By: Maven Cade Leary
It’s 4:04 in the morning, the 21st of July, just a few days after Hunter S. Thompson’s birthday. The night, a long and treacherous journey, has returned me unscarred to my decrepit abode in the Cote-des-Neiges ghetto. A journey into the heart of Montreal, and the supposed Just for Laughs festival, has left me with a newfound fear for the human race. Long gone and far down the path of the damned, we walked hand in hand as the reaper played her tunes.
The night was an investigative adventure well into the realms of insanity, where drugs and alcohol reigned, and the legend- Hunter S. Thompson- was honored and remembered.
To understand a man, they say you must walk a mile in his shoes. Well, I can now safely say that I have a newfound respect for the man many of us know as the awe-inspiring father of Gonzo journalism. In a single night of intense substance abuse, I lost my lawyer, got threatened and ripped off by what I can only assume was a Somalian with a meth pipe, got stranded downtown without any idea of exactly where I was, and got generally avoided everywhere I went.
For the past few days, I have been Hunter, in dress, in movement, and in an attempt to get a feel for the rhythm of his mind.
Perhaps most interesting, and revealing to me, was the way people behaved with and around me. A clear sense of discomfort could be felt wherever I went, like those nearby where afraid my erratic behavior could turn hostile at any moment. I suppose I should clarify that I was Hunter in the metro and on the streets as well as in the actual festival grounds, and the multi-cultural backbone that makes up Montreal really didn’t know what the fuck was wrong with me. Whether they were French, younger English kids, or Somalians of many different regions, recognition was a rarity.
And the sad truth is that more than three quarters of those that did recognize me called me Johnny Depp… But that is my bad for choosing my “disguise” as the obvious cliché outfit Johnny Depp is wearing during the scene where they first ride into Vegas.
On the bus and metro on my way to “place-des-arts”, I was attempting to keep my cool and not let my buzz effect my walking. But even so, I heard someone say to their friend that that guy is so wasted he can’t even walk straight. I thought my walking was pretty good, considering. So boring. everywhere around me, I see people scared to meet my stare, not a smile on their lips or in their eyes…
These people, are they even truly alive? The older I get, the more I think humans really are like cows. Let me explain. You ever seen a field of baby cows? they run and hop around and play like they’re a bunch of puppies. They appear to have so much fun. And then you see the older cows, the adults, all just standing there doing their thing, same story, day in, day out, with that dead fish glare look in their eyes. The mystery, the adventure, the wonder of life has left them, replaced by routine and expectations and disdain at the unexpected and the untamed.
Me, I see myself, and Dr. Thompson, as goats. Goats never get bored. They never get too old to get into trouble. They never stop fighting against all forms of restrains. They hear the call of the wild despite being tamed creatures. Life keeps presenting goats with adventures, ways to grow, to change, to break free of their enclosure, to wreak havoc and have fun.
I arrived at the festival already pretty wasted, but having been here previously; I made sure this time to not overdo it and keep some for the party. There is a check gate, but with a quick word about my lawyer, they let me through unchecked. So long as you don’t have any glass or bags, you can bring all the drugs you want on the premise. And of course Bourbon, inside a chocolate milk container…
But that means you have to bring your own water, and lots of it. I don’t know about the average festival attendee, but when I am going like that, I really try and hydrate before I lose track of where I am.
I met my lawyer on the premise. Still not too wasted, I managed to get some girl’s number. She has no idea who the hell I am, but she doesn’t seem to care. Interestingly enough, when I am somewhat lucid, chicks don’t seem to find me off-putting. If I could walk a little straighter, this act could probably get me laid easier than as myself.
Before things got weird, I ambled around the grounds interviewing random people, asking them what made them laugh, and why.
