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Postcards From The Proud Highway
  • October 09, 2011 : 20:10
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On Alcohol

I have no patience for malevolent drunks. No patience. Drugs, drink, it's no excuse. Booze is probably the most dangerous substance—it's so available, and it's easy to get really wrecked. I felt a sense of amusement when I first read a book called Nation of Drunkards. It's a beautiful book—in the rare-book category. It's a history of alcohol and the forming of America. The nation really was conceived in a river of booze.

There's a basic difference in consumers of whiskey or any other substance, and that is the difference between being a binger and a chipper. I have understood for many years that I'm a chipper. The binger sets time aside to get wasted, to go on a binge. The chipper, like me, just does it all the time. It takes awhile to get settled in your patterns like I am—if you live that long.

On Being Outnumbered

Taking on groups of people was the ultimate fun. And then running off with their women. The Genghis Khan approach. It was romantic. I got the shit kicked out of me a lot. But it was fun. That's an unhealthy attitude—which is why I don't recommend it to other people.

Getting into rumbles without having any idea what you're doing is dangerous. I did it, but I learned. There are some basic rules. For one thing, any crowd or gang can murder you—no matter what kind of crowd. A crowd of schoolgirls can kill you.

Fighting gangs of people is very risky. If you ever get caught trying to defend yourself, attack one person in the crowd. Just try to kill that person. Concentrate, like a shark. Don't attack randomly. I've found that's about the only way to fight a mob. Kill one of them, or try, or seem eager or willing to. People will want to kill you for doing that, but it usually turns the momentum of a senseless brawl where you're just a soccer ball. When the soccer ball can attack you and bite your cheek off, the game changes.

I was ahead of the game when I realized that if I tried to kill one person the rest would back off.

You want to take on a large one. Take on a symbolic leader, the spokesman, the bully. A swift and violent kick to the nuts after a glass of water to the face is always good—and I mean a crotch twister, boy. There's a big difference between a sort of snap-kick to the nuts and one with a follow-through, where you go all the way through the crotch with force. Use the leg—hit with a higher part than the foot so there's a narrow point of impact.

Though it's probably better to stay out of rumbles, I miss it in a way. I hate bullies and like to take them on. There's that red line. It becomes like a two-minute drill in a playoff game. There's no reason, just survival. It's game time. I've frightened myself and other people with the extremes to which I can carry it.

Just because you give up fighting with your knuckles doesn't mean you give up fighting. That's the deadly serious underbelly of gonzo—the fist inside the glove. I'm still every bit as willing to take on a fight. You just have to figure out where and when. You need to know by gut instinct when the numbers are against you. You need to choose your battles—and your battleground—carefully. You don't want to volunteer to be destroyed. Pick your spots.

And there's no reason to see it all as a battle anyway.

On Potential

That old thing about "this kid has a lot of talent" will take you a long way. But eventually it has to pay off. Potential will run out—and it can run out suddenly.

On Dentistry

I'm usually not sensitive to pain. I have a high tolerance for it. But I've never thought of pain as an option in any kind of dentistry question. Pain has always been a given. An assumption. Pain? Of course you'll have pain if you do a root canal. I've never had dentistry without pain—until a recent epiphany that is going to be one of the main clinical discoveries of our time.

I don't fear the dentist. It's just not someplace I'd choose to go. You don't look forward to a root canal. They put that rubber dam across your mouth. You can't talk to the dentist. You can't say, "What the fuck are you doing?" One of my problems is that I'm too conscious of what he's doing. I kind of critique him as he's going along. I make the classic mistake of dumb people: I think I know more than the dentist.

I want as little pain as possible. My dentist—a half-bright quack; not a bad dentist but a simple one—will not give anybody pain pills. He hates giving me the gas. I don't have much use for the gas anyway, though the first whiff or two can be nice.

Turns out music is really the best remedy for pain. Not just music but dominant music, top volume. I hadn't fucked around with headphones since the 1970s, but recently I introduced music on a scale that I had not thought of before. It was with a little CD Walkman. I finally figured out how to turn it up to top volume. I used this Discman properly for the first time. Boom. I had my own studio, my own speakers.

