Fear and Loathing in South Texas

The sweet acrid smell of a freshly lit cigarette danced inside his nostrils, seeping into his unconscious brain, waking him. His eyelids twitched and tremored, but did not open. It was an auto somatic response; like a mother drawn to her crying babe. Not something sought out. It was more a keening allure; an impulse impossible to ignore. Vices. Lovely reliable vices.

Every fiber of his being longed for that cigarette.

“Cigarette,” he tried, feebly; his voice sounding like jagged shards of glass across an old middle school blackboard. More eye tremors. Then, suddenly, his right eye snapped open like an old-fashioned roller shade.

Where the hell am I?

A single bloodshot eye probed left and right, up and down. Then the pain came. It started slowly near his bladder, rising like the plume of an atomic bomb, laying waste to everything in its path. This is what Churchill meant when he described “total war.” It traversed his hips and attacked his reluctantly defiant liver and kidney in a pincer move. When the pain breached his cranium, he anticipated Nirvana.

Instead, his left eye opened and he rubbed them both, hard, removing the sleepy crust that effectively shaded him from the reality that it was 3 pm in Marfa, Texas.


He sat up and immediately felt the hunger beneath the pain. His empty stomach grumbled. Strike that. His naked stomach grumbled. Definitely not the Owl Farm. He was naked and in a strange bed—not uncommon. Still, he liked the lumpy and rickety racket box masquerading as a queen-size bed almost as much as he liked Nixon.

“Good morning, Sunshine.”

She was at the window. Her back was against the window frame, left leg dangling. With her right leg bent 90 degrees and wedged atop that old 1920s sill, she looked to him like a beautiful stone nymph guarding a flying buttress. Her skin glistened and she blew a stream of smoke out the window, breathing life into repose.

“I’m hungry,” she said.

Sunlight reflected off her long and untamed blonde hair as she stared out the window, bored. He knew then, he did not matter to her. He looked around, trying to piece it together.

Is this a brothel? Do I owe her money? Who the hell is she?

Thought and confusion jumbled together and disappeared into the misty fugue blanketing his preprandial brain. He stood slowly, uncertainly. His legs and ankles popped and creaked as his body assumed his weight. Damned hip. His knees ached. The soreness in his low back was a painful reminder of the Love Boat’s much earlier departure. Maybe not as good as I once was, but hopefully still as good once as I ever was.

He threw his arms back wide, let out a raspy growl, and staggered on pin-pricks to the bathroom. Too tired to stand, he sat on the toilet, holding his forehead in his hands, trying to piece together the night.

What the hell happened?

He remembered the Aurora Borealis. He had been in a lawn chair atop a Winnebago. Head thrown back and watching the Marfa lights with a baseball glove over his face. Watching the sinuous greens and blues and reds pass through the basket of the mitt like gossamer wisps. He could feel the lacing in the bridge of the mitt and the tiny knots that secured the webbing digging into his forehead. He could smell the oil and beneath it, old leather.

There she is.

He remembered. She had been dancing and twirling on top of the Winnebago, her head ensconced in a blonde corona, smiling and laughing at the night sky. He remembered the joint now, too. Was it laced? On his own breath he thought he could discern the unmistakably metal taste of opium. Or, maybe spinal fluid. Hopefully, opium. It definitely was not the plain Mary Jane. Marijuana was legal in Aspen, for crying out loud. And it did not do this. This was a new and strange trip.

Where was I before the Winnebago and the blonde and the bud? It occurred to him he was still on the can. He smiled again. David the Thinker meets David the Stinker. Suddenly, there it was: I am here for a story.

Fear and Loathing in South Texas.

Two days had passed since he had last checked in with the magazine. Hopefully not another Rumble in the Jungle. According to the rumble in his belly, it had been two days since he had done a lot of things. It seemed the drugs were finally wearing off. The psychoactive effects, anyway. Through prior dealings with both law enforcers and breakers, he had learned a few things to help him self-diagnose after self-administering. He had learned a bit about the half-lives of drugs. The half-life of any drug refers to the span of time during which one can expect to be in its throes. Talk about fun facts. For example, he had learned that the half-life of marijuana was inestimable; it depended largely upon the dosage and personal use history, along with some other variables.1 Drugs like cocaine were more predictable, at least in terms of how long the high might endure: 0.8 ± 0.2 hours.2 Opium’s window was 6 to 25 minutes,3 while mind-benders like acid/LSD were 2.5 to 4 hours;4 methamphetamine or amphetamines were around 12 hours.5 Alcohol usually lasted no more than a half-hour.6 He liked that he knew that. It was like an intellectual escalation matrix for drug-enjoyers.

He remembered landing at the airport in San Antonio. Fortuitous for all parties involved, the magazine had provided the convertible he had demanded: a red Oldsmobile sedan with white leather seats. He frowned.

Where the hell is my attorney?

Oscar Acosta esq. had been with him since the beginning and was an absolute necessity on any trip where things were bound to get weird. As one who eschewed pretense, he had not called the man by his Christian name—maybe ever. Affectionately, he called him Gonzo. Whether it was his bewitching style in the courtroom or their shared iconoclasm that garnered the sobriquet was irrelevant, anymore. He was the only man who could get him out of any pinch. Beatifics and honorariums aside, Gonzo was also the only other man he knew whose tastes matched his own debauched opprobrium.

Gonzo was more than his oldest and most lecherous friend. He was his only friend.

Finally, he remembered the goat. And not just any goat. This goat was the mayor—not euphemistically, either. He had come to Texas and discovered that the mayor of Lajitas was a goat named George.

It is almost too fantastic to believe!

