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Ron and Sarah Whitehead


Not Better Than Sex (Page 2)

I come from a long line of farmers, coal miners, holy roller preachers, musicians, storytellers, and strong women. Sarah comes from a long line of farmers, mechanics, coal miners, and strong Cherokee women. The people we met at The Woody Creek Tavern were blue collar working class, poor, downtrodden, stubborn, strong-willed, independent, resistant individuals who will not be told, by church or state or anyone else, how to live their lives. They are American dissidents. Dissidence is not un-American. Our country was born of dissidence. We dissented against our parent, England, went our own way and formed a new country, the USA. Many people died in the process. We fought for the right the freedom to dissent, the freedom to agree or disagree with our government, with anyone, and not be punished for dissenting. The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, and The Bill of Rights are the most important political documents ever conceived, written, and made into law. The pilgrims at The Woody Creek Tavern understood all this. They live their lives accordingly regardless of the consequences. So did Hunter S. Thompson. And Hunter went a step further. He expressed his dissent in his life and his writing. His books became best sellers. Hunter is popular all over the world. He was bold, courageous, outrageous in ways many people are fearful of. But even more admire Hunter for having the courage to be a beacon of what it means to be a true American, honest and independent. He felt that adults should have the freedom to choose how they live their lives. As long as you don’t hurt anybody you should be able to do whatever you want. Hunter used alcohol and drugs, excessively by most standards but not his own. Everybody has a different tolerance level. Each person must discover what works best for them. Truth is a pathless land. We should all have the freedom to find our own individual truths.

Something was wrong. Besides the events I’ve produced, I’ve also presented over 4,000 readings of my own work round the world. I know how to read a crowd. The vibrations at The Woody Creek Tavern were not good, they were terrible, gruesome. And it wasn’t just because folks were mourning Hunter. I saw right away it was much more than that.

Sarah and I had a delicious meal. We had to sign an I.O.U. for our meal because they don’t take credit cards and we didn’t have enough cash. We noticed that several others were caught in the same predicament.

As afternoon turned to evening the mood of the growing crowd darkened. There were at least as many members of the world press as there were pilgrims. And nobody, press or pilgrim, was having any luck getting on The List for The Big Party. Nobody could even get on Hunter’s property to get a closeup view or photo of the covered statue.

I’ve rarely seen such security. All Friday and Saturday security guards, dressed in black, lined the road from Highway 82 outside Aspen, down across Woody Creek all along Woody Creek Road for miles on each side of Hunter’s Owl Farm. Plus security was arm to arm surrounding the property. We drove up to Owl Farm stopping nearby for Sarah to take a photo of me at the Gonzoed mailbox with the Woody Creek Road sign. To our astonishment a huge black SUV drove up to us and stopped. It had GONZO POLICE signs on the sides. It was filled with sneering demon-faced thugs. Sarah had already taken the photo so we walked back to our car. The Gonzo Police drove away. I was astonished. Gonzo Police? Is this possible? Having Gonzo Police patrol a Hunter Thompson party is like me having Poetry Police patrol one of my 48-hour non-stop music and poetry Insomniacathons. It’s beyond absurd. It’s frightening! The negative energies my increasingly raw nerves were picking up were taking me to a bad bad place.

The spectacle. I have participated in a few glitterati spectacles but I have never been a fan. I can’t stand the phoney pomp and circumstance. Although this was an attempt to honor one of the world’s greatest writers of all time, a Kentucky rebel with a cause, it had turned into a glitterati rich and famous spectacle much like The Kentucky Derby which Hunter decried in his “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved,” the piece that birthed Gonzo and forever changed the face of journalism and creative non-fiction. The Blastoff still included family and friends but the rich and famous exclusivity of the event had turned its face ugly, it had grown horns. They were all there to be presented mint juleps at the front tent: John Kerry, George McGovern, Johnny Depp, Bill Murray, Sean Penn, Ralph Steadman, Lyle Lovett, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and so many more. Kind words were said about Hunter, much alcohol was consumed, chandeliers glistened, Japanese drummers drummed then Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man,” Hunter’s favorite song, rang out over loudspeakers, followed by “Spirit In The Sky” as the handsome statue was unveiled, spotlights reflected light off clouds which rested just above the mountains, and Hunter’s ashes were blown, with a spectacular light and pyrotechnics show, over his adored Owl Farm.

