Sunday, May 01, 2005

Fear and Loathing, a Recent Golden Tribute

Overnight I managed to finish Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I began the novel after reading a tribute to Hunter Thompson by the Cheerful Oncologist (now at his new home). The true madness in the entry made it a classic in my eyes and I pondered if the book could truly measure up to the eulogy.

After the two hundred pages left me hungry for more I knew the truth. Always, I am only left with a sense of loss. I wish I knew of him sooner, or that he would have stayed with us a little longer so that we may have enjoyed his sarcastic genius for a few more fleeting seconds. Maybe another article, another word. I guess, all of those who have somehow touched the lives of others who took their own life feel this way, no matter how inconsequential the connection.

I wanted to write my own tribute to Thompson but I realized that a the true greatness of any physician is only measured by what he knows he does not know. I’ve come to realize I could never write a more befitting tribute than the one written by Dr. Hildreth and therefore I have copied it here for you to enjoy.

It is an entry of high standing in the Medical Mad House:

"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."

(written in the manner of one
Raoul Duke)

Why am I here? Who is this woman in a giant muu-muu, standing before me squeezing what appears to be a copperhead snake in her hands? She spoke to me in some strange language - obviously disrespectful of the country that took her in after a long canoe trip across the oceans. I thought of screaming "Back! Get Back!" but suddenly sat bolt upright and remembered:

I am a doctor...on call in the emergency room of the world's greatest hospital. My shoes were smeared with thick crusts of vomit and blood, as were my pants, except I wasn't wearing any. I must find them, I thought. The lights above my head burned into my skull like the first kiss of the electric chair. I reached for my pistol to shoot at them, but it, too, was missing. The situation was rapidly deteriorating. I began to sweat like a champagne fountain at a coal miner's wedding.

She continued to bark at me as I stood up and surveyed the room. I had been working since six o'clock the previous evening, and felt like I had been stomped by buffaloes. I desperately wanted to claw my eyes out, but instead hunched over the desk, searching for a pack of cigarettes. What was it - 12 hours of pure massacre, or had I been trapped in this reptile pit for weeks? No one seemed to hear me as I asked for matches and a can of kerosene...

"Yes, yes," I said to the nurse. "You're doing fine, doing a fine job for all of us here." She glared at me as if she had just seen
Martin Bormann in an Argentinian health club. What did she want from me? She followed me across the floor as I attempted to break into the crash cart...a nice ampule of epinephrine ought to help, I thought - perks a man up to the point where he would not hesitate to offer his aunt a quick game of Russian roulette. I looked over my shoulder at the nurse. Maybe I should inject her first - give her just enough to get her to dance on the counter top, holding a gunny sack full of live rats. I laughed hysterically at this idea until a security officer tried to club me with a sap. He missed and accidentally whacked a pizza delivery man right in the pepperonies.

I quickly grabbed a clipboard and walked into the nearest exam room. "What is your problem, sir?" It was difficult to see him through the cheap Saigon sunglasses my attorney had given me."

My chest hurts and I can't breathe so good" he said. My God! His left arm suddenly fell off and he grabbed it and flung it at me! Another damn zombie in the emergency room - how they sneak past the metal detectors is beyond me. I rushed the gurney and toppled it over, sending the fiend crashing into an EKG machine. Musn't panic, I thought - just walk nonchalantly out of the room and down the hall to the lounge. Poor bastards... they'll find out soon enough what the living dead can do to a man's aorta with their teeth. Better let Security handle this, or better yet an armored company of Camp Pendleton's finest.

As I reached the lounge I realized that the sun was shining, meaning my hell-night was about over. All that was left to do was clean up the forty or so charts that I had tossed behind the soda machine, locate the rest of my clothes, sign in to the intern relieving me and slip out through the window in the men's room. Before leaving I decided to eat - after all, being a servant of the needy gives one an appetite like a crazed Samoan wrestler. My forged I.D. card was good for at least one more trip through the outlet store for the local waste dump, also known as the hospital cafeteria.

My surgical colleague sat next to me as I sliced up grapefruit with a stiletto. "Man, you sure had a rough night, didn't you? Last I saw of you, you were standing on a trash can during that code, screaming 'Somebody get me a chainsaw!' How long have you been on E. R. call?"

I turned my head to reply, but gasped - scorpions were crawling out of his eyes! He grinned at me like a Jolly Roger as I sprang from the table. I tossed my glass of ice water at him as he tried to grab my arm. I could hear him bleating like a goat caught in a vise as I ran through the glass doors and out to my car. I jumped into my 1971 red Cadillac convertible and sped off, playing "Mr. Tambourine Man" at full volume. I looked at my watch.

My next shift in the emergency room would start in just 23 hours and 14 minutes