He smiled, remembering the six-pack he had bought from the local Lajitas grocer. He had not picked the grocer for his groceries. He was the only grocery game in town. The only store at all, in fact. The town of Lajitas boasted a population of three, and its mayor was a goat. He remembered smoking a cigarette as he fed the mayor a bottle of Shiner through the fence.

God bless Texas.

“The good Doctor returns,” she said as he padded in and sat on the side of the bed opposite her. He looked askance, glimpsing bare back as she slid into her skinny jeans. He thought of the trip to Ojinaga, Mexico, before the girl.

The top was down and Gonzo was up front, rolling joints and drinking whiskey from the bottle. The Texas/Mexico border marked the mid-point of their afternoon sojourn. There, they left the convertible and made a river crossing. Donkeys were tied to the brush, their leads disappearing into nappy thickets. Beyond them, a small wooden-crate raft was beached ashore. For $5 the local proprietors let them mount their asses to ford the shallow river into Mexico. On the dry side, it was another ten long minutes struggling to steer the mighty beasts before they reached the small town center. He frowned, trying to remember how that place was supposed to have fit into his story.

Now I remember!

Drugs. Lots and lots of drugs. The town sat at the center of a bustling international drug trade. The low river made it easy. It beckoned. They came. Ojinaga was to the drug trade what Mecca was to Muslims. It beckoned. Gonzo and the Doctor came.

He remembered the farmacia and the stooped and leathery “doctor” who asked quite simply, “Que quiere?” He remembered the giddy rush of his response. Word spread quickly throughout the small town that two gringos were buying a large quantity of drugs.

Gonzo preferred the unprescribed medicinals-for-the-soul while the doctor shopped the pharmaceuticals. They each bought decorative Aztec leather pouches to conceal and carry their score. Gonzo bought cocaine, weed, mescaline buttons,7 a sheet of blotter acid/LSD,8 mushrooms,9 ecstasy/MDMA,10 and some tree bark the locals called DMT.11,12 The doctor packed his bag with Adderall, ephedrine, and a gluttonous portion of topical cocaine.13

Christmas in Mexico!

They found a local bar and were belly-up, planning the chronology of their drug discourse. They each ordered a beer with a tequila chaser. As a precaution, the doctor popped an Adderall and splashed it with his chaser. He thought about the long drive back to Marfa.

Through a combination of experimentation, trial, and error, the doctor had come to realize the most basic driving skills are not adversely affected by amphetamine dosages that were within the normal clinical range.14 That last scientific-sounding bit he had scrounged off a Ketamine-addled former doctor who bummed a cigarette from him in Aspen, years back. In fact, he had learned that where alcohol had been shown to have caused some driving impairment, the effects of amphetamine use actually enhanced driving ability.15 He also knew that although there is some evidence amphetamines can result in overconfidence or increased risk acceptance, the effects reported had been neither so strong nor so consistent as to justify much of any apparent concern.16


Obviously, the doctor was also aware that known amphetamine abusers have been found to be involved in a disproportionate number of highway accidents,17 but he was not abusing it. He just wanted one pill to keep him awake and to counteract the depressant effects of the booze. Two beers and a shot over the course of a couple hours was not illegal. Still, to be safe, he ordered and ate a chicken quesadilla.

Gonzo opted for more bohemian fare. It was like a drug club sandwich: one mescaline button, one mushroom, and one ecstasy tablet all washed down with tequila. For good measure, he tore off a tab of acid and let it melt on his tongue. Gonzo’s idea of temperance did not translate to fewer drugs. Instead, he concentrated only on the root of the word, interpreting it to mean more drugs but with good humor. The doctor looked at his watch.

Ten minutes before that acid kicks in.

They settled up and took their booty in search of their asses. Gonzo barely made it to the car. As he stretched across the length of back seat the sky began to move and change color. Groovy. Doc knew Gonzo was not in any shape to drive. Psychedelics and driving were a poor mix, and definitely illegal.18 Gonzo was a gamer. But, even his mental and physical faculties had taken a backseat to the drugs. Doc fired up the convertible and slammed the gearshift into drive. With a roar of the engine they were back on the road, leaving that small little drug den in a cloud of colitas.

On the road, Doc’s Adderall kicked in, staunching the depressant nature of the alcohol. He felt alert and back to normal. No loss of faculty—mental, physical, or otherwise. If anything, he was more alert than normal, very aware of his surroundings.

As the blacktop unfurled ahead of him, Doc thought about the Adderall. He lapsed into a kind of pharmacological dogmatic trance: Adderall is a member of the amphetamine family, which is classified, pharmacologically, as sympathomimetic amines.19 Amphetamines are a powerful stimulant whose effects include general activation, appetite depression, and euphoria when taken in sufficient dosage.20 The recognized medical uses for amphetamines are largely for treating and controlling narcolepsy, childhood hyperkinesis (ADD/ADHD), and short-term appetite control.21

Despite its common uses, in Doc’s experience most cops still responded to its utterance as though it were the kind of substance concocted in cinderblock rooms over an aluminum-foil-covered metal spoon using a blow torch. Hell, even Doctor A. W. Jones knew that “[t]o convict a person for driving under the influence of a prescription drug, the prosecution ha[d] to prove the driver was impaired by the drugs or that the concentration in blood was higher than expected for normal therapeutic use, implying that the person had taken an overdose or was abusing the medication in question.”22 He shook his head, snapping out of it.

Damn narc.

He tried to focus on Marfa and the task at hand. But, as Gonzo giggled and laughed and shouted down the heavens from the back seat, Doc’s mind began to wander. He thought about Terlingua.

Need to up my ADD dosage.

In Terlingua there lay a gem—a bar hidden from most of the rest of the world. News of the place had reached Doc over the years in the form of whisper and legend. They could be there by nightfall. He looked in the rearview. Joyful tears ran down Gonzo’s cheeks as he traced the clouds with a finger, softly muttering the lyrics to a Grateful Dead song. They could land in Marfa, Terlingua, or on Mars, and it would not make any difference to Gonzo. Doc adjusted his course, heading north on Highway 118.

