Long hair, moustache but no beard yet, I was in transition.
This was the Vietnam era and few draft-age boys or their parents wanted Country Joe and the Fish’s lyrics to come true, “To have your boy come home in a box.“
Rejection was the order of the day, rejection of the government, rejection of “the establishment” of which most parents seemed to be a part, rejection of everything.
I dropped out of college after finding the freshman year just “more of the same” seemingly pointless high school rigamarole. I flipped hamburgers long enough to figure out I didn’t want to do that the rest of my life. And as the pace of the draft for Vietnam expanded in gigantic steps, I knew the military life — especially dead — was no place for me.
So I went back to school, in part for the draft deferment but also driven by what the restaurant experience had taught me.
But before all that, before the moustache and plaid pants, there was a hippie-era with “hair down to here,” bell-bottom pants, moccasins and a heavy wool Navy Pea coat for the winter chill.
We used to party back then at Lynn and Harry’s near Robin Hood Ln and Park Ave in Memphis. They were married in the backyard with the bride in a scarlet red gown entering on the back of a Harley Davidson. With his mail-order ordainment from the Universal Free Life Church, Dave officiated and “broadcast” the ceremony to the no doubt curious neighbors by microphone, loud PA system and heavy reverberation.
It was “Far Out.”
But marriage, children and work would all have their effects on me and, before long, we were solid members of that mainstream against which we had rebelled.
Also along the way, Harry died from an overdose of heroin after Lynn, rejecting his heavy drug use, had left. Lynn would later remarry and, now with a couple of kids and husband, lives near Flagstaff about 90 minutes by car from us in Phoenix. We visited once, reminisced but quickly recognized that while our lives had all moved away from our shared hippie-times, we had, nonetheless, ended up in very different lives.
I wear my hair much shorter now but for the same reason I wore it long — laziness. It was long because I didn’t want to bother with the barber. And I wear it short now because I don’t like bothering with the tangles after washing. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.
The Pea coat may still be hanging in our hall closet. And there was a psychedelic vest at one time that’s occasionally been paraded about for perplexed children and grandchildren.
And if “the establishment” includes the so-called government, industrial complex then, yeah, I still rail against corrupt politicians, back room deals and massive government bail-outs of companies that fail within a couple of years but somehow leave gobs of money in the hands of the former senior executives who then sponsor re-election campaigns of those same politicians. Little has changed except my cynicism when it comes to politicians.
And I have learned there are bad people in the world who will not stop to shake the offered hand before doing the violence we see so often in the news. That was a hard lesson for the hippie-mind to grasp but world events and my own world travels have driven that truth home.
Life happens and it’s rare to predict how it will shape us.
Sometimes I think it’s scary how our lives parallel each other’s. But then again, so do the lives of 40 million other Americans.
And yeah, I owned a Pea coat too.