Friday, July 2, 2021



The Lords of Bakersfield

“Now what?”  I study Van Stein, hoping he’s had enough and doesn’t want to stick around Bakersfield for nighttime, the usual subject of his paintings. 

Because if I had my way, we’d drive straight to the Padre, check out and skedaddle, argue it out with Amex later.

My cell phone rings.  It’s Brainy Bill calling from home.

“The Lords know you’re there,” he says excitedly over the car speakerphone.

“Has Brainy Bill found religion?” whispers Van Stein.

“What are you talking about?” I say to Bill.

“The Lords of Bakersfield know you’re in town,” says Bill.

“Is that a good thing?” I ask.


“Why not?”

“Because they’re a bunch of prominent judges and lawyers engaged in child sex abuse, they run everything in Bakersfield and they think you’re there to expose them.”

“Why on earth would they think that?”

“Because Andrew tipped them off." He pauses.  "Weren’t you supposed to take him with you?”

“What the hell did he tell them?”

“Said you’re an investigative reporter and you’re aiming to air all their filthy laundry.”

“How do you know all this?”

“About the Lords?”

“No, about Andrew.”

“He stopped by the Casket.”

The Casket is our nickname for the local Montecito bar we frequent. 

I disconnect Bill and shake my head.  “Now we’re really screwed.”

“We didn’t do anything wrong,” says Van Stein.

“Yeah, but you know how it works,” I say.  “They pop my name into Google, see I used to do undercover work for the FBI and their imagination runs wild.” 

This actually happened in Aspen, Colorado where we spent a few days hunting Hunter; that is, celebrating the spirit of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson.  

We were staying at Hotel Jerome, Hunter’s campaign headquarters when he ran for sheriff, now managed by the son of Hunter’s closest friend and unofficial bodyguard and—it transpired—his drug dealer; in fact, everyone’s drug dealer, including the local cops.

Sitting in Hunter's seat,
Woody Creek Tavern

At first the friend, whom the bartender at Woody Creek Tavern introduced over libations, was friendly and wanted to take us to see Hunter’s widow.  

Then everything changed, probably due to bad Google.

The unofficial bodyguard didn’t call as promised; instead, his son with some friends accosted Van Stein and me at the Jerome Bar late in the evening.  

“What are you guys really up to?” the son snarled. 

We just shrugged and told them the truth, which is hard for most people to believe: creativity & madness, angels & devils, orbs...

Captured: Hunter Thompson's spirit (Hotel Jerome)

Next morning we got up extra-early... and high-tailed it to Denver.