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  • Everybody Has a 60’s

    Posted by Ginny on September 13th, 2006 (All posts by )

    This blog is sometimes critical of boomer culture. But Lex puts up a video of Jackie DeShannon & we all watch, pleased by the aesthetic & energy, the charm of a singer quite representative – to some – of the sixties. Those years went through cultural changes that, looking back, were breathtaking. But those of us who were teens moved through them as fish in water; we were obsessed with ourselves, of course, but we had no perspective; we’d never been young before.

    In 1963 Jackie Kennedy balanced her little pill box atop masses of hair. A freshman in college, I’d encase myself in garter belts & nylons for class or stretch pants designed for ski slopes nowhere close to Nebraska. We ratted our hair. By 67 or 68, we were wearing see-through blouses and no bras, our dresses were so short my daughters finding one of my old dresses assume its a tunic, our hair hung below our shoulders, often below our waists. Sometimes changes come from the pragmatic the pill & pantyhose. Now, dresses are about any length we want. For decades, they inched up and down, but in the sixties, they moved from the knees very high & then down quite low. The movement was so fast and extreme, styles merged & women in pants, in minis, with dresses trailing the ground appear at the