*A weak homage to Hunter S. Thompson
I’ve always loved the writing of Hunter S Thompson. “Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas” was given to me by my dear friend DJ and it’s one of my all time favorites. One of the things that seems to get glossed over these days is the brilliant political writing he did. “Fear And Loathing On the Campaign Trail ’72” is a fascinating read. Of course, I’ve always been a little obsessed with that era of American history. Not only did Hunter write his book in ’72, published serially in Rolling Stone magazine, but he came up with the idea for Tim Crouse’s “The Boys On the Bus” detailing the press’s and the campaign’s symbiotic (and at times ethically challenged) relationship. Apparently, early on in the ’72 campaign, cigarette holder clinched between his teeth, Thompson said to Crouse, while pointing at the pack of reporters, “Those are the bastards you really oughta be watching…” True words indeed…
Despite my enjoyment of Hunter’s political writings, I’m not a political person per se. I enjoyed reading his books because of the historical perspective that it gave me, however warped that perspective may have been. I try to never discuss politics unless “I’m talking a little treason” amongst likeminded friends at the pub. I like the words of Little Steven’s song, “I Am A Patriot” in regards to my view on politics:
I ain’t no communist
And I ain’t no capitalist
And I ain’t no socialist
And I ain’t no imperialist
And I ain’t no democrat
And I ain’t no republican
I only know one party
And it is freedom
Needless to say BourbonAndVinyl won’t be endorsing any candidates. I certainly would never ever talk about politics to a stranger. And yet, this being an election year, politics is on everybody’s mind. It’s hard to avoid a political discussion even in the oddest places… say, in a tavern on a concourse of the Minneapolis-St Paul Airport on a cold February evening. And while it’s not exactly a political story… in honor of Dr Gonzo, I must share. And I will say, as a disclaimer, I admire Mr Sanders and this is in no way meant to be derogatory toward him or his followers. I just thought it was a good story and weird things continue to happen to me…
I’ve always considered Minneapolis a gem of a city, since the first time I visited there a decade ago. The downtown has a lot of great nightlife and restaurants. I even had a rather wild evening there where I ended up in some place called Nye’s which I thought was in Canada, but that was a different B&V post. The main problem with Minneapolis is it’s too fucking cold. I honestly don’t know how anybody lives there. I wander the downtown ant-like tunnels and walkways to avoid going outside, still shivering, surrounded by Nordic types who seem oblivious to the cold. More power to them.
For reasons unclear, the team that works for me there always seem to summon me up there in the dead of winter. I never get to visit Minneapolis during their all too brief 4 day summer season, it’s always February when I get to go to Minny. It’s hard enough to fly but in winter to fly to Minneapolis means you have to peel layer after layer off when you get on the plane and then put it back on again when you land. I had spent two very cold, crazed nights in Minneapolis and was, as usual on these trips, exhausted when I got to the airport. I had been forced to again strip off layer after layer while being x-rayed and probed by the TSA people only to have to put everything back on again. I lumbered down the concourse where my gate was, looking like an extra on The Revenant set and I couldn’t help but think, after the stressful business reviews I’d attended, that perhaps a libation might ease my travel woes and warm me up. Near the Burger King, I spotted a pub and to my surprise, an open seat at the end of the bar. I went crashing through tables and people with my coats, bags and winter gear to claim the open seat.
“Is this seat open?” I asked. The bartender and the rumpled woman in the next seat seemed all too eager to both say in unison, “No, sit down.” I ordered a bourbon from the harried bartender and covertly glanced at the woman to my right. Her hair was a long, tangled mess. She couldn’t be local because she was only wearing a t-shirt that was belted at the waist with what looked like rope. Her arms were pasty with blotches of sunburn. Her wrists had too many bracelets to count. I thought perhaps she was somebody coming home from a vacation or perhaps a hippy escaped from her commune. In front of her sat a extra large screwdriver with an extra shot of vodka on the side. She looked a little bleary and I didn’t really feel like talking to anybody anyway so I just sort of closed myself off. It’s like that scene in the movie Sharky’s Machine, where the black cop goes completely blank. I was doing that imitation to avoid speaking to this drunken stranger.
“Sssso are you headed home or headed ssssomplace elsssse?” the woman slurred at me. Home, I answered. “Me too, I’ve been in Phoenix… my mom is sick. I was staying at my brother’s house.” Now that she had played her sick mom card I had to come out of my Sharky’s Machine zen place of detachment and at least talk with her. I could tell she was hammered. “I got stoned with my niece, I’m the cool art teacher aunt.” Sure, lady, sure.