Viva Terlingua!

In less than an hour he found himself on the threshold of legend. La Kiva was everything he had heard about and more. Gonzo’s tears had dried and he was in the backseat with a fly swatter raving about the pernicious bats in the bat country. Odd. Best to leave him behind.

The misshapen wood door creaked as Doc passed over the threshold, almost hitting his head on one of many stalactites that descended from the ceiling like wicked pointing fingers. La Kiva was a semi-subterranean cave bar. Rock formations and the skulls of dead animals served as decoration. He approached a bar that looked to have been assembled with varnished driftwood. The owner, Glenn Felts,23 wiped his hands on a bar towel and took his order: a can of Pearl and a shot of Jack. Glenn delivered the libations and leaned against the bar proudly regaling Doc with its long and whispered history.

Laughter behind him. Doc turned as a man entered, shaking his head with a smile. He jutted a thumb over his shoulder, “Some crazy man running nekked around the parking lot.”24

Doc stood. “Time to go,” he said.

He shook hands with Glenn and promised not to share the secrets of his hideout with the world. Doc took stock of himself: two drinks in an hour, still not over the legal limit for this 170-pound male. He left to gather Gonzo for their trip back to Marfa.

“I need lunch, baby.”

Terlingua disappeared and he was back in Marfa in a room with the woman. She was dressed and standing in front of the mirror, twisting her hair into a ponytail.

Doc pulled on his shorts and peered out the window, squinting against the sun. Moving better now, he reached for his bucket hat and a pair of yellow shooting aviators. He buttoned his aloha shirt and grabbed his keys and wallet. They were out the door in less than two minutes. He still had not asked the girl her name.

His car was just as he had left it. The decorative pouch was still there on the floorboard behind the driver’s seat. George and Lajitas could learn a thing or two about dissuading the looters from the good folks in Marfa. As he started the car he wondered whether he ought to be driving. He felt fine, but the gaps in his memory left him wondering whether it was all a hallucinogenic illusion. Though the drugs were still technically in his system, he knew they were no longer psychoactive.25 Last night’s joint had been real, but its high had long since gone. Based on his chronic use history, Doc knew traces of the marijuana could linger in his blood and urine for up to five weeks.26 It was strangely comforting.

Doc wondered whether the joint had been laced: opium, LSD, embalming fluid, or PCP? The possibilities were endless. He knew people could soak a joint in just about anything to enhance its high. It was the intersection of ingenuity and degeneracy. He glanced at his passenger, curious.

Doesn’t matter, he decided. The effects of anything he had smoked or ingested last night had worn off. Mentally and physically, he felt normal. He put the car in gear and headed for the highway. Approaching the crossroad at 67 and 90, he saw a state trooper in his prowl car on the right in the parking lot of a Stripes.

When the trooper pulled out of the parking lot and made his none-too-subtle approach, Doc’s stomach dropped. He had not been speeding. It was the first thing he had checked upon seeing the unit. The trooper lit him up with rotating blues and reds and gave a short pop of the siren. Dutifully, Doc signaled a lane-change and pulled off the road into the parking lot of the Food Shark.

As Doc was putting the car in park, panic jogged his memory: the Aztec pouch. Ain’t got no prescriptions for any of that stuff! He looked into his future and saw felony possession—maybe even intent to deliver, based on the amount. They did not know him. They would never believe it was all for personal use and consumption. The blood drained from his face and not for the first time that day, he felt sick.

Be cool. Stay calm. Think.

The trooper did his cop-walk up the driver’s side. Doc watched him through the driver side mirror. He stopped just shy of the door handle.

“Laslo. Highway Patrol.”

“I wondered what that word on your shirt meant,” Doc mused.

“License and registration,” Laslo said, stern.

Doc reached for his wallet without fumbling it and retrieved his license without difficulty. “The car is a rental,” he said, abandoning the shtick. Laslo craned his neck and gave Doc’s passenger the fish eye. “Becky, I thought I warned you not to let me catch you out again?”


Becky sat rigid, staring stoically out the passenger side window. She pretended not to hear. Laslo exhaled a frustrated snort and leaned back, eyeing Doc.

“I’ll be right back. Sit tight.”

Now or never. As Laslo returned to his prowl car to radio in the bona fides, Doc turned quickly in his seat, snatching the Aztec pouch. He opened the bag and closed his eyes. “Jesus, Gonzo.” Fortunately, it seemed to Doc that Gonzo must have ingested nearly all of his score. Still, he saw acid, buttons, ecstasy, cocaine, mushrooms, weed, and DMT. A gaggle of felonies just waiting to happen, except the weed, which was still only a misdemeanor in such a small quantity. He did not see another option. He had to act fast. Doc pitched forward, dropped his head low, and started shoveling the drugs into his mouth.

Becky turned and watched him, silently bemused.

The panic propelled his churning arms as he realized felony tampering charges would be added to the already-looming possession charges if Laslo interrupted his impromptu meal. He fought the gag reflex as his body tried to reject the calamitous array of tastes and textures being forced into his maw. He glanced up with his hand over his mouth and the last of the drugs inside. Laslo kicked open his patrol car door. Doc swallowed, figuring he had ten minutes before the roadside show became a shit show. Hell, death might even make a cameo appearance. He tried to calculate his impending doom.

