Days Thirteen-Fourteen: Louisville, KY
We rolled into Louisville with some excitement. We had set our course based on making it to GonzoFest, an event dedicated to celebrating the work of Hunter S. Thompson. We arrived Thursday night, a day earlier than originally planned due to our Atlanta/Nashville adjustment and GonzoFest wasn't until Saturday.
We checked into our AirBnB, a cozy four-bedroom house in Germantown, an historic and hip neighborhood adjacent to downtown Louisville, and appropriately enough, immediately across the street from the Nach Bar, a tavern that looked perfect for us.
Kyle immediately spotted a copy of Hunter’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas displayed on the coffee table, so we felt at home right away. We were armed with a list of places to go, sent ahead by our Louisville friend and inspiration, Richard. Our first night included a walk around the neighborhood, with dinner and whiskey before the four of us gathered in the recently dubbed, “Gonzo House” and recorded a lively and boozy conversation around the dining room table.
On Friday, Day Thirteen, we made our way just East of town into an old manufacturing complex to talk with Chad Rosen who started Victory Hemp Foods. He shared his story of moving from California, and learning how to connect to his new rural community, to gain trust and support towards his efforts to vitalize hemp as a food crop, which is under an experimental exception to its legal status as a controlled substance.
We also visited The Berry Center to talk with them about how they are putting their patriarch, Wendell Berry’s words to work. We were stunned by the prolific nature of Mr. Berry’s work and the passion his family and supporters have shown in moving it forward. Spending time with Wendell’s granddaughter Virginia, who runs the book store, was an unexpected treat, and finished our day of interviews on a high note. We headed back to the Gonzo House to reset and find a few drinks in town.
Chad Rosen, Victory Hemp Foods
Chad is enthusiastic and whip smart. He has tuned into the changing political and regulatory landscape regarding the growing, harvesting and food production of nutritiously beneficial hemp. He has created Victory Hemp Foods, is participating in a legally experimental declassification of Hemp from being a controlled substance, and is providing a new crop for Kentucky farmers, natural foods and supplements for customers and is converting old big-food industrial equipment to do the work.
Photo Gallery - Victory Hemp Foods
Katie Ellis, The Berry Center
Katie generously shared the Berry Center’s mission of “Putting Wendell’s words to work.” We could see and feel generations of work from the Berry family, including Wendell’s father and brother. Volumes and volumes of Wendell’s books, poems and essays fill the walls, along with art inspired by his words.
Virginia Berry, The Berry Center
Virginia runs The Berry Center bookstore and is Wendell’s granddaughter. She shared personal stories of growing up with a different perspective and a profound respect for farmers. She also shared her own path and what it means to be a “sticker,” and why it’s important for her to support her mother Mary’s vision for the Berry Center.
On Saturday morning, we welcomed our collaborator from home, Emily Bennett to Gonzo House. We loaded our gear and headed over to Louisville Free Public Library -- for the event we had been anticipating for months.
We really didn’t know what to expect. We had read what we could, and been told a few things, but it still seemed like a thing we’d have to figure out when we got there. I had gotten a phone call from the LEO Weekly, the entertainment paper of Louisville a few days prior, while we were driving to see Joel Salatin in Virginia. The call was from a reporter who started with, “I assume they told you that you won the GonzoFest Literary competition?” And no - they hadn’t. The surprise shifted into high fives, and definitely provided some fuel to help us get through the Atlanta-pivot.
Now, we were pulling into the lot. We had prepared ourselves to staff a This Craft Nation booth, for Kyle to paint if possible, and for me to interview the organizers, and whoever else they could arrange for us. I pictured entertaining the locals with live podcast interviews from our booth. Ten seconds in, the first band started sound-checking, and we knew that plan was a bust.
Nonetheless, we connected with Nick and Lauren, who seemed to be running things, along with co-founder Denny, who would be my first interview; once I relocated inside the library. The day carried on, and we started to understand the combination of literary and music festival and how it resembled the personalities of those running it, as much as it did the oft-maligned, legendary Louisville-son they chose to honor — Hunter S. Thompson. It was quirky, unpredictable, simultaneously loud and whisper subtle. We were inspired, and connected to many new friends including co-founder and poet, Ron Whitehead and author Juan F. Thompson, Hunter’s son -- both of which sat for remarkably personal interviews.
Our evening ended in a haze of whiskey with confused texts landing on deaf eyes, as we tried to make sure we all got home safe. We did, although the morning brought an Easter hangover that would be another milestone of the trip. We slogged through brunch among well-dressed families celebrating the brunchiest of days, while we tried not to leer, or stumble to close. Eventually, we were back at Gonzo House and loaded up. We waved goodbye to Emily, and headed South for Memphis.
TCN 7: GonzoFest 2017 | Acts I & II | Denny Humphrey, Ron Whitehead
GonzoFest loomed on our horizon well before This Craft Nation even began, so we were pretty excited to make it to Louisville and realize that we had made it to a significant landmark. It was great to make contact with people that were devoted to sharing the deeper insights from Hunter S. Thompson’s work, well beyond the most dramatic features he’s known for. We got to speak to the founders of GonzoFest, hear about its history, purpose and vision looking forward. Check out ActsI & II of GonzoFest in three acts, by listening to TCN7, from Hunter’s Louisville!
TCN7 includes the music of Sativa Gumbo featuring friend of TCN, Richard Atnip - recorded live at GonzoFest 2017!
The GonzoFest experience is simultaneously multi-faceted with activities in and out of the Louisville Free Public Library. We dedicated our time to interviewing co-founders Denny Humphrey & Ron Whitehead as well as Juan F. Thompson and were deeply affected by the insight we gained.
Many fans focus on the wild booze and drug-fueled exploits attributed to both Hunter and his characters, including Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo. Hearing from people that worked with him and knew him well, revealed a much different source of inspiration and respect.
The theme of finding your own voice, and breaking through conventions and restrictions rang out. Writers and readers, young and old were reminded that what Hunter gave to us was the work of a writer with his own colorful voice, dedicated to precise craftsmanship, while depicting a diverse, dynamic and chaotic world of fear, loathing and excess.
Gonzo as an art form became three dimensional as these talented people shared what they wished more people knew. Juan shared with us his journey into writing for the first time, to personally process his Father’s death and offer a unique perspective into Hunter, that perhaps could not have been revealed prior. Kyle prepared a beer portrait of Hunter to send to Juan with respect.
TCN 8: GonzoFest 2017 | Act III | Juan F. Thompson
TCN 8 features Juan F. Thompson, Author & son of Hunter S. Thompson. It’s our last content from GonzoFest 2017. We were thrilled and excited to get to talk to Juan, and a little nervous. I believe I muttered, “We’re going to have to count on the air of curiosity,” on the way into the interview. Juan was gracious and shares his remarkable perspective generously. Kyle and I both read his book, Stories I Tell Myself: Growing Up with Hunter S. Thompson, cover to cover over the next nine days and his voice hung with us for the rest of the trip. Listen to TCN8 to hear how it panned out!