The difference between The Hunter Blastoff and The Kentucky Derby is that the working class, the poor, the downtrodden have access to The Derby via the infield. The infielders can, if they want, actually fight through the mob to the fence and see the majestic thoroughbreds fly by. The working class, the poor, the downtrodden, the pilgrims who walked, hitchhiked, and drove old broken down vehicles for hundreds and thousands of miles to be close as Hunter’s ashes were blasted across his farm... well they were not allowed to watch to listen to witness to experience. The event was too exclusive, too precious to even create an infield, to cordon off an area and perhaps even, as part of the $2.5 million production cost, give them boxed wine and potato chips or leftover cake and allow them to be close too so they could also pay homage to their hero, the great Hunter S. Thompson. But they didn’t even get that.

As Sarah and I drove up to the main entrance I was in terrible shape. My nerve-shattered extra sensory perception was providing me the most positive glowing warmth while enjoying this adventure with Sarah. But The Blastoff energy was having the opposite effect. The darkness was swallowing me. I was nearly catatonic. Sarah and I have spent our lives as members of and writing for the downtrodden, the beat, the poor, the blue collar working class. In America today the gap between the rich and the poor is greater than ever. I have chosen to be a warrior, a non-violent warrior, against injustice. How could this be happening? What would Hunter think of this spectacle? If Hunter had been assigned to cover The Hunter Blastoff he would have turned and gone back to his hotel room to write The Real Story.

I was overwhelmed by darkness, by the irony that these rich liberals, all of whom condemn Bush for his excessive exclusivity, were being exclusive in the worse possible Marie Antoinette/George Bush way.

We pulled into the main entrance where security checked to see if you were on The List. On the Owl Farm side of Woody Creek Road the see and be seen rich and famous were in the grand tent drinking champagne toasts to their superior status and wealth. On the other side of Woody Creek Road was the mass of pilgrims, and the press, fenced off, forced to keep their distance from the spectacle. We were saddened and sickened by the crude exclusivity of the scene. The energy was totally negative. Pilgrims with hearts full of love and respect for Hunter were treated like second class citizens, literally left out in the cold. As witnesses, Sarah and I, on the verge of nausea, paused at the main entrance, turned, got in our car, with cameras flashing, film crews filming, people yelled “Look, Kentucky, plates!” We fled the scene not wanting to be part of the grotesque snobbery of the glitterati spectacle.

The next morning, Sunday, August 21, 2005, we drove back to Owl Farm. Security was still there. We stopped at the main gate and talked with Rich Gilmore, a friendly security guard who promised to visit us in Kentucky. Many Kentuckians and others from other states and countries asked us to say farewell to Hunter for them. We did. Many people in Woody Creek yelled, waved, honked and even followed us because we were the only people there with Kentucky plates. Hunter’s life and writing was a continuous series of explosions. He died as he lived, explosion by gun, explosion by cannon. Staring at the fist in the sky I raised a toast to Hunter, “God Bless You & Your Family Hunter, we will meet again.” Then Sarah and I drove 24 hours non-stop back to the state we love the most, Kentucky.



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A True Tale of a Tall Trip. - Click Here To Read an Excerpt from the Sarah Elizabeth & Ron Whitehead book "Western Kentucky: Lost & Forgotten, Found & Remembered"

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On Sunday, May 15th 'Ode to the Sidewalks of New York Jazz/Poetry Reading' was hosted by legendary musician, writer, poet David Amram & his Trio at the Bowery Poetry Club. Photog, Jeremy Hogan was there and although still on the road, he was able to wire in these images from the celebration! Click Here to view the photos from the show!

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