Why the word “Gonzo” matters

By: Maven Cade Leary

What does Gonzo mean to me?…

What a cool question! It’s such a vague notion in my mind some days that I start rambling about honest, sometimes dishonest, usually funny, often intelligent… then I stop myself and just kinda look confused. I know it’s time for another hit to balance things out and bring perspective to my misfiring synapses.

Other days, it all seems clear as air, something so obvious I don’t understand how more people don’t see it for what it is, and thus understand it’s value and importance.

I was a late-comer to the writings of Hunter S. Thompson, but from the first real read, I understood there was something unique here, something refreshingly honest and real.

It took me a little while to get his flow, his seemingly random tangents, his sometimes dark sense of humor. Such thought patterns are not natural to me. But I stuck with it, because I felt there was a gem buried under all that swine shit, and I fully intended to understand why it resonated so strongly with me, what it was in this vulgar drunk’s writings that seemed to speak to a hidden part of my mind.

One day it dawned on me. I understood what was going on here. Why I had come to feel so strongly for a twisted drug addled journalist without a seeming hope in hell of manifesting the ideal world he apparently longed for.

On the one hand, it’s everything he doesn’t say that speaks worlds. His focus on the corrupt and greed, on the fear and the abandon, on the crime and the violence, all of this is a way to contrast our perception against all that we sometimes tell ourselves the world actually is.

So he told it like it is. He showed us the inner workings of politics, the lies and deceit all around us. And somewhere in all that I hear a voice calling out for a better world, for each and every one of us to ask ourselves, are we willing to let the rat bastards Nixon and Reagan us over a barrel again and again?

And on the other hand,  I realized the true heart of Gonzo, in my humble opinion, is the power of wielding words like a weapon, to utilize the power of the freedom of expression in a deliberate manner, to bring about change in our environments through our words.

Of course, as the man himself has said many things, many times, on the subject (not always in agreement), the full meaning and scope of the word Gonzo is left up to each individual to determine.

To some it’s silly, drug filled narratives. To others it’s a political tool. To yet others it’s a medium through which they can share their opinionated perspective on a social issue of significance. And to yet others, to be truly Gonzo, you must be included in the narrative.

Hunter once said that to be truly and fully Gonzo, something he himself admits F&L fell short of, the story would have to be written, acted/lived, narrated, and/or filmed by the same individual…

So with all these different takes on the subject, why did I go seeking allies amongst other mutant prototypes rallying under the Gonzo Today banner?

It’s a fair question.

Do I consider myself Gonzo?

Actually, fuck yeah. Anybody who has to spend a day with me will understand why I felt such a strong affinity for the man. I can rant and bitch all day long or explain to you how stars are formed, while rolling joint after joint, getting increasingly hyper and mischievous as the evening progresses.

But I am not always Gonzo. Far from it.

Until I came here, while I have written a few books, countless short stories, pages and pages of random thoughts, philosophical essays, and scientific enquiries, I had never really let loose in my writings. I had never written like I talk. I was always too concerned with being proper, careful not to offend anyone, hiding behind a smokescreen of normalcy.

Until recently, I did not have this output for my voice. And while much of what I write for Gonzo Today falls somewhat short of my own expectations of Gonzo Advocacy, which I guess is more broad than just journalism in it’s purest sense, I am slowly learning to open up, to let myself be me, free, direct, brutally honest to the point of taking no prisoners, and yet, still somehow constructive in nature.

I will never be “only” Gonzo, or maybe even “truly” Gonzo. I will never remain under one label. I write sci-fi/fantasy, philosophy, random short stories, little thought essays very far removed for anything Gonzo, and I code. I love to code.

My point is that to me, Gonzo as a general banner gives me a whole new category through which I can express myself, an entirely unique genre that my ever wandering mind and personality can sometimes channel.

If I did not have Gonzo Today, I would be stuck writing unlabelled stories that most people who could appreciate or understand would never have the opportunity to read. And those that did read them would wonder what the fuck was wrong with me and think I was some kind of an isolated mutation, perhaps best eradicated early before my insanity could spread.

Without Gonzo Today, I would still be writing Gonzo, sometimes. But it would have no place, no context. I would still know it is thanks to HST that this whole new range of my personal expression exists, but I would have a lot less faith that anything I write could reach the right ears. And I’d have a lot less good reading from people who speak from the heart and with great big brass balls.

Thanks Hunter, for trying to coin Gonzo, and yet leaving it open enough for growth and variety. And thanks everyone at Gonzo Today for being a part of this trip with me.

Let’s ride this bitch like we stole it 😉