The “Wave” Speech by Hunter S. Thompson

“Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era—the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run . . . but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant. . . .

History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of “history” it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time—and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.

My central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe forty nights—or very early mornings—when I left the Fillmore half-crazy and, instead of going home, aimed the big 650 Lightning across the Bay Bridge at a hundred miles an hour wearing L. L. Bean shorts and a Butte sheepherder’s jacket . . . booming through the Treasure Island tunnel at the lights of Oakland and Berkeley and Richmond, not quite sure which turn-off to take when I got to the other end (always stalling at the toll-gate, too twisted to find neutral while I fumbled for change) . . . but being absolutely certain that no matter which way I went I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was: No doubt at all about that. . . .

There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda. . . . You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. . . .

And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”

Louis Armstrong at the Sphinx

During the Cold War, the United States made the case for the American way of life by sending its best ambassadors abroad — jazz musicians. “Music that was unique to America and represented a fusion of African and African-American cultures with other traditions was a democratic art form that helped others to understand the open-minded and creative sensibility of our country,” writes the Jam Session web site.

As part of this cultural diplomacy, Louis Armstrong went to Egypt in 1961 where he played trumpet for his wife, Lucille, at the foot of the Great Sphinx and the pyramids in Giza.

The Berlin Wall

For 28 years, two months and 27 days, the Berlin Wall divided a city. That’s 10,315 days. Today marks 10,315 days since its collapse.

A big section of the Berlin Wall is lifted by a crane as East Germany starts to dismantle the wall near the Brandenburg Gate in East Berlin, February 20, 1990. (Reuters)

Stretching along remnants of the Berlin Wall, the Topography of Terror open air museum includes access to the interrogation chambers in the remains of the Nazis’ SS headquarters. (Christopher Bobyn)