It is no accident that this column is titled "Hey, Rube." That is what's called my "Standing Head" in the arcane jargon of Journalism, and it will not change anytime soon.
"Hey Rube" is an old-timey phrase, coined in the merciless culture of the traveling carnival gangs that roamed from town to town in the early 20th century. Every stop on the circuit was just another chance to fleece a crowd of free-spending rubes, suckers, hicks, yokels, johns, fish, marks, bums, losers, day traders in Portland, fools who buy diamonds from gypsies, and anyone else over the age of none in this country who still believes in his heart that all cops are honest and would never lie in a courtroom.
These people are everywhere. They are legion, soon to be a majority; and 10,000 more are being born every day. P.T. Barnum, the circus man, explained the real secret of his commercial success by repeating his now-famous motto, "There's a sucker born every minute." His job was to keep them amused. Which he did -- with a zeal that has never been equaled in the history of American show business. Barnum knew exactly what people wanted: freaks, clowns and wild animals. The Barnum & Bailey Circus came to town only once a year, and those days were marked as sacred holidays on the John Deere calendars of every rube in America. Those dates were special; many schools were closed when the circus came to town, and not every student returned when the public frenzy was over. "Running away with the circus" was the dream of every schoolboy and the nightmare of every mother with a bored and beautiful daughter.
We all worry about losing our fine and beautiful daughters to some filthy circus tramp who catches her in a weak moment; and sometimes, it actually happens.
* * * * *
Anita woke me up at noon with a whoop and a squeal that shocked me. "Look what DHL just delivered," she giggled, showing me a small box of brightly-colored hardcover books. "This is our final reward! I love it! Finally! Our favorite columns are all bound into a book! George Bush isn't going to like this one, is he?"
My friend Seeley had called from the White House the night before and tried to offer me a job.
"This one is big," he muttered. "This time, you are going to be a major presence in Washington for a long time. The President really enjoys your sense of humor. He wants your input on some things. That is all I can say. Please be here at midnight tomorrow."
I thought it was a joke, so I dissed him and called the police.
"Some freak is calling me from the White House," I told them. I said at first I thought it was Sean Penn. "But this guy was too weird to be Sean. He was nuts. I wanted to kill him."
"Who doesn't?" said the voice at the police station. "Sean Penn is a monster. He should be put to sleep for his own good. And so should you. I am the law in this town and you're not."
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Then he hung up.
* * * * *
Where is the football season, now that we really need it? That is what is really eating me today. That is why people call me bitchy and strange to be around on Monday nights. I am a terminal football junkie, and I don't mind admitting it -- or even demanding it, especially right now in the middle of this bright and beautiful summer and the endless baseball season. Why not just enjoy it while it lasts?
Nothing lasts forever, they say. Not even baseball season. Or the endless war in Iraq, which is getting uglier and uglier as the White House sinks deeper into the terrible quicksand of election-year failures coming home to roost just in time for election day in America. Indeed. We are looking down the barrel of some very dangerous times. September and October will be dark and violent months, football season or not.
(To be continued ...)
Dr. Hunter S. Thompson was born and raised in Louisville, Ky. His books include "Hell's Angels," "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," "Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72," "The Great Shark Hunt," "The Curse of Lono," "Generation of Swine," "Songs of the Doomed," "Screwjack," "Better Than Sex," "The Proud Highway," "The Rum Diary," and "Fear and Loathing in America." His latest book, "Kingdom of Fear," has just been released. A regular contributor to various national and international publications, Thompson now lives in a fortified compound near Aspen, Colo. His column, "Hey, Rube," appears regularly on Page 2.