By Hunter S. Thompson
Page 2 columnist

OK, folks, we have a problem here. My new cashmere blazer is drenched with rain, and I am having a nervous breakdown. Bad vibes are all around me and I feel paralyzed by fear and desperation, my brain is out of gear, Anita is cringing outside on the balcony, my plane leaves for Honolulu in seven hours, and I can't wear short-sleeve shirts because my left forearm is disfigured by a huge spider bite that bleeds constantly.

Why even try? you might ask. What kind of jackass would be obsessing on his professional correspondence at a time like this, anyway? Here's a dime and tell it to somebody who cares.

A lot of people feel that way in this eerie hotel, but not me. I am a hopeless optimist, and I believe I have something to say. (Whoops. I am hearing the desperate screech of a large animal right outside my window, then the sound of men laughing.)

"What was that?" Anita yells, jumping in from the balcony and quickly shutting the glass doors behind her.

"Who knows?" I say, as I close my own window and drop the slatted blinds. "That was horrible," I say. "It sounded like something being killed!"

I am feeling a little desperate now. It is not just the animal screeching, but everything else that is happening: My life is falling apart. It is like an earthquake in slow motion. Howls and curses drift up from the midnight street below us and people are blowing horns and crashing into each other. I hear police sirens and the high-pitched roar of motorcycle engines in the rain.

***** ***** *****

Did I forget to tell you boys that we are smack in the middle of downtown Hollywood tonight? How careless of me. Yes. We are in a top-floor balcony suite in the venerable Chateau Marmont, my usual working headquarters when I come to L.A. They know me here. My blood is on these walls, and my spirit haunts the elevators.

Sean Penn
Batty-as-a-loon Sean Penn will join Doc in the Pace Car after dropping out of the race.

I have suffered grievously in this place, many times, for reasons we need not discuss now. The memories are intolerable when it rains and I come under stress -- and I am very much under stress Now. Extreme stress, I think. Most people would go all to pieces from it.

I have been in the grip of Agony since last Wednesday when I arrived. Things have gone downhill in a hurry since then. On Thursday, a quack with a dentist's drill botched my wisdom teeth, and on Friday (or was it Saturday?) I tripped on a balcony ledge and sustained a nasty Subdural Hematoma that almost ended my life.

The WHACK of a fully weighted Head-shot is an unforgettable sensation that will stay with you Forever.

It happens very suddenly, as high-speed collisions always do, and everything in your world disappears in a bright-orange flash. There is no immediate pain, because you are knocked out cold like a dead fish. No noise, no feeling, no consciousness. That terrible THUD of impact is the last thing some people ever hear. You are "on your way out," as the Doctors like to say.

Indeed, and so much for violence, eh. Let's get back to football, which has been very good to me recently. Some people will tell you I am on a big-time winning streak, but for powerful reasons of karma I will deny it. One thing I have learned in my painful career as a gambler is that bragging when you get lucky and Win a few games will plunge you into gloom and unacceptable beatings very soon. It happens every time.

That is why I have been so quiet about the San Francisco 49ers. I don't want to hex my people while they're winning. It has happened before. The last time I shot off my mouth about San Francisco they got stabbed from behind by the evil Chicago Bears. I was baffled and humiliated in public. People called me a Dunce and tried to crowd me into sucker bets. I felt so damaged that I started betting on Dallas.

Ho ho. And look what happened next. The Cowboys snuck up on the Washington Redskins and whacked them off their inexplicable winning binge. The Redskins are down in the ditch with all the other bums now. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust.

Meanwhile, San Francisco is on a roll and tied with St. Louis for the best record in the NFL -- along with Pittsburgh and Chicago.

Chicago? You bet. I owe the Bears an apology. I called them "phony," but I was wrong. They are a gang of Assassins and I fear them. They will croak St. Louis in the playoffs. The Rams have the best individual Talent in the league, but they are wiggy in the clutch and they have a terminal fumbling habit.

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The 49ers only lost to the Rams by two (2) points, and that was a long time ago in Week 2. But I will go far out on a limb tonight and say that things are different now. We have a gigantic football weekend coming up in the NFL, so let's get stupid and make a few rash predictions. Why not?

So yes: The 49ers will beat the Rams by at least eight (8), and the Bears will beat the Packers by two (2). And I say that without knowing who on any of those teams might be injured or locked up. I haven't even seen the point-spreads. Yes sir, make no mistake about it, bubba. I am running on a thin mix of Hubris and whiskey-luck, now. Anything can happen in these games: The Rams and the Packers are serious business. They may be the best teams in football, and I will be shocked if they turn out to be underdogs. But so what? I am shocked every day by some ugly kink in the news, and I am prepared to be shocked again.

It is not particularly Fun, but I enjoy it on some days, and I feel that Sunday is going to be one of them. I will be far, far away by then, anyway. On Sunday, I will be running in the Honolulu Marathon with Sean Penn and former Redskins guard John Wilbur -- who has never won the race in 20 years of trying, but can always be depended on to knock about 2,000 other runners off their pace with his profoundly disturbing style. Wilbur is given a lot of room when he comes up to the Starting line. He is amazingly fast, and he runs in a phalanx of longtime Samoan friends who clear a lane for him and keep him highly focused.

Penn and I will be in the official Pace Car, once we've come to our senses and dropped out. And that, I suspect, is certain. Only a madman would think about running for 26 miles at top speed, at my age. Wilbur tried it once, and they ran right over him when he passed out down the stretch. It was horrible.

Penn's style remains a mystery, however, and race officials are very leery of him. He is known to be capable of extreme speed for short bursts, and some of those people are right to be afraid of him. Sean is batty as a loon and is prone to taking extraordinary risks in foreign towns, often with no awareness at all of what he's doing. He is seen as a Dark horse, but I doubt it. He will croak himself before noon, and we will watch most of those crucial games from bamboo chairs in the Tiki bar at the elegant Hotel Mandarin, where Keith Richards will also be staying.

And that's It for now, folks. There is no more. Aloha, Mahalo and so long for now.

Dr. Hunter S. Thompson's books include Hell's Angels, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72, The Proud Highway, Better Than Sex and The Rum Diary. His new book, Fear and Loathing in America, 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 each Monday on Page 2.