The TV was tuned into CNN and suddenly beady-eyed candidate Scott Walker was on the screen. My bar mate became extremely agitated…I guess because she was a teacher and Gov Walker had done a lot to destroy the teacher’s union in Wisconsin. “This fucker is the devil…” she exclaimed loudly. When I saw the rest of the bar turn toward her, I considered egging her on but returned to my zen quiet place. “Who are you gonna vote for?” she asked me suddenly. Geez lady, why not ask me if I go to church or if I masturbate? “Uh, I don’t talk about politics, ever…” I had hoped that response would shut her down. But after slamming her vodka shot, finishing her screwdriver and quickly ordering another, she asked me again. Suddenly I found myself trapped in a conversational loop that didn’t appear to have an end – she’d ask who I was voting for and I’d decline to answer. It was like that comedy routine, “who’s on first?”
“You remind me of my brother…I bet you’re a Republican.” I was dressed in a suit and tie and looked like an off-duty narcotics agent, I could see where I might give off that vibe, but again I declined to give her a definitive answer. My politics are more “fluid.” “You remind me of my brother she repeated.” At least she’d stopped asking me who I was going to vote for. I hadn’t asked her but suddenly she volunteered, “I feel the Bern. I’m 100% behind Bernie Sanders and I say fuck anybody who isn’t.” She was significantly more agitated and in order to deal with her, I quickly ordered another bourbon. I was wondering when the jack booted thugs in airport security were going to burst into the bar and club her into submission. I only hoped I wouldn’t be collateral damage. She ordered another large screwdriver but said she’d settle for a shot of vodka… the elderly bartender gave her a glass of orange juice and said, “Sweety, I think you’ve had enough.” Wow, here was something I’d never seen before, a person cut off in an airport bar. It’s like a crack dealer turning down a junkie with money. You just never expect to see that.
Being cut off seemed to jar her back to reality briefly. She started asking every 2 minutes, what time it was. Her flight was in another ninety minutes and she had to get back to Green Bay. When I looked at my watch the third time, to verify that only 2 minutes had passed since her last asking me, she noticed my wedding ring. “So, you’re married?” Uh, yes. “I am too, but I have to tell you, I’m very attracted to you…” Uh, oh this was getting weirder. I’ve been married a long time… nobody had seriously worked me for ages. I went back to my zen place of blankness. I didn’t respond at all. I sipped my bourbon and wished they allowed smoking in this bar, even though I don’t smoke. Now seemed like a good time to start.
“Yes, I’m very attracted to you. You remind me of my brother.” I had to pause and consider that sentence for a while… Before I could truly digest her simultaneous attraction to her brother and me, she leaned in and conspiratorially whispered, “Do you think there’s a unisex bathroom around here… we could lock the door.”
I wasn’t sure what kind of incestuous fantasy this vodka crazed socialist was working on, but I’m happily devoted to the Rock Chick… I was having none of this. Maybe my suit made her consider me “the man” and she wanted me to “stick it to her” in a literal way. I considered saying, “I’m flattered” but by this time she had a death grip on my forearm and I was wondering how I’d explain getting into a fist fight with an art teacher in the MSP airport to the authorities.
Thankfully, the bartender, who had been intently listening to all of this, likely with the idea he was going to have to restrain this woman at some point, set another bourbon in front of me, it was apparently gratis, and gave the socialist art teacher her bill. Jumping on his train of thought, I said, “Quick, you must get to your gate, it’s almost flight time…” despite the fact that only a few additional minutes had passed and this woman had another 70 minutes until flight. It seemed the appropriate time to motivate her movement.
As she staggered slowly away, she turned to say good bye and I whispered, “Don’t worry, I’ll never vote for Trump…” It was the most I’d said publicly about politics in years but I felt she’d earned it. I don’t begrudge anyone their politics and I admired her devotion to Bernie Sanders but I just wasn’t going to talk politics with her in an airport bar. I certainly wasn’t going to join her in the bathroom either, but that goes without saying. And off she staggered, a tangle of scarves, coats, and luggage. I’ll never know if she made it home alive or not. I just thank God she didn’t locate a unisex bathroom…
It did turns out the bartender, who had been highly entertained by the entire exchange, did charge me for that last bourbon. Oh well, it was worth it to get her out of there…