Would you Buy The Ticket and Take The Ride? Should You? Depends on Whether You Have True Grit. . .

Sometimes things you desire, or you think you need cost everything you have got. Hunter S Thompson cautionary words in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, regarding seeking out experiences, living life fully and in the company of Fear, and yes, Loathing too, ring truer than ever:

“No sympathy for the devil; keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride…and if it occasionally gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well…maybe chalk it up to forced consciousness expansion: Tune in, freak out, get beaten.”

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S Thompson

The further we get into these dark days of the 2020s, the more I am confronted by all the fear and hatred that permeates our modern society. I bought my ticket years ago, and am still not sure if I purchased the correct ride. The final reckoning is yet to play out, and though there have been plenty of quite major losses, perhaps that ticket will prove to be gold in the end. It did indeed get ‘way heavier’ than what I had in mind, and whilst ‘chalking it up to forced consciousness expansion’ sounds good, the reality of doing so is somewhat more painful and just as emotionally and psychically expensive than it is mind-expansive. I am dreading the ‘freak outs’ to come, let alone the beatings. I am not sure I have too much energy left to eek out my survival. I suppose we will have to see what comes out in the final wash.

Last night I put down Fear and Loathing, and decided to try and tune out the terror with a little light entertainment. The Cohen Brothers have never made anything I detest, so settled on True Grit, free to watch on Prime with a trial of MGM plus. I don’t usually care too much for traditional westerns, but really enjoyed True Grit. It is a great movie, though I think I prefer the Cohen Brother’s version to the John Wayne original (which I watched straight after for the sake of fairness). John Wayne is greater than Jeff Bridges as the rough, tough, hard drinking old bounty hunter. The Cohen Bros’ version is a lot less morally preachy, which I suppose is a sign of the times. Anything goes nowadays, and old Marion was of the upright and uptight kind. I personally would rather watch the scenes play out and not be lectured on how to feel about them as they do. It was worth buying into the experience for a few hours of my time in the evening, even if it had me wincing at the whole shockingly politically incorrect nature of the movie. We have all become so sensitized to those jolts to the system. Perhaps it is a good thing. Perhaps not. Buy the ticket, take the ride, whilst not the whole of the Law is a large part of it, though I never bought into the whole social cancellation, woke deal, and feel slightly irritated that I am forced to take that particular trip alongside the rest of the virtue signaling motherfuckers. I’ve no virtue to signal. I am a creep and proud of it. Hey at least I am not a phony, which to me is just about the most vile thing a human being can be, after the accepted Big Bads of Evil.

True Grit has all the elements of a Greek tragedy – a daughter seeking revenge for a murdered father and the danger inherent in seeking that dark satisfaction plays out alongside themes of comradeship, adventure and loss. I could have done without the final 25 years later vignette which served as a cautionary exposition of the price paid when all was said and done. The 14 year old feisty heroine bought the ticket and took the ride. It cost her a hundred bucks, a bad snake bite, her arm, and her innocence, leading all the way to an unconventional and perhaps ultimately unsatisfactory future. She killed the man who killed her father, just like she wanted to, but that ride took her to some bad places – places that someone never really comes out from.

That is the definition of ‘true grit’ – the ability to square your jaw and take that trip to the end of the line, no matter what, going hell for leather after that ultimate goal, no matter what that destination or desire is. Taking it to the limit, to the conclusion, to the bitter sad end of the ride takes real true grit, or else a psychotic episode. I don’t suppose there is much difference between the two. You have to be a bit crazy, a little over-focused to see such a bad trip to the end and not jump out of the first exit that offers an out to the whole damn disaster. I should know, I have seen one of those ‘bad trips’ out almost to the end of it, as I live the tail end of the mess spreading out through what is left of my life.

Life is a gamble, but in a broad sense you can choose the stakes and the extent of the risk taken. There are various trips that can be taken. Would you set off the 2500 firecrackers in a tv studio just like Hunter tried to do, but was denied his desired ticket to ride by a scaredy cat talk show host who didn’t want to take the trip? Would you take that ride, and gain Hunter’s admiration, or make him despise you but preserve the soft furnishings? Would you put the narcotic in the spoon and mix up the medicine, seeing your future swirl round in the dark liquid, sucked up through the cotton and mix that bitter poison with the life blood and right to the center of the heart of your brain? Would you put the tab under your tongue and take that LSD adventure? Would you join the army? Undertake some high stakes journalistic adventure and end up with a bullet in your head slumped over your typewriter? Would you move countries? Continents? Would you take a trip to Mars with Musk? I bought a ticket once, and took the ride that ensued. It cost me almost everything I had, but I am riding it to the end. I still have the ticket in my pocket, and when I slide into the pearly gates, afterburn glowing on my heels, disheveled and used up, my hair standing right up on end, I will give it Saint Peter for that final clipping, and take the consequences on the chin.

Some are suited to lives of quiet uninspired pastoral dedication to quiet. Sometimes the trip finds you, shoves the ticket in your hand, pressgangs you into the adventure and forces you to ride the wild lightning, the earthquake shake, the steel and speed disaster, and there is nothing that can be done about it. That wild card comes as a result of someone else buying a ticket, or Mother Nature throwing her angry cards onto the pile demanding your attention. There is nothing that can be done about it. Everything is a gamble, even being born, and some of us resent being forced to take a ride into life that we didn’t ask for. Heaven knows I understand Peter Green’s plaintive outburst in Man of the World, of “sometimes I wish I had never been born…and I wish I was in love..” Love is a trip in itself, perhaps the ultimate trip, and at the end of it, there is only pain, because someone always has to leave, whether for this place, that dimension or into the realms outer space.

