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40 years of change

Contributor to book about Woodstock describes the hippie lifestyle of the 1960s.

June 11, 2009|By Michael Miller

Where I went to college, we were basically weekend hippies and hippies a la carte. Drugs were popular, even with fraternities and sororities. I teetered on the edge of dropping out and becoming a street urchin in ’Frisco till I realized this meant no car, no food, no privacy and poor hygiene. We all dressed and talked the part — right down to our jeans and sandals and ponchos and our toked, pie-eyed conversations. And, of course, we all wanted to be on the cover of Rolling Stone.

Given how few hippies there are nowadays, it seems like most other people valued privacy and hygiene, too.

Yes. Few do communes anymore, or crash on pallets 10 abreast or in cramped Volkswagens or city parks. We do not down a fifth of Jack Daniels or chug a pitcher of Bud in 60 seconds, or otherwise drink ourselves under a table on a dare or fry what’s left of our brains with recreational drugs. Nor do most picket or protest in freezing rains or sweltering heat — we’ve passed the torch, the signs, the banners and the microphones to our kids. We’ve learned to fit in, to find our place in the bigger picture.

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When Barack Obama was elected last year, some people said the excitement surrounding his victory had an echo of the 1960s. Do you agree, or will we never see anything like the ’60s again?

It’s an awkward comparison indeed. While the Woodstock generation represented a departure from the status quo sociopolitical picture of the day, Barack Obama seems to rise more on a platform of political expediency. The election seems to reflect an angst to distance ourselves from President Bush — total and absolute change, and the more different the better. It’s too soon to know if anything from his tenure will make its way into the very fabric of everyday American life. Today, we see strong and tangible evidence of the Woodstock generation’s presence everywhere.

Give me an example of where we can see it.

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