For the most part, once engaged, they smiled, and the responses where positive. But always a majority around me lacked any kind of amusement in their expressions. They appeared to be adult cows in human disguise. Upon further investigation, attempting to figure out why some laughed and some didn’t, I came to realize that drugs and alcohol were where it was at… Almost invariably, those having a good time had gotten wasted before and during the show. Almost invariably, those wondering what the hell was going on, and what there was to laugh about, were stone-cold sober.
In this category, I found a lot of foreigners, Somalians and such. They didn’t seem to quite get what was going on. I have one on the recorder admitting she was wondering what the theme of the Just for Laughs festival was. And her Somalian friend, whom apparently spoke a French I sure as hell didn’t understand, said nada laughs…
The humor was not interactive enough. The comedians anecdotal. The style clearly French Canadian.
I should state that every once in a while, a true fan would greet me with respect as Dr. Thompson. You could tell this breed of person was higher up on the intellectual ladder. And many times did people stop me and take a picture with me. Even the other festival talent assumed I was one of them, paid to walk the stretch like a pig with lipstick out on display, naked and strumming a guitar for the pleasure of others so they could bring home some poutines for their little French Canadian kiddies.
No, I answered them. I advocated extreme drug use, which the festival most likely would not endorse. To prove my true allegiance to the free and the weird up, I gave a cute young girl working at some fucked up looking booth in an ugly brown dress what was left of my bourbon. She was on the job in this freak-show. She needed something to help her take off the edge. She invited me to join her later in the melting-pot. I knew that time would never come. By then, I would be way too fucked up to pick up hotties.
At some point in this mess, as the bourbon and the drugs kicked in, I lost my lawyer. He had his own adventures to pursue, and given his reputation, I don’t expect to hear from him any time soon.
This was truly the critical moment in the evening, as at the very moment I walked into an alley to piss and realized I was alone, a big tall Somalian named Hajim, or Karim, or Jjakim, or something, came out at me like a madman, forcing me to acknowledge his presence despite my attempts at fleeing his obviously aggressive and irrational person. His opening offer was that if I gave him twenty bucks, he would bring me to a place where there were girls and crystal meth as much as you could want. He went so far as to call a taxi before I could get away.
He caught up with me and kept trying, changing his negotiating tactics like a professional scammer, following me away from the alley I’d found him in and back into the heart of the festival. He offered me everything under the moon, but when I asked for LSD, he said he couldn’t get that. When he saw nothing else interested me, he changed his tune. Even in the middle of the crowd he kept trying to convince me he could get me the LSD I insisted I needed to balance out my trip.
As the paranoid tourist journalist from the states, he clearly saw me as an easy mark. When I got very agitated and told him it was just like the time I got busted by the cops and kept calling him a nark, he showed me his crystal meth pipe to convince me he wasn’t. This is the point where he began his looping of saying that this wasn’t the states. This was Canada, Montreal, and people here were nice. We were friends, me and him, he assured me again and again. This was Canada. Relax. No one wants to scam you, brother.
Yeah right… I’m a local, and I can tell you, watch the fuck out in certain parts of town.
I maintained I wanted him to leave me alone, so he tried the friendly route, speaking of his wife and kids and how he had to provide for them. Then he said he wouldn’t leave until I gave him 5$ for his time… What time? I said. You’re following me. You’re a nark.
He knew all the street people, he said. Bad things could happen, sometimes. Was that a threat? I said.
That’s when he got aggressive, and grabbed my arm. Combine my steel toed combat boots and the boot knife, and yeah, I was ready to turn things around on this degenerate scum of humanity. I guess I kinda dropped character for a moment there. My sudden shift in posture and stiffness threw him off, and he turned nice again, telling me this was Montréal, Canada. Not the states. That I could trust him. He was my friend. Trust in human nature he said.
Besides, didn’t I want the LSD to balance out my trip? Well, degenerate or not, he was right about that much…
So, playing this role I had sought out, I went along with an obvious scam, walked with the Somalian to an ATM, gave him twenty bucks, and immediately felt his vibe shift aggressive again. Being really high and drunk made it hard for me to break my normal patterns and not kick this piece of shit meth-head’s ass, but I went along with it and played the terrified tourist just hoping to get some LSD to balance out the paranoia caused by too many mushrooms.
