Duke once lived down the road from a doctor, a famous “acid guru,” who had “made that long jump from chemical frenzy to preternatural consciousness.” Duke approached the good doctor and asked what advice he had “for a neighbor with a healthy curiosity about LSD.” Duke tried several times to “make himself clear,” but the guru had no advice to give. Duke “stuck with hash and rum for another six months” until he was given a lump of sugar in San Francisco and “BOOM”—he began to regularly trip on acid.
Art Linkletter, who is mentioned in the chapter title, was a television and radio host. Interestingly, Duke’s story suggests that he was cautious before initially taking LSD (it took him a full six months) which is at odds with the popular stereotype within the media of the counterculture as hopeless drug addicts.
“San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of,” Duke says. “Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run,” but for nearly five years “the energy of a whole generation came to a head in a long fine flash.” There were drugs and “madness in any direction, at any hour,” and Duke never had to look far for like-minded people. There was a “sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil,” and the entire generation was “riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave.” Now, only five years later, if one goes up high enough over Las Vegas and looks West, “with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”
This passage has become famously known as Duke’s (i.e. Thompson’s) “wave speech,” which highlights Duke’s dedication to the countercultural movement. Duke’s mention of “Old and Evil” references the antiquated and oppressive ideals the counterculture fought against, but the “wave speech” also expresses the counterculture’s failure. Here, the wave crests, breaks, and dissipates, which is to say the movement has lost its social momentum and power to effect change in society.