The etymology of “gonzo” unlocks a new level in my understanding of countercultural history. To celebrate, I sing along to the “Moratorium” chorus from John Ylvisaker and David Blakeley’s Recorded at a Housewarming for Fritzie, a rare private-press christian psych-folk LP released in 1972 on Soular Module.
Ylvisaker’s obituary refers to him as the “Bob Dylan of Lutheranism.” Reawakened by its use as slang among beats and hippies and entered into print to name Hunter S. Thompson’s drug-fueled brand of New Journalism, “gonzo” probably derives from the Italian figure of the simpleton or fool, the great lightener of moods who speaks cheerfully of the miracle of reconciliation. Also a play on “gone,” as in “out there,” wild and crazy, mind unfurling in the midst of a great trip. My courses are basically guided tours of elaborate, personally crafted memory palaces, demonstrations of compatibility among multiple systems of gnosis, literary, philosophical, cultural, and political texts woven into a vast assemblage, my eyes like those of the Muppet conveying moment by moment a “zany, bombastic appreciation for life.”
The change in mood or disposition is nearly instantaneous. I pause to investigate being, even as I continue to review sentences under my breath. I exist, take stock of myself and my surroundings, and then, following the way an exhale follows an inhale, I dictate silent sentences in response, the inner “I” reviewing words according to a learned social rubric. Once satisfied, I trance-scribe the results by hand into a marble, college-ruled Mead composition notebook. I establish these as conditions on which I work. Let all take note. Add to that the poetic cocktail of substances I ingest each day. Compared to Hunter S. Thompson, though, I remain quite the minimalist.
Rock stars, meanwhile, were Joan Didion’s ideal subjects, since they lived a disorder to which she could respond with horror, allowing the dissociative, detached bourgeois self to co-exist in a common story with its time. “The story unfolds,” Didion once said, “as you write it.” Personal phobias and superstitions intersect with the affect of one’s historical moment. One can tell and examine the story of one’s time. The emotional life of late capitalism. Illumination of peripheral detail. Corroboration of the aural through the gestural. There is, alas, a faint delay to be heard, perhaps equivalent to that which exists between an object and its shadow. We try to trust fully in life as would a singularly blessed and accepting child. We observe the embroidery, worked into the day’s pattern to lend verisimilitude. When we look into the light, we’re rearranged, our faces melt, mountains become plains, a foot slips on a banana. It helps when we imagine ourselves in a library. Light shines instead out from behind a cloud; the crowd goes wild.