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My Hunter S. Thompson story

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Wow– 2021! So much to look forward to: a new year, a new president, a new car … My beloved Volvo traveled over 200,000 miles before it finally kicked the bucket and while I look for a new set of wheels, I’m borrowing my uncle’s car. It’s a beast from 1999 with a CD and a cassette player. The CD player looks like some serious spy gear as it holds five CDs and pops out of the middle console. Now I just need to find a velour tracksuit and some huge “mom sunglasses” to wear as I drive around town singing along to Laura Branigan.

In my family, we think of our cars like horses. Not only do we name them, but we become so emotionally attached that we keep them until they die on the side of the road or get put out to pasture, i.e., sold for parts. Our mom bought a Volvo in 1980 that reliably traveled far and wide, safely tooling us around for the next nineteen years. We all learned to drive a stick on that car and when it finally dropped the rear axle somewhere near Salida, we almost felt like we should have a funeral.

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Change is hard, yet ever constant and completely necessary for growth. In some ways, the Roaring Fork Valley is unrecognizable compared to thirty years ago, when I was just starting to make my own way in the world. But if you look for them, you can still find a few old familiar haunts. Once, during my vagabond years, Hunter S. Thompson bummed a cigarette off my boyfriend. We were in the Grog Shop parking lot in Aspen in the 1990s, squandering our resources, when this old, disheveled guy approached us and asked for a smoke.

“Sure,” said my boyfriend, reaching into his jacket. He lit the cigarette, the guy nodded his thanks and wandered off. That’s it. That’s my one and only Hunter S. Thompson story. I wish I could say we went back to his kitchen table to drink whiskey out of jelly jars and wax prophetic about the current affairs of the world, but instead my boyfriend and I just hung out in the parking lot discussing The Curse of Lono.

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Hunter S. wrote a novel about the Hells Angels in the 1960s, and decades later Susan McWilliams wrote an article pointing out his prediction of the rise of Trumpism. ( I do wonder what Hunter S. would have to say these crazy days … would he still be poking the bear? Would he invite Lauren Boebert over to sit on the porch and clean their guns together? Or would he have mellowed with age and be more inclined to ride down the middle of the lonely American highway.

Actually, before Hunter S. died, in the early aughts, a few Hells Angels came to Carbondale. My boyfriend – different boyfriend, eventually husband – was a bartender at the Black Nugget and some bikers showed up to see the local punk band playing on Saturday night. This was back when Carbondale was a one-night-per-weekend town, meaning if it was a busy Friday night, Saturday would be dead, and vice versa. And the only people wandering down the middle of Main Street on the first Friday were stuck in the Barmuda Triangle of the Pour House, the Ship of Fools, and the Nugget … Anyway, that night the band was raging and the bar was packed. It was a night Hunter S. would’ve enjoyed, including at the end when chaos reigned and the local police came to shut the whole thing down.

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As much as I would like to hang on to those good ol’ days and keep the flavor of our small cowpunk town, I’m afraid our time, she’s up. Just as Aspen had to close their funky restaurants and dive bars to make room for all the dump trucks of money to back up and unload, so will Carbondale. In fact, the first casualty is Los Cabos, closing on January 11th. The Sopris Shopping Center will be leveled to make room for new commercial/retail space this year, and I doubt we’re getting a biker bar.

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