march through the center of town at the same time the X Games were happening.
Indeed, it had the look of an action-packed day coming up, and some people even feared violence.
"Nonsense," I told the Sheriff. "There will be no violence, not as long as we are there. So you can tell those worrywarts to calm down and enjoy the energy of it, which is wonderful."
He nodded his head slowly, seeming to agree, yet apparently lost for a moment in his own thoughts. "We have nothing to fear," he said finally, "except for fear itself." Then he laughed and whacked me sharply on the back. "That is what's wrong with this entire country, isn't it?"
"Exactly," I said. "We are turning into a nation of whimpering slaves to Fear -- fear of war, fear of poverty, fear of random terrorism, fear of getting down-sized or fired because of the plunging economy, fear of getting evicted for bad debts, or suddenly getting locked up in a military detention camp on vague charges of being a Terrorist sympathizer ... "
These things have already happened to millions of patriotic law-abiding American citizens, and it will happen to many more, even in the glitzy, high-rolling world of professional sports, where superstar athletes have uncommonly high profiles and big influence in public opinion polls ... What would happen, for instance, if Michael Jordan made a glitzy anti-war commercial for Nike that appeared on nationwide TV about nine times a day? Think about it.
Whoops. Ye gods. My plane is leaving for New York in two hours, and I am gripped with a helpless panic. It seems impossible. A giant blizzard hit the valley yesterday, just after I finished my impassioned speech to the cheering crowd at a park in the center of town, which included hundreds of X Gamers as well as anti-war marchers. There was not a hint of violence or even conflict. All in all, it was a good crowd to be a part of. The day was a success on all fronts.
Ah, but we are running out of time, folks. I must get to New York to celebrate the publishing of my new book. It is guaranteed to be a volatile visit, for sure. Ho ho. That's it for now. Mahalo and remember to watch your back.
Dr. Hunter S. Thompson was born and raised in Louisville, Ky. His books include "Hell's Angels," "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," "Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72," "The Great Shark Hunt," "The Curse of Lono," "Generation of Swine," "Songs of the Doomed," "Screwjack," "Better Than Sex," "The Proud Highway," "The Rum Diary," and "Fear and Loathing in America." His latest book, "Kingdom of Fear," has just been released. A regular contributor to various national and international publications, Thompson now lives in a fortified compound near Aspen, Colo. His column, "Hey, Rube," appears regularly on Page 2.