He was not worried about the weed. It needed a heating agent to become psychoactive.27 The LSD was highly absorptive through mucous membranes.28 In about 20 minutes it would kick in like the Kool-Aid Man through a brick wall.29 Oh yeah! The mushrooms had an estimated time of arrival of about 45 minutes.30 The cocaine was already numbing his stomach; hopefully it would do no more than make him excitably sick.31 The natural acids already in his stomach should kill any major reaction to that. He was not worried about the DMT, either, as it needed a monoamine inhibitor (MAOI) to be psychoactive when taken orally.32 Oral ingestion was no worse than wasteful. And, he had eaten mescaline before. He hoped as it began to work it would induce vomiting,33 which would at least rid him of whatever undigested drugs remained. That was his fallback, his hope, anyway. Come on, mescaline! Don’t fail me now.

When Laslo made his return, he approached on the passenger side. He jutted his chin at Doc. “Becky. Who’s the guy?” He pressed on as though she had answered. “What are you doing here?”

Becky kept quiet, ramrod straight, staring ahead.

“Becky, I’m talking to you.” Laslo waved across her field of vision.

Over the boiling tumult in his gut, Doc heard something strangely funny. The back of the car shifted and there was an almost gentle heaving. There was a single, loud thud from inside the trunk, and then silence.

Laslo’s eyes darted to the trunk, back to Becky, back to the trunk, and widened in recognition. The car started moving again and Doc felt his stomach somersault gaily. From inside the trunk a thump, thump, thumping accompanied the sounds of muffled struggle.

“Is someone in the trunk?” Laslo asked, an octave above his prior refrain. He stepped away from the car and edged near the trunk, the heel of his left palm on the butt of his gun.

“That’s ridiculous! It’s a convertible. It’s a beautiful day; the sun’s out. Why would anyone get in the trunk?” Doc winked at Becky, impressed with himself. She rolled her eyes and sighed.

“Open it. Open it right now!” Laslo demanded.

Doc jutted a pontificating finger skyward, “I know my goddamn rights, Laslo, and you do not have my consent to search that trunk!”

There was a loud pop and the trunk swung open, mooting Doc’s point. He frowned his annoyance at the trunk. As it rose a clenched fist at the end of a meaty forearm jammed the lid wide open and Gonzo stood up behind it. He was shirtless and his pants were unzipped and showing more of him than Doc ever wanted to see, and hoped not to remember. Dirt and grime and grease from the spare tire mixed in a frothy mess obscuring Gonzo’s features. He gathered himself and jumped, but his foot caught something on the inside lip of the trunk. He crashed into the dusty, hot parking lot with a grunting thud.

Laslo took another step away from the car, unsnapping his holster as he did. His eyes darted front to back, front to back. “What the . . .”

Gonzo pushed himself up on all fours, looked ahead, and took a deep breath. His gut heaved and he groaned as he pushed himself to his feet. He hitched his pants and pulled up the zipper. Swaying, he reached up and slammed the trunk lid home and left his hand there for balance. “Damn, it’s hot in there.”

Laslo drew his weapon but kept it pointed at the ground. “Somebody better tell me what in hell is going on here.”

Gonzo waved his hand with a face suggesting this were some minor peccadillo. “Officer, I will discuss anything you want. But them,” he nodded at Doc and Becky. “I’m an attorney and they are my clients.”

“Clients,” Laslo repeated.

“Clients,” Gonzo confirmed.

“They had you in the trunk.”

Gonzo looked back at Doc and Becky and said, “Tsk-tsk. The inconvenience will be reflected in their next billing statement.”

He looked back to Laslo. “I appreciate your concern, but all is well here. We will certainly provide you with any identifying information you desire. Beyond that, we would like to remain silent.”

Behind the wheel, Doc lost his grip, the sky began to move, and he fell off the face of the planet. He did not know whether he was experiencing shock or a heart attack. His brain was too gripped to realize it was in the throes of his most heinous trip. The clouds began to race and the sky became a monochrome transition from blue to purple and then red. Watery acrylic rainbows began streaming up the windows. No, no, no, not now.

When Laslo saw the empty and bovine look of childlike wonder followed by anguish followed by wonder, he made a decision. “Everyone out of the car!” He grabbed his shoulder mic and radioed for backup.

Doc bit his lower lip in a desperate attempt to return to reality. He looked in the rearview; his bug eyes were completely dilated.34 He could feel his blood pressure skyrocketing.35 He imagined himself as the SpaceX rocket hurtling skyward, bursting through marshmallow clouds and rainbows made of real Skittles.36 He stuck out his tongue, hoping to taste the rainbow as he flew by.37 A cold sweat began creeping up his spine. He put his tongue back in his mouth. His gorge was rising. No good.

He tried to speak but the words would not come. The darkness—as he liked to think of it—was a creeping inevitability. He had explored the deepest depths of the so-called drug binge many times before. Drug binges were like IKEA.38 There was no getting out. No shortcuts. It had to run its course. All he could do was grin and bear it. He bore down and tried to think only of endurance.

Gonzo eyed Doc uncertainly, took a deep breath, and, approaching Laslo, turned on the 100-watt smile. He rubbed his hands together and, when he realized they were too dirty for that to accomplish much, wiped them on his pants.

“Allow me to introduce myself,” Gonzo said.

Laslo eyed Gonzo’s extended hand, but did not accept it. Quietly, Becky opened her door and stepped out, complying with Laslo’s earlier command. Inside, Doc looked to his right and fought back a scream. She jumped! Then, it occurred to him they had both been ordered to step out of the car. He wanted to get out, but was not sure he could. His limbs felt rubbery and uncontrollable.39 He did not trust them to respond on command. Subtlety probably is not an option.

Doc leaned right, pulling his knee as close to his chest as he could. He let out a short breath and donkey-kicked the door as hard as he could. The door flew open, rebounding as its springs recoiled with a terrible, shrill scream. He was free of the confines of the car but did not get out. When the door swung open his momentum forced him upright. He was still in his seat, left leg outside the car.