“As a ticket purchaser who has bought into various trips – chemical, psyche, academic, literary, artistic, and a very physical, robust trip that has led to an unfairly outlawed life across continents that has seen me demonized, pursued, left destitute and living outside, and now finally in some sort of uneasy, precarious safety in my little apartment in the bad part of town – I can tell you that buying that ticket should not be taken lightly. When the answer to the question ‘how much does it cost?’ is ‘everything you’ve got,’ then certain calculations should be made. Mother nature even kicked me in the ass by throwing me into the midst of a natural disaster. As the world shook to pieces I wondered just how unlucky I am! It is important to know your own ability to tolerate the terror and the hatred, that ‘fear and loathing’ trip.

f you don’t have the metaphorical testicles for such a ride, then it is best to stay in your small town, marry safely, have a small number of children, drive a white Lexus CT 200h (2014) within the speed limit, and not out of a neat little fifty-mile radius. Take all precautions: never travel far, have a small but sensibly paid job doing something boringly safe like accountancy, and live a life of ‘as safe as you can’ boredom. You might not have much excitement, but you increase your chances by buying as few tickets as possible. Of course, disaster can still ensue, but you live and die knowing you did what you could to make it all as safely mundane as possible. Short of living in the Hundred Acre Woods alongside Pooh Bear, I can’t think of anything more stagnant and blissfully peaceful. The problem is, some people just don’t dig bliss or peace. I personally would lose my mind within the first 24 hours of any such endeavor, and the town would end up on fire with me weeping on the sidelines, wondering just how I managed to find trouble in such a peaceful place. Some of us are just live wires. Some of us are conduits for disaster.

“In the end of things, if any potential ticket-buying traveler was to ask my advice, I would tell them that rather a heavy trip taken than a life wasting away wondering what if. What if I hadn’t purchased a literal ticket to go work in Japan all those years ago? What if I had never put a tab of acid under my tongue and watched the façade of the world crack and fall away? What if I had never tasted the anxiety-calming juice? What if I had… That is a question I rarely ask myself. What if I had done something that I chose not to do? I simply said ‘yes’ to most things. I said ‘yes’ to a few things that, in retrospect, I wish I had not. I wish I had not ever said ‘yes’ to a man and stuck to lesbian relationships only. I really fucked up there in my one and only attempt to fit in and not rock the boat. I resolved to rock every seaworthy vessel I ever found myself passing ever since in an attempt to make up for my youthful lack of resolve. I suppose in the final reckoning there is only one old piece of advice that has ever seen me well: ‘To thine own self be true’. It was the curse put on me in my elementary school autograph book many years ago, by a well-meaning headmaster, who liked Shakespeare. I have tried to live up to its rigorous demands.

Of course I have regrets, and more terribly, I have taken vast losses. I have also had a few wins. Driving across the Rockies, with no home to go to, the van the only place to shelter me and my child as we fled abuse and violence, with the entire world rising up out of the ground in vast rock formations, making me feel very little indeed, as if everything in nature was slotting into place, put there by a giant joker, who thought us little ants might like the scenery, my outer wheels slipping precariously close to the edge of that cliff-side road, that no authority has seen fit to run a barrier along, while the wind and the rain on the summit of the mountain pass, lashed at my vision, some stray biker, flying 1 percenter colors, a Mongol if I remember rightly, stuck to the inside of my van, using me as a shield against the terrible weather, riding that motorcycle as if it were a mustang, expertly taking the curves grinning wildly and then waving as we parted ways at the bottom mouth of the pass, I felt alive. I felt glad to have lived the life I was living. I felt that ticket in my pocket and patted it for good luck. Sleeping under stars in a Little Big Horn campground, imagining bears that were real and not friendly, behind every tree, waking up and boiling water for tea over a good campfire, I knew the meaning of contentment. There is something primal, something special about fire making and using it to stay alive. It grounds us with our distant pass. We are nothing but animals trying not to be eaten by other animals after all.

These tickets that we buy are unique. No two trips are the same. I’ve stared into the abyss of a pool in a forest, having experienced one of the most extreme losses a person can survive, and almost got eaten up by the trip. “Forced consciousness expansion” is not for the faint hearted. I don’t meant to start singing ‘My Way’ here, and it is too early to choose the words I want engraved on my tombstone, even if it is too late to find the peace that I am looking for, or to change the adventure I am on. I can’t get off the train now. There are a few more stops to ride, until that final destination. I half expect some bus to lodge itself on the tracks at some point and send the whole trip off once again into some unbearable disaster. I hope I am wrong. I simply try to prepare myself for the worst possible outcomes, so I will not be caught unawares by this damned journey.

I have a spare ticket here. Will you take it? There is always a choice, but if you do, you’d better be certain you have ‘true grit’ and are prepared to lose at least an arm during the trip. This is no ride for wussies or straights. It’s a freaks and pirates only kinda dance with danger. Will you say yes to everything, or at least most things? Will you seek a life of quest or quiet mundanity? The way the world is going, we might not have a choice and instead, all be thrown off the tracks in some infernal worldwide disaster, but I am a writer, not a seer. What do I know about which way the wind blows and how hot this summer is going to get? Nothing. I am on my own trip. Whatever happens in the macrocosmic world is only my concern if it encroaches on my day-to-day ramblings. I’ll just leave this ticket on the table. It’s yours if you want it…

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