Part 1, Chapter 8 Summary
Chapter 8 begins with Thompson reminiscing about the first time he ingested LSD. He remembers trying to talk to a doctor who was famous for experimenting with the drug. Before his own first experience with LSD, Thompson wanted to ask the doctor some questions about what to expect. Thompson goes to the doctor’s home and finds the man out in his garden, humming. Despite Thompson’s repeated attempts to get the doctor’s attention, the man continues to hum, deliberately ignoring Thompson. The doctor’s inability, or lack of desire, to communicate disturbs Thompson so much that he does not try LSD for another six months.
His first LSD “trip” takes place at the “The Fillmore Auditorium” in San Francisco. Thompson goes to the men’s room. He eats half the amount but spills the remainder on the sleeve of his shirt. One of the club’s musicians comes into the bathroom. Thompson tells the man that the dust on his shirt is LSD. Without a word, the musician grabs Thompson’s arm and begins sucking on his sleeve. It was a “very gross tableau,” Thompson recalls, something a person from an older generation just would not understand.
Six years have passed since that night in the Fillmore’s bathroom, and a great deal has changed in the nation. The 1960s are over, and its ideals are gone. Thompson is not sure whether the decade and its emphasis on free love and peace really meant anything or had any lasting ramifications. Still, he is glad that he was there to witness “a whole generation” come “to a head in a long fine flash.”
He remembers racing away from the Fillmore in his car, unsure of where he was going but absolutely certain that there were more people out there, just as crazy as he was, and it did not matter where he ended up stopping. There was an overwhelming sense that you could “strike a spark anywhere” and that spark would ignite. Moreover, there was the pervasive, if not completely articulated, feeling that the young people had it “right,” whatever “it” was, and that they were “winning.”
There was a sense, he recalls, of “inevitable victory” over the “Old and the Evil.” What was curious about their movement was that it was not violent. No military action was taking place, at least not on the home front. The youth would, he felt sure, “prevail” on the strength of their energy. The “momentum” for radical social change was on their side.
That was then. Now, only five years later, that hope and energy had fizzled. From a high point in Las Vegas, looking out to California, Thompson imagines that one could easily “see the high-water mark” of a now bygone era.