Strange Music Starts
Original location? July 1, 1996, introductory quote, and not Shakespeare:
“It has to be done right… and that’s when the strange music starts, when you stretch your luck so far that fear becomes exhilaration and vibrates along your arms.”
- Hunter S. Thompson in Hell’s Angels, a Strange and Terrible Saga.
My hunt for this passage has been driving me crazy. A comment in passing conversation, about fear, and what would eventually become Fear and Loathing, and I knew, in my bones, I had quoted this passage as I kept searching my blog archives to no avail — couldn’t locate the quote. But I knew I used it, quoted it.
What part I included in Pink Cake —
“But with the throttle screwed on there is only the barest margin, and no room at all for mistakes. It has to be done right… and that’s when the strange music starts, when you stretch your luck so far that fear becomes exhilaration and vibrates along your arms. You can barely see at a hundred; the tears blow back so fast that they vaporize before they get to your ears. The only sounds are wind and a dull roar floating back from the mufflers.”
- Hunter S. Thompson Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga
I’ll locate the passage, as it’s a few paragraphs of what it’s really like to push one’s limits too far and still come back. Sets a tone.
“But with the throttle screwed on, there is only the barest margin, and no room at all for mistakes. It has to be done right… and that’s when the strange music starts, when you stretch your luck so far that fear becomes exhilaration and vibrates along your arms. You can barely see at a hundred; the tears blow back so fast that they vaporize before they get to your ears. The only sounds are the wind and a dull roar floating back from the mufflers. You watch the white line and try to lean with it… howling through a turn to the right, then to the left, and down the long hill to Pacifica… letting off now, watching for cops, but only until the next dark stretch and another few seconds on the edge… The Edge… There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over. The others- the living- are those who pushed their luck as far as they felt they could handle it, and then pulled back, or slowed down, or did whatever they had to when it came time to choose between Now and Later. But the edge is still Out there. Or maybe it’s In. The association of motorcycles with LSD is no accident of publicity. They are both a means to an end, to the place of definitions.”
Yeah that’s the one.
Good stuff. Catches the essence, and I think, there’s a youthful belief that we will live forever.
Anyone who’s stepped over the edge, crossed that line, too many times, and some of us don’t make it back.
Passage is about riding a Triumph 650, up the Pac 1, Pacific coastline, leaning into the curves at 100 miles an hour, and I can say, on a machine like that? It feels exhilarating — and maybe a little dangerous. Maybe really dangerous, flailing and flying along without a helmet. Eyes watering, the wind drowned out by the loud pipes, a dull roar. There’s a tenuous grip the thin tires had on the roadway itself, and the rider never knowing what’s around the next sharp bend?
I’ve noted this before, but from downtown San Francisco to where my sister currently lives, it’s only a few miles, maybe less than 20, on a map, drawing a straight line. Takes over an hour because of the twisted, coastline highway, a narrow ribbon of asphalt that is tortuous and challenging, and judging by the number of motorcycles I saw last time? Great fun. But that’s current technology. When that book was written? Motorcycles were different. Just as much fun, just not as quick, and the tires, best guess, weren’t nearly as “sticky.”
The passage conveys, to me, a certain amount of thrill, and dancing with a death wish.
It’s The Edge, and some of us have been there a time or two.Pink Cake