December 8, 2010
Hippies and the search for peace and love
Everywhere you went, there would be hippies there to greet you. We were omnipresent and you could just about guarantee that anyone with long hair was a good person. You could trust these folks and know that they wouldn't do you wrong. If you needed a place to crash, there was no problem finding one, at least in big cities. We were legion. (I like to use that word, what with its scary connotations for the most deluded religious folks.) You never had to ask for anything because people would share whatever they had: clothes, dope, lovers -- you name it.
When my best friend, a straight guy, was drafted during the Vietnam War in about 1967, before he went off to basic training he made a point of calling me, a guy named Richard and another guy named John into a room with him and his new wife. I think they had been married for about three weeks at the time. His big announcement was that his wife should feel free to have sex with any of the men in this room while he was gone. (Big whoop for me, being gay and all.) We all smiled. It was sweet, as most things were in those days. It was a kind era filled with trust and idealism.
I was a hippie in Boston, New York and San Francisco mostly. I spent a few years in Boston and lived in SF for a few months on two different occasions. Mainly I freaked out in Manhattan, but that's a post for another day.
Mind you, life was also boring back then. Straight people, which meant square people, were so boring that you would fall asleep if they talked to you. Repression and efforts to control people were rampant and expected but we laughed at them, mostly because we were high but also because they really were jerks. But the great thing was that no matter what was going on, you could always go hang out with some hippies. You belonged, every day and all the time.
We went from apartment to apartment, listening to music, talking about cosmic consciousness, having sex and doing drugs. Mostly it was just marijuana but we would ensure that we regularly supplemented our drug regimen with acid. It was a great, great time. Sparkly-like.
Today, the thing that makes me sad is not that those days are over but that they weren't followed by anything even vaguely similar. Where before you could always find your people, now you found yourself alone. You had no movement, no shared commitment or values. You had only yourself.
Luckily I'm gay (hooray!) so I got a reprieve after the 60s: the 70s! That was a tumultuous and exciting decade for gay people -- but that's a post for another day. I only bring it up here to say that the underground of the 60s was, for gay people, followed by the underground of the 70s. Once again, I could slip off into the night and meld with like-minded people. But even this haven was disrupted when AIDS ripped through the community and tore it apart.
There is no underground anymore, not for straight people, not for gay people and not for young people. It's gone and I hate that.