I did have a normal quotient of whiskey. But I wouldn't say the whiskey was a factor. Another ingredient was the weed I thought I'd try. When I finally told the dentist, "Goddamn it, your stuff sucks. I'm going to go out and smoke some weed in the car," he said, "Yeah, that's the way to do it." It's not like he's a goddamn Jesus freak of some kind. Now they say, "Of course you should have self-medicated. You should have done it all along."

Be sure to self-medicate. I used to think of needing painkillers after dentistry. Ho-ho.

I could barely get into the dentist's chair. I was as high as four dogs. In a good mood. But it was hard to get to the chair and socked in. I felt like I was in command of the world. I had my sunglasses on. I had the CD player in my crotch. I had a strong drink of Chivas Regal and ice in easy reach to my left.

None of the things you're normally conscious of—probes, sticking cotton in your mouth, the pain of the injections—mattered once I turned the music on. At top volume you can't ignore it. The music is louder and more intense than the pain. And then when he brought in the drill—which you can normally feel even if it's not always painful... nothing.

Hot damn! I was so excited about my discovery that I tried to tell the dentist about it while I was in the chair. But I had that rubber in my mouth. So I just put the fucking headphones back on.

On Ex-Presidents

When addressing a former president, Mr. President is the proper form. But I also call one Jimmy. Of course, some of them are best addressed as Swine.

On Humor

Humor is important—I can't think of anything much more important. Not necessarily to make people laugh but to make them smile. I find that if I can laugh with someone or get them to laugh with me, that's an immediate bond. It's not something I write down or memorize before I go out. It becomes a habit, a survival technique.

Making your enemies laugh once is no big trick. But making them laugh twice, three times, against their better judgment, makes them notice.

It's like when you shoot a gun in public. The first shot doesn't get people's attention. Hell, I don't notice a shot unless it's right outside my window. But the second shot gets everybody's attention.

On Fashion

When it comes to clothes, it's easier to talk about the dark side of the American dream in a clown's garb than a clergyman's. But dressing with a sense of humor has its drawbacks. I have a shirt covered with fishing lures—they're silver rubber minnows. Sometimes when I'm wearing it I'll reach down to scratch my rib and feel this scaly shit. God, what a shock. I'm used to finding weird things wrong with me—what the fuck is that?—but not scales.

I like the way sunglasses look, but I seldom wear really dark glasses. I've found that if people can see my eyes through the lenses it's more comfortable. I try not to have my costume be a problem for me or other people.

I'll wear Chucks with a tuxedo. Is that confrontational? There are times when I'll wear a blazer for no particular reason. They have good pockets. It's easy, comfortable.

I love what people call my Coat of Many Colors, which I bought at Abercrombie & Fitch in the early 1970s. Every once in a while I wish I had bought the pants, too. It's a hunting outfit, sort of a precursor to those blaze orange outfits. It's a very well-made coat—it has a game bag that folds out of the back. The bag's waterproof, plastic lined—you can shoot a duck and pop it into the pouch. It'll carry ice for drinks. And it doesn't leak blood. Somewhere in there are loops for shotgun shells.

I've always bought, been treated to or stolen the highest-quality clothing I can. Shit, it saves a lot of money not having to go out and buy new shirts every year.

When I carry a gun it's always in a shoulder holster. That's when you want to have looser-fitting coats. There are times when it's better not to be obvious with your gun—most of the time, really. Unless you're out shooting with people or doing something where other people have guns, it's better not to advertise it.

On Skinny Dipping

Total darkness and no clothes is the only way to swim. Swimming in clothes seems almost obscene to me.

On Survival

Choosing the right friends is a life-or-death matter. But you really see it only in retrospect. I've always considered that possibly my highest talent—recognizing and keeping good friends. And you better pay attention to it, because any failure in that regard can be fatal. You need friends who come through. You should always be looking around for good friends because they really dress up your life later on.

In the end, it's not so much how to succeed in life as it is how to survive the life you have chosen.

On Perspective

I'm too old to adopt conceits or airs. I have nothing left to prove. It's kind of fun to look at it—instead of a personal challenge to the enemy out there, just enjoy the evidence. I can finally look at it objectively. Not "Who is this freak over here?" but "Who am I?" I've gotten to that point where it's take it or leave it. Whatever way I've developed seems okay to me on the evidence. So what if the score is against me? I've been on the battlefield for a long time. I suppose I always will be—just my nature.

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