Slowly, he slid his right hand into his hip pocket and extracted a cigarette from the pack. With an expert flick he got his Zippo going. He cocked his head and stared at the flame dancing atop the lighter, mesmerized by the colors. He held his cigarette so it would light slowly. He watched the paper ignite and burn down in irregular scallops. He watched the advancing conflagration spark and then shrivel tiny brown-gold shrapnels of tobacco. The reds and oranges were brilliant, almost neon.

A pyrrhic victory, indeed.

He pulled deeply on the cigarette. He felt the smoke as it passed over his tongue and down his esophagus, tunneling its way from his throat to lungs. Slowly, he waved the lighter back and forth, mesmerized, feeling his lungs expand to capacity. He smiled as the lenses of his aviators refracted the tiny dancing light.

Laslo looked at Doc impatiently and then back to Gonzo. “Is he okay?”

Gonzo shrugged with an embarrassed smile. Laslo went around the front end of the car and stood in Doc’s open door, staring down at him. As Laslo loomed, Doc mumbled the words to “One Toke Over the Line,” and watched a sepia recording—like found footage—of the full concert on the inside of his aviator lenses.

“Out of the car,” Laslo said, grabbing Doc’s left arm above the elbow. The movement dislodged the Aztec pouch and it fluttered out of his lap and to the parking lot. “You on something?”

Doc looked up, nearly catatonic. He held Laslo’s menacing glare. He let himself be pulled up and out of the car. Laslo walked him to the front of his patrol car and said, “Sit here.”

Doc sat, thankful for the respite. He felt like the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz. He could barely stand, let alone walk. His face was ghostly white and the blood had drained from his lips, leaving them a sickly shade of pink. His left nostril was runny.40

“I felt your arm,” Laslo said to Doc. “No muscle contractions. No rigidity.”41

Do I look like some kind of muscle-bound beefcake, Doc thought, but could not say.

Laslo shook his head and pulled a penlight from his chest pocket. He waved it in Doc’s face. “I want you to watch my pen with your eyes and your eyes only.”

Doc smiled broadly as he watched the neon streamers tracking Laslo’s passing penlight.42 Finished with the horizontal passes, Laslo moved the tip of his penlight closer and closer until it touched the tip of Doc’s nose. “No convergence. None.”43

He looked up at Gonzo and said, “This dude is FUBAR.”

He strode away a few yards and motioned with his finger for Doc to follow, “I’m going to have you do a few more tests for me, okay?”

“I don’t recall you ever explaining a first test to him, Trooper Laslo,” Gonzo offered.

Laslo ignored that and said to Doc, “Understand?”

Doc nodded dumbly and instructed his brain to respond with, “Sure.” Unfortunately, with his slack jaw and gummy mouth the sound that escaped was an indecipherable squawk.44

Laslo pointed at a spot near his feet, “Can you come stand in this spot?”

Again the indecipherable squawk.

Laslo rolled his eyes and began reciting the instructions to a high-stakes balance and performance exam he called the Walk-and-Turn. After giving the instructions he finished with a practiced and polished partial demonstration. Doc remained on the hood of Laslo’s car the entire time, watching a single rogue ant scavenge a scrap of Twinkie from a discarded wrapper.

Laslo said, “Do you understand the instructions?”

Doc chuckled and burped.

“Sir, are you refusing to do the test? If you refuse, I’ll have no choice but to arrest you for DWI.”

Doc breathed slowly through his nose, feeling the little hairs inside quiver. Somehow, he found the strength and hoisted himself to his feet. He could barely see the ground. He thought of Eddie Murphy in “The Golden Child”: There is a ground. You’re making it look like there’s no ground. There’s a ground, Monty!

Doc could swear he remembered Laslo say something about an imaginary line. All he saw were lines. The parking lot had become the racetrack from the movie “Tron.” He looked around for his disc.

Laslo snapped twice to get Doc’s attention.

With an effort, Doc got his weight balanced over his feet and, starting high with his right foot, moved it in a wide looping arc up and forward. His steps were uncoordinated and wild, his arms crooked and akimbo like he was attempting to dance the Funky Chicken. He staggered and stumbled along a crooked line towards the back end of his rented convertible. Not seeing the car, Doc hit the bumper with his shins and tipped forward, fast. His momentum carried him end-over-tea-kettle into the trunk where he disappeared inside.

Inside the trunk, Doc was at first shocked and then calmed by the sudden darkness. He remembered the trooper and his tests. He thought about feigning sleep or trying to hide and could not decide which would be more effective.

Laslo’s face appeared above the open trunk. He did not appear to be amused. Absently, Doc wondered whether he could shape Laslo’s face like putty, and turn that frown upside down. “Damn, Mr. Thompson. There’s one more test.”

Laslo reached in and helped Doc up and out of the trunk, standing him at attention. He told Doc the last test was called the One Leg Stand. He explained its instructions and gave another practiced demonstration.

“I saw that on that movie, Karate Kid,” Gonzo said. “You want him to do the big roundhouse at the end? Or maybe sweep the leg?”

Again, Laslo ignored Gonzo, checked his watch, and nodded to Doc. “You may begin.”

In his mind’s eye Doc was doing an impressive version of the Russian River Dance. Reality was less moving. When he thudded down on the bumper and slid down onto the hot pavement, Laslo terminated the test. He grabbed Doc by the shoulder and helped him roughly to his feet.

“Turn around. Hands behind your back. You’re being detained for suspicion of DWI.” Laslo double-locked the cuffs around Doc’s wrists and led him to the front seat of his patrol car.

