Part 2, Chapter 6 Summary
Thompson and his attorney head down at noon for the opening of the National District Attorneys’ Association’s Conference on Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. Low-fidelity speakers dot the conference hall. The sound system leaves much to be desired. Black, upright speakers are everywhere, blocking the view for many people. Those around the speakers tend to look at the speakers rather than the person delivering the address on the stage. It gives the entire assembly an odd feel, “depersonalizing” the space in an odd way and also giving off an air that is both “ominous and authoritarian.” Thompson thinks the whole setup seems very antiquated, something of which Ulysses S. Grant might have approved.
The equipment is not the only thing that seems out of touch with the times. As Thompson listens to the lectures, it becomes ever more apparent that these enforcement agents have very little real contact or reliable information about the drug world. A speaker explains that the end of a joint is called a “roach” because it resembles the insect when burned down to a nub. Thompson and his attorney exchange incredulous glances. Neither of them had ever thought that was the reason. “You’d have to be crazy on acid to think a joint looks like a goddamn cockroach!” the attorney exclaims.
Another “drug expert” tells the crowd about the dangers of acid, specifically how a trip can haunt a user months after ingesting the drug. Thompson is experienced with LSD, of course, and thinks this is hogwash; more misinformation from the “experts” is given to the naïve assembly. This speaker is Dr. E. R. Bloomquist, M.D. He has written a tell-all book titled Marijuana, which Thompson finds amusing for its lack of insight and misinformation. In the book, Bloomquist writes about the “four states of being” when one smokes marijuana: “Cool, Groovy, Hip, and Square.” Thompson thinks someone has duped this man; perhaps it was the famous drug experimenter Timothy Leary, who may have wanted to see just how much poppycock this medical professional would believe. As funny as Thompson finds the lectures, he is also disturbed by the amount of false claims being made.
As the hours wear on, Thompson becomes more self-conscious. It must be obvious to everyone, he thinks, that he does not belong in this crowd. The attorney, too, is feeling awkward. He did not know people like those in attendance actually existed outside of the movies. Both Thompson and his attorney consider their nametags before they leave. Thompson’s says he is a “private investigator.” The attorney’s claims he is a “Criminal Drug Analyst.” In a way, both tags reveal the truth.