So we walked towards the really sketchy part of town, between Berri and “Place-des-Arts”, where all the worst shit in the city goes down. The gutter- where the hookers and crackheads and methheads and bikers get together and hang out.
We turn off the main, down a street I probably wouldn’t have chosen on my own. He left me on a corner telling me he would return, to give him twenty minutes, to trust in human nature. This is Canada, friend!
Since the drugs were peeking, and I am likely going to find that son of a bitch and make him pay for ripping off a legend, I wanted to give him the chance to return. Wanted to make sure he wasn’t a friendly before retaliating. Forty minutes I waited on the corner, way too stoned, drunk, contemplating life and human nature, and definitely making a lot of people on the streets uncomfortable. And this is crack heads and hookers… And I am making them uncomfortable… Looking back, maybe they thought I was the nark.
I slowly made my way back to the festivities. Met up with my lawyer briefly, but he was still with the crowd of people he called friends, people whose vibes I just couldn’t take at the moment. So I kept moving, losing myself in the crowd, hoping no one would recognize me.
The whole vibe had shifted, into the standard nightclub that is our generation’s curse. A repeat of the same scene everywhere. All chemical drugs without any mind expansion. Substances to get you raving mad delusional, wanting more. Like the world of today, with the rush for money attitude, where the slow and thoughtful, and considerate, get left behind, our underground culture favors drugs with an edge of addiction, with a nagging little demon on your shoulder handing you the needle. We strive to need, to feel a rush of lack, to get that temporary fix, find a momentary purpose, a reason for all this nonsense, lose the edge, and look for it all over again, as if, maybe this time, with the peak will come that sense of belonging we all so desperately need.
The melting-pot. More drugs. More booze. Lots of people that seem to take themselves very seriously.
Had a really deep conversation with two guys about life and human purpose and participation. One of them was a male stripper. Cool guy. He envied me my freedom and capacity to just be in the moment and not give a fuck. This from a guy who takes his clothes off for a living… what makes people shy is clearly not a universal concept. I guess he was too cool to make a fool of himself…
And here I thought playing Hunter was an honorable tribute and taking your clothes off for cash was sort of foolish.
After that, my brain is kind of foggy. Pretty sure I saw the cute girl from earlier, the one I’d given the Bourbon too. But the combination mushrooms and booze always makes me introspective, not horny. I avoided her altogether.
Got to the bus and made my way back home. The three-thirty bus is always full of washed up partiers. I know from experience. So no stares or furtive glances. Twelve hours ago, just being in public was a scandal. Now, I was one of them.
Sun’s up. Birds are chirping. Another day. Another night. Now, day again. Sleep is often a stranger to those who live life fully. Making each moment count like it could be your last takes a lot of effort, dedication, and discipline. Many times this summer have I seen the sun rise. Many times have I stood looking at the world begin its morning grind, just completely stoked that I am not living one of those boring lives I can glimpse through the windows of the houses I pass by at night. A life worth living is worth living fully. To be only one thing all the time, that is death of the BEING. I ain’t no cow. I’m a goat. And I plan on fighting straight through the night.
Hunter, my friend, whether you are reincarnated as a three legged goat in Istanbul, a flea on it’s back, or just dust shot from a cannon, thank you for being you. Could not have been easy. But you gave us a great place to get lost and found, to leave the comfort of the accepted norms, to see the truth that lurks just behind the facade in all of us. You let us other goats know we are not alone. That it doesn’t have to be so “utterly boring. That we can get away with it. It’s important to know you can get away with it. Like you and Hemmingway did. And for this, I am grateful.
Forced consciousness expansion? Yes, thank you very much. And make it a double.