Doc plopped down, sitting painfully on his hands. Laslo shut the door and turned his back on Doc. He said something into his shoulder mic and stepped a few yards away from his cruiser and the others. Doc leaned his head back and it lolled atop his shoulders. The mescaline was finally kicking in. Not good. He felt the electric warmth rise quickly from his stomach into his throat. His head shot up and forward as he puked all over Laslo’s dashboard and computer terminal. The first volley triggered an avalanche. The force of the emesis contorted Doc’s body and he turned left, thrusting against the seat belt. When it was over, projectile vomit seeped and covered nearly every surface inside Laslo’s car. Doc spit on the rubber mat, looked up, and smiled for the dash-cam.

Outside, Laslo sub-vocalized a final response into his shoulder mic and returned to Gonzo and Becky. Laslo stopped within inches of Gonzo’s face. Gonzo looked nervously over Laslo’s shoulder, but said nothing.

“What in hell is going on here . . . counselor?”

Gonzo said, “It’s an interesting story, actually. My friend and I are here in Marfa to write a story for a national magazine. We wanted to experience and tell Marfa’s wonderfully compelling story. As you know, the town has garnered national attention as a refuge for relaxation and port-of-call for free spirits.”

“Unh-hunh,” Laslo dripped. “And then you ended up in the trunk.”

“Ah yes, that. Well, you see we were all having a riotous good time last night. I stepped outside for some fresh air. I guess I was outside longer than I thought. When I finally returned I realized I’d been locked out of our room.”

Laslo sneered at Becky and said to Gonzo, “These other two shut it down early, huh?”

Gonzo nodded agreeably. “Right. So, I decided I would just sleep in our rented convertible, here.”

“Lemme guess. You’re a sleep walker. That’s how you ended up in the trunk.”

Gonzo shook his head. “I’m fat and out of shape. Still, it was freezing. I thought the trunk would be warmer. I thought my friends would notice I’d left the lid slightly opened. But . . .” he trailed off.

“But, they didn’t.” Laslo finished for him.

Gonzo shook his head in agreement. “When I woke up we were moving and the trunk was closed.” He shrugged as though the whole thing were some minor misunderstanding.

As Gonzo spun his tale the reality of the previous night came to him in flashes. He saw the colors, the girls, the cactus, and the Marfa lights. That is when the demons had come. He had watched Doc and the girl clamber atop that rusted Winnebago, awaiting his turn. But, as the girl disappeared over the ladder the demons came for him. There had been so many. Like maniacal ghosts with razor teeth sweeping the grounds and swarming. There had been no time to ascend the Winnebago. He ran. He ran for the convertible. In the past, in the midst of a bad acid trip, he had always found refuge inside the trunk of a car. He had always been safe there. So, that is where he went. After he got in he assumed he would simply pass out.

He woke up in the middle of the night holding one of the Aztec pouches. He had hoped his own drugs were inside. Instead, he had Doc’s bag and Doc’s drugs: a bunch of Adderall, amphetamines, and topical cocaine. He preferred his own cache, but knew Doc’s stimulants could keep him alive and awake through the worst of a bad acid trip. He slept in fits and starts. Over the course of the night he emptied Doc’s bag. Now he felt fine, standing there with Laslo and Becky and spinning a yarn more colorful than a winter scarf. He felt fine. A little jittery, borderline invincible, and alert as hell.45

“What happened to your shirt?” Laslo asked, peering inside the trunk. It was empty but for a greasy spare tire and Doc’s empty Aztec-ian speed bag.

Gonzo remembered running his XXL aloha shirt up the flagpole last night. He remembered saluting it and crying as it snapped and fluttered in the wind. He remembered leaning against the pole like one of the hero’s on Iwo Jima. He looked at Laslo, “You sleep in a shirt?”

Laslo shrugged. “You okay to drive?”

Gonzo nodded in the direction of the patrol car. “And my friend? He has no odor of alcohol . . .”

“High as a kite. I’m taking him in for a blood test since he seems to be incapable of speech at the moment. Otherwise, I’d just ask him.”

“I see. Yes, sir, Mr. Trooper. And, to answer your previous question, I am perfectly okay to drive. I’m a little shocked at my friend’s behavior. I understand you have a job to do.”

Laslo nodded and turned to Becky. “You better get your ass in that car, right now. I bet the sheriff is worried sick. Don’t you have school tomorrow?”

“School?” Gonzo asked, worriedly.

“College,” Becky said, defiantly.

“Dammit, Becky. It’s an election year; you know that. We can’t have you running round like this causing trouble.”

Becky stuck out her bottom lip and frowned at Laslo. He jerked a thumb over his shoulder. Slowly, Becky walked back to Laslo’s patrol car. “You can come get him after we get his blood and book him,” Laslo said.

Gonzo said, “You’ll have a warrant, I’m sure.”

Laslo chuckled. “I’m sure that’s just what we’ll do, bother the judge with a warrant for blood on a damn dee-wee.” Laslo turned and headed for his car.

Gonzo hot-footed it to the convertible as soon as Laslo opened his door and was met with the sights and smell of Doc’s perdition. The sound of Laslo’s expletive-laced tirade chased him on the wind as he pulled back onto the highway and sped away.

Fear and Loathing in a South Texas Jail? The sound of that above Doc’s byline did not sound too appealing to Gonzo. Immediately, he began planning his friend’s legal liberation.

And, as luck would have it, fortune would smile upon poor Doc that day. Gonzo recruited a few of his legal friends: a Texas legend with a ranch down near Marfa46 and the Doctor’s old friend/lawyer, Gerry Goldstein. His legal team traipsed through the Marfan courts with their heads raised and their shoulders two ax handles wide. More importantly, they wielded one hell of a big legal stick.

In short order they reduced the State’s evidence to ruin. The acid in Doc’s vomit shorted the dash cam. So, no scene video. And, as Laslo had boldly predicted, Doc’s blood was forcibly drawn without a warrant in violation of Doc’s Fourth Amendment rights as expressed in McNeely,47 and any mention of intoxication by drug without a properly administered 12-step DRE violated Delarue, Delane, and Layton.48 In other words, Laslo’s opinion was little more than a hunch or guess. Gonzo felt sure the poor ADA would awaken from a midnight nightmare with the word “suppress” hot on his lips.

During trial, Gonzo listened along with the jury as the defense team attacked what remained of Laslo’s investigation. Obviously, his preoccupation with Becky and her impact on the polls reflected poorly on any suggestion that his investigation was properly done.

In the end, Marfa got its article and the cops a black eye. What the government called intoxication the defense called food poisoning. And, the jury reasoned, there simply was not enough evidence for them to rule out food poisoning, as the defense had suggested. Hell, there was not enough evidence to rule out neurotic tomfoolery, even. In a chiding tone, the foreman said Doc’s behavior was damned suspicious. But, he said, reasonable doubt carried the day. Doc was acquitted and allowed to return to his fortified compound at Woody Creek. He and Gonzo had survived, surely to ride again.

God Bless South Texas!


1. http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/research/job185drugs/cannabis.htm. It should be noted that levels of marijuana or metabolite can show in urine for up to five weeks depending on dosage and usage. Id. See also Baselt, Randall C., Disposition of Toxic Drugs and Chemicals in Man, Tenth Edition pp. 1948–52 (2014).

2. http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/research/job185drugs/cocain.htm. Cocaine or its metabolites may be detectable in urine for up to 10 days, depending on us­age, ingestion method, and dosage. Id. See also Baselt, pp. 511–513.

3. Opium is the most active substance in morphine. Both are narcotic analgesics. http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/research/job185drugs/morphine.htm. See also Baselt, pp. 1399–1401.

4. http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/research/job185drugs/lysergic.htm. LSD may be detectable in urine 2–5 days. Id. See also Baselt, pp. 1181–1183.

5. http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/research/job185drugs/methamphetamine.htm. Amphetamines and methamphetamines can be found in the urine up to a week depending on dosage. Id. See also Baselt, pp. 122–125.

6. http://www.toxipedia.org/display/toxipedia/Biological+Properties+of+Alcohol. See also Baselt, pp. 782–784.

7. 3,4,5-trimethoxyphenethylamine.

8. lysergic acid diethylamide.

9. psilocybin.

10. 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine.

11. dimethyltryptamine.

12. For purposes of Drug Recognition Evaluations (DRE): Cocaine is a stimulant, marijuana its own classification, and the rest are all hallucinogens. See NHTSA/USDOT Drug Evaluation and Classification Training Program; The Drug Recognition Expert School manual, p. II-1-3 (January 2007 edition).

13. All of these are DRE-classified as CNS stimulants.

14. Hurst, Paul M., Amphetamines and Driving Behavior, Accid. Anal. & Prev. Vol. 8, p. 9 (1976).

15. Hurst, p. 9.

16. Hurst, p. 9.

17. Hurst, p. 9.

18. Hallucinogens can cause dazed appearance, body tremors, synesthesia, hallucinations, paranoia, loss of coordination, nausea, disorientation, difficulty speaking, perspiring, poor perception of time and distance, memory loss, disorientation, and flashbacks. See NHTSA/USDOT, p. XIV-4-7.

19. Hurst, p. 9.

20. Hurst, p. 9.

21. Hurst, p. 9.

22. Jones, A. W. and Kugelberg, F. C., Concentrations of Scheduled Prescription Drugs in Blood of Impaired Drivers: Considerations for Interpreting the Results, Ther Drug Monit, Wol. 29, No. 2, April 2007.

23. RIP Glenn Felts. You are not forgotten.

24. “Hysterical behavior” may be exhibited by those on LSD. Baselt, p. 1182.

25. The psychoactive effects of marijuana and opium rely heavily on the usage, dosage, and method of ingestion. Additionally, the unique metabolism, history of drug use, rate of consumption, time of consumption, eating pattern, liver and kidney functions, and other unique factors of the individual may affect psychoactive effect and duration.

26. http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/research/job185drugs/cannabis.htm.

27. Raw cannabis contains a lot of THCA, which is not psychoactive (and what’s the fun in that?). When you smoke weed, the THCA molecule loses its carboxylic group (COOH) in the form of water vapor and carbon dioxide and becomes THC. Long story short, THCA becomes THC and your cannabis becomes psychoactive. This process is called decarboxylation or decarbing. http://www.thestonerscookbook.com/how_to_decarboxylate_weed.php.

28. http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/research/job185drugs/lysergic.htm.

29. Following oral ingestion, onset of the first effects maybe be experienced in as little as 20–30 minutes, peaking at 2–4 hours and gradually diminishing over 6–8 hours. Residual effects may last longer. Flashbacks may occur suddenly, often without warning, and may occur within a few days or more than a year after use. http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/research/job185drugs/lysergic.htm. See also NHTSA/USDOT, p. XIV-5, which says 30–45 minutes.

30. http://www.tripproject.ca/trip/?q=node/15; http://www.shroomery.org/forums/showflat.php/Number/6360671.

31. See NHTSA/USDOT, p. X-3. http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/research/job185drugs/cocain.htm.

32. http://www.thepsychonaut.org/entheopedia/dmt/.

33. See NHTSA/USDOT, p. XIV-5; http://www.erowid.org/chemicals/mescaline/mescaline_basics.shtml ; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mescaline ; http://www.shroomery.org/forums/showflat.php/Number/7391394.

34. Dilated pupils can occur from stimulants, hallucinogens, or sometimes cannabis. See NHTSA/USDOT, p. V-7.

35. Increased blood pressure can be caused by stimulants, hallucinogens, PCP, or inhalants. Dealing with a police officer can also increase one’s blood pressure. See NHTSA/USDOT, p. IV-9, VII-7. See also common sense.

36. Hallucinogens can cause hallucinations, synesthesia (transposing of sensory modes), paranoia, disorientation, poor perception of time and distance, and flashbacks. See NHTSA/USDOT, p. XIV-1-7.

37. Id.

38. It is not recommended to go to IKEA on hallucinogens. It is not recommended to go to IKEA alone, either.

39. A common indicator of hallucinogens is disorientation and uncoordinated movements. See NHTSA/USDOT, p. XIV-1-7.

40. Depending on the stimulant and ingestion technique, some may cause a runny nose. See DRE Summation Chart and lots of ’80s and ’90s movies.

41. Stimulants, hallucinogens, and PCP may all cause muscle rigidity. However, there is no baseline or definition of what flaccid or rigid is for a “normal” person. See NHTSA/USDOT, p. IV-25.

42. Only CNS depressants, PCP, and inhalants will cause Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus. See NHTSA/USDOT, p. IV-12, V-7. There are many drugs that do not cause HGN. Id. Vertical Gaze Nystagmus (VGN) is not produced by CNS stimulants, hallucinogens, cannabis, or narcotic analgesics. Id.

43. Lack of convergence is only caused by CNS depressants, PCP, inhalants, and cannabis. See NHTSA/USDOT, p. IV-14, V-5, V-7. It should be noted that irrespective of drug use, there are many individuals whose eyes are simply unable to converge normally. Id.

44. Hallucinogens can cause difficulty in speech. See NHTSA/USDOT, p. XIV-7. However, stimulants can cause a person to be talkative, euphoric, or have absolute self-confidence. See NHTSA/USDOT, p. X-3, 6.

45. Common indicators of stimulant ingestion are restlessness, euphoria, talkativeness, anxiety, super strength, absolute self-confidence, and increased alertness. See NHTSA/USDOT, p. X-3,6.

46. He shall remain nameless to protect his privacy. Those who need to know, know.

47. Missouri v. McNeely, 133 S.Ct. 1552 (2013); State v. Villarreal, __ S.W.3d __, 13-13-00253-CR, 2014 Tex.App. LEXIS 645 (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi, January 23, 2014), affirmed, State v. Villarreal, __ S.W.3d __, PD-0306-14, 2014 Tex. Crim. App. LEXIS 1898 (Tex. Crim. App. 2014, reh. granted).

48. DeLarue v. State, 102 S.W.3d 388 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2003, pet. ref’d); Delane v. State, 369 S.W.3d 412 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2012, pet. ref’d.); Layton v. State, 280 S.W.3d 235 (Tex. Crim. App. 2009).

Mark Ryan Thiessen
Mark Ryan Thiessen
Mark Thiessen is a criminal trial lawyer and the Chairman/CEO of the Thiessen Law Firm in Houston, Texas. Mark is Board Certified in (1) Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization; (2) DUI Law by the DUI Defense Lawyers Association; and (3) DUI Defense Law by the National College for DUI Defense through the American Bar Association. Mark earned the American Chemical Society-Chemistry and the Law (ACS-CHAL) Forensic Lawyer-Scientist designation, which is the highest form of scientific recognition available for lawyers. Mark is a frequent legal seminar lecturer, author of numerous published legal articles, and a faculty member for various organizations. Mark is the current DWI Committee co-chair and on the Board of Directors for Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (TCDLA), President and on the Board of Directors for Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association (HCCLA) and a Charter Member and Director for DUI Defense Lawyers Association (DUIDLA). Mark is a 7 time Texas Super Lawyer and in the Top 100 Super Lawyers in Houston (2017-19). In 2019, Mark was the only DWI lawyer to be named to the Top 100 Super Lawyers in all of Texas. Mark has won DWI cases from total refusals up to quadruple intoxication manslaughter. and 832-654-3058.
Rick Oliver
Rick Oliver
Rick Oliver is a 2007 graduate of South Texas College of Law. He has been in private practice as a solo practitioner since 2008. He is a member of TCDLA, HCCLA, MCCDLA, NACDL, NCDD, and DUIDLA. His practice is devoted to criminal trial and appellate issues. He lives in Humble with his wife and two children.

Mark Thiessen is a criminal trial lawyer and the Chairman/CEO of the Thiessen Law Firm in Houston, Texas. Mark is Board Certified in (1) Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization; (2) DUI Law by the DUI Defense Lawyers Association; and (3) DUI Defense Law by the National College for DUI Defense through the American Bar Association. Mark earned the American Chemical Society-Chemistry and the Law (ACS-CHAL) Forensic Lawyer-Scientist designation, which is the highest form of scientific recognition available for lawyers. Mark is a frequent legal seminar lecturer, author of numerous published legal articles, and a faculty member for various organizations. Mark is the current DWI Committee co-chair and on the Board of Directors for Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (TCDLA), President and on the Board of Directors for Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association (HCCLA) and a Charter Member and Director for DUI Defense Lawyers Association (DUIDLA). Mark is a 7 time Texas Super Lawyer and in the Top 100 Super Lawyers in Houston (2017-19). In 2019, Mark was the only DWI lawyer to be named to the Top 100 Super Lawyers in all of Texas. Mark has won DWI cases from total refusals up to quadruple intoxication manslaughter. and 832-654-3058.

Rick Oliver is a 2007 graduate of South Texas College of Law. He has been in private practice as a solo practitioner since 2008. He is a member of TCDLA, HCCLA, MCCDLA, NACDL, NCDD, and DUIDLA. His practice is devoted to criminal trial and appellate issues. He lives in Humble with his wife and two children.

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