Kentucky is a mystery to me. It’s a place of total unpredictability. It was the first state west of the Appalachians. It was difficult to get to, and it’s rocky soil made agriculture difficult. It has a hardscrabble history atop some of the richest natural resources in the country. Possibly more than any other state, Kentucky has a lineage of tough-as-nails motherfuckers making due with very little.
It’s a state of fierce independents who make their living doing deadly work for low pay in industries that openly exploit them. It’s the third-most Federally-dependent state, but regularly and overwhelmingly votes candidates into office who support cutting Federal benefits.
Contradiction is Kentucky’s nature, and that tension of opposites creates both hopeless poverty in some, and a creative and indomitable will in others. It’s unsurprising that it has a legendary musical history. And less surprising that it was the birthplace of two of America’s most polarizing and intriguing figures: Muhammad Ali and Hunter S. Thompson.
I think I’ve read everything Thompson ever published. And like many Thompson fans, I wandered the murky, Blakean artist’s path between madness and wisdom. But Thompson was like an elite athlete of both. And like all elite athletes, he understood the nature – and the benefits – of sacrifice. His massive appetite for knowledge, experience, and intoxication led to insights into the human experience that few have been able to communicate. His was a life of madness and wisdom, of irresponsibility and wisdom, a walking contradiction. Like a true son of Kentucky.
“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.”
This mural is on the side of a vegan restaurant in the Germantown neighborhood of Louisville.