"Now that's a kind of overused phrase," Thompson said. "At first I thought people would deny it, but a lot of people jumped at it and made the connection. I'm part of that generation too, and I wonder why no one argued with me, why no one demanded, 'Who are you dopefiend maniac drunkard to get away with calling us a generation of swine?' But there's always an eerie silence when you mention it."

There wasn't an eerie silence, but the subject dropped for a while until two women broached it again. "I've read your books for 20 years and feel a little disappointed," said one. "What difference is there between you and the people you say are swine?"

"If I'm a swine and I've been taking your money for 20 years," shouted Thompson, "then what kind of fool are you?"

The crowd roared, and some of the wrath that had been directed at the panel came down on this inquisitor. "Bitch!" they shouted. "Another question!"

Undaunted, a second woman pushed the subject. "I paid 20 bucks to see you and I feel ripped off. . ." she said. Thompson took a 20 out of his pocket, walked to the edge of the stage. She refused it, and it blew along the footlights. One of Thompson's aides, alarmed perhaps by the sight of money changing hands, came in from the wings, grabbed the bill, and gave it back to Thompson. He took an ice cube from his drink, tried to wrap the bill around it so he could toss it into the audience.

It wouldn't work. In fury, he smashed the 20 against the table, sending Scotch and cigarette ashes flying. "Don't bitch and moan to me and ask me what to do with your lives. Go out and register to vote. Fuck you!"

A few minutes later, it was over. The crowd stood up and applauded, many rushing to the stage, their copies of Thompson books raised like Bibles. The panel members were the first people out of there, but John Thompson of the Crimson and I lingered in the wings and chatted like survivors of a bad accident.

"He did set us up like scapegoats of authority to get the crowd going," John was saying, "but I don't mind. . ."

A figure lurched from the stage. It was Thompson. He paused and gave us a 'You still here?' kind of look. "Sorry I got a little edgy," he mumbled. "I think I'll go sign some books."

He turned around and walked back to the stage to pay his respects to the Generation of Swine.

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