Peace and Love – Never Trust anyone over 30 – Power to the People – Make Love, – Not War – Give Peace a Chance – Drop Acid, Not Bombs
Yesterday’s just a memory, tomorrow is never what it’s supposed to be.
The above are just a few of the “banners” we lived by in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I have had a unique life experience. I guess choosing forego motherhood and not being tied down to much in the way of conventional thinking allowed me to move gladly from one life venue to another.
Yes. I was a hippie for a while. I mean, how could I not be? After my rather sketchy high school education, I got married, just one month after graduating. I was 18. It was 1966. I had lived through racial riots in Watts, near Los Angeles—just twenty or so miles from our house. Ashes from the burning buildings fell on our front lawn in Pacoima, CA, in the then, not-so-bad area of the San Fernando Valley. It was an exciting time of change, demanded by the people. Racial issues were being forced into the open. The Vietnam War was being protested. People were demanding change in corporate America and in the Government. Kennedy had been shot. We just put a man on the moon.
So in the midst of all that excitement and change, My husband, Rick, and I tied the knot and moved to Vallejo (pronounced Va-lay-ho), near San Francisco, to live with his mother, stepfather, brother, and sister. I was unprepared for the conventionality of that life. I felt stifled and bored. My in-laws were blue collar, salt-of-the-earth folk—honest, hard-working, simple people, if a bit stuck in their ways. Definitely not what I was used to. If you read my Peeling Potatoes for Jesus story, you’ll get a better idea, and maybe a chuckle or two.
Anyway, getting back to hippie dippie. Rick and I finally moved into our own little rented house in Napa on a couple of acres filled with fruit trees. I had a ringer-washer, no dishwasher, a living room, kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom. It was probably about 600 square feet, but it was MINE! All MINE!
The novelty of being “Sadie, Married Lady” wore off quickly and I realized what a mistake I had made. OMG!!!! I was trapped in Normalville! Everything important was happening in San Francisco! What was I doing in a small town, cleaning, cooking, and putting up with my mother-in-law’s constant demand for grandchildren. No way. I wanted more from life. I didn’t drive. Rick wouldn’t let me. I felt trapped. I couldn’t get a job or go back to school. Rick didn’t want his wife working. Later, after his grandmother gave him a “tongue-lashing,” and he grudgingly let me take a couple of part-time jobs and I enrolled in college.
One day, I decided enough was enough. The world was passing me by. Shortly after watching the first moon landing on Rick’s aunt’s flickery black-and-white TV, I vowed to “Get outta here and into the action.” It was a time of war protests, riots in Berkeley. People demanding to be heard!
I bought a bus ticket to Frisco, and was on my way. To what? I didn’t know or care. Something would turn up. It did. When I got off at the station, a sylph-like young woman with frizzy blond hair and gauzy, gypsy-esque clothing, handed me a flower and said, “Peace and Love.” I was supposed to give her money but instead, I said, “I want to join the cause.” She looked surprised, then grinned with perfectly straight white teeth that set off her natural, no make-up beauty. I was entranced. I wanted to be her. Yeah, right. Like I could EVER be like that.
Thinking about that scenario now, I am reminded of Scarlett O’Hara in the film and book, Gone With the Wind. She yearned to be soft, kind, generous, and loving like her mother instead of the fiery, ambitious, manipulative vixen she was. No use. Scarlett would forever be Scarlett. But what did I know then? Nada.
The woman gave me an angelic smile and said, “Come with me,” then led me to a tall, bearded young man who put his hands together and bowed, “Namaste.” After a little explaining, he handed me some flowers and a pouch to hold donations from people getting off the incoming buses.
I flung my satchel over my shoulder. It held the few belongings I’d brought, and proceeded to spread peace and love for a small donation.
After the “shift,” I asked where we lived. “We don’t live anywhere, but home is Golden Gate Park,” was the answer. Huh? Where? Usually we “crashed” in “pads” of other hippies. Some liked to sleep outside in the vast Park. We ate whatever we could in the way of pre-made food, deli sandwiches, candy bars, chips, and such, or sometimes the kindness of strangers gave us something more substantial.
Everything was shared, clothing, toiletries, money, and weed. Lots of weed. Not much acid or other stuff. Weed was our drug of choice. I did a little, but I’ve never really been interested in getting high too often. Or maybe I’m just not remembering.
One guy in the group had a small apartment in town that his parents left empty most of the time because they lived in the wine country. We sometimes stayed there. Of course, we had the iconic VW van with psychedelic paintings all over it, including a large peace sign.
We traveled to places where we could get donations, spread hippie sayings, and talk about hope for the future of a better world. Sometimes I handed out underground newspapers on the corner of Haight and Ashbury in San Francisco. I vaguely remember that the Grateful Dead lived together in an old Victorian, Painted Lady house near there.
After a couple of weeks I realized that this was not the lifestyle I wanted either. I was cold, hungry, and tired of the endless sameness of drugs, sex, and rock and roll (plus a sea of folk music). I was also tired of the lack of common sense, and pseudo-intellectualism that passed for being truly wise.
So, I went back to hubby, who forgave me, while I secretly plotted my escape—which came in 1969. I told Rick that I was going to visit my mother in So Cal. I packed as much as I could in suitcases, boarded a plane and never looked back. As I write this, the song “I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane,” by Peter, Paul, and Mary is running through my head. I enrolled in college, found a job, got a divorce, and began a new life. Well, maybe it was much the same, but with different slogans.
The whole Hippie experience was freeing and transformative. However, in hindsight, there was no way it was going to make the huge difference in society that we had hoped. Many of those idealistic, starry-eyed youth grew up to become bankers, brokers, and politicians. Many died of drug abuse, untreated disease, suicide, and other things that came along with the rampant pie-in-the-sky attitudes accompanied by emotional dysfunction. Others grew up to work for the betterment of us humans by fighting for women’s rights, civil liberties, and more. So, I guess it was the beginning of many good things, but we were so naive, thinking that we could create a Utopian society of fairness and peace, where common sense and human decency would rule over greed an corruption.
Does all that sound familiar? In the early twenty-first century, the world again gathered together to to change things—for the people’s voices to be heard and heeded about corruption, greed, and cruelty. In 2012, thousands upon thousands took to the streets worldwide, demanding change. Those who wanted status quo fought back with violence and force. Ah, it brings me back. Being the eternal hippie that I’ve been told I am—even through my attempts to leave that behind—I’d hoped that this time, there would be a difference. Maybe this time, real laws would be passed to keep greed and corruption in check and that the tide of the “rich get richer and the poor get poorer” would be stemmed.
Don’t misunderstand my meaning though, I am all for people working toward abundance, being successful, and having as much money as they earn. I am, however, dead against corrupted, greedy practices in order to achieve that success. I am against the flat-out deception, and manipulation that attempts to keep the common folk from rising to success without resorting to the same underhanded practices. The recent uprisings weren’t about poor people wanting to grab a piece of the pie. Many wealthy people were in the streets protesting, or broadcasting their support. Michael Moore, Keith Olbermann, Natalie Portman, David Crosby, and Graham Nash, to name a few. So, even though the tie-die, faded jeans, headbands, beads, and flower power are different, maybe the turmoil and uprisings in the twenty-first century will make a better future possible.
Well, just listen to me. I guess the hippie is still there.
Peace and Love,