Pubdate: Fri, 10 Jul 2009
Source: StarPhoenix, The (CN SN)
Copyright: 2009 The StarPhoenix
Author: John Gormley, Columnist


Born near the end of the baby boomer generation, I always felt ripped
off. When the British invasion swept music, I was in kindergarten. I
don't remember the Beatles appearing on Ed Sullivan and don't have a
clue where I was when JFK was shot.

During the "summer of love" I had to be at home in bed every night by
8:30 p.m.

The other day, now in this summer of 2009, an interesting collision of
past and present occurred when a young guy stopped me in a crosswalk.

In the Broadway neighborhood, clad from head to toe in shapeless raw
cotton, he wore sandals, had a fabric bag slung over his shoulder and,
smiling through matted long hair and a beard, asked for spare change.

Though I felt so old and unable to connect with this guy's life, at
the same time I was suddenly transported back in time.

We were on a family vacation and, like the epicentre in Haight
Ashbury, every city had sit-ins of the young, wearing the universal
uniform of the bohemian. One writer described it as "a melting pot of
music, psychoactive drugs, sexual freedom, creative expression and

"Oh, they're hippies" my mother breezily explained, wisely deciding
not to elaborate on the role that communal living, sex with strangers
and copious drug use had on the search for awareness, expression and

There was nothing particularly bad about hippies -- they were harmless
enough if you could see past the long hair, aimless lifestyle and
aversion to bathing.

>From the eternal search for peace and love and trying to raise their
consciousness -- which explained all the hallucinogenic drugs --
hippies were all about idealism.

Many were middle-class white kids who could afford not to work. They
criticized middle-class values, opposed war, the nuclear industry,
weapons, capitalism and consumerism. And they weren't going to knuckle
under to "the Man."

Hippies liked the environment, vegetarianism, mysticism, alternative
art, street theatre, folk music and communal living.

Psychologist, hippie icon and LSD advocate Timothy Leary -- who coined
"turn on, tune in, drop out" -- explained that he wanted young people
to act more harmoniously with the world and, by "dropping out" he
meant "self-reliance, a discovery of one's singularity, a commitment
to mobility, choice and change."

"Unhappily my explanations of this sequence of personal development
were often misinterpreted to mean 'Get stoned and abandon all
constructive activity,' " Leary later wrote in his autobiography.

Hippies were everywhere. And there I was in elementary school,
fascinated by how guys could grow their hair that long.

Arguably the apex for hippies was the historic summer of 1969. Beatle
John Lennon and Yoko Ono held their "bed-in" for peace in a Montreal
hotel and recorded Give Peace a Chance.

Later that summer, nearly half-a-million young people came to Max
Yasgur's dairy farm near Woodstock New York. For four days, 32 musical
acts made cultural and musical history.

Wikipedia observes that Woodstock became "a countercultural
mini-nation. Minds were open, drugs were used and love was free."

Rolling Stone magazine would describe Woodstock as one of the 50
moments that changed the history of rock and roll.

The Woodstock crowd, three times larger than expected, was wet, muddy,
stoned but generally well-behaved. A local bus driver would later call
the assorted hippies "good kids in disguise."

In that same summer, prime minister Pierre Trudeau made Canada an
officially bilingual country of English and French -- cereal boxes
would never be the same.

Two weeks later, Neil Armstrong would walk on the moon as the lunar
lander Eagle descended from Apollo 11.

And in August of that momentous summer of '69, the hippie-like cult
followers of Charles Manson would murder seven people in two days in
the Tate-LaBianca murders, made famous by the book Helter Skelter.

It doesn't seem like 40 years ago this summer.

Time passed; we all got older. By the mid-1970s when I finally came of
age, hippies had pretty well disappeared -- or at least most of them
had grown up, gotten jobs and were on their way to becoming "the Man."

The word hippie largely fell into disuse. It wasn't until much later,
during the late 1990s, that I heard an urbane young woman snort "dirty
hippies" at a shaggy group of hemp-wearing globalization protesters.

Recently, and you can see them in the midst of anti-nuke and green
campaigners, they're back -- the hippies have returned, now the age of
our kids but with the same wardrobes, idealism and hair styles of 40
years ago.

It's all in the timing -- what was old is new again. And for those of
us too young for hippies the first time, now we're the old people who
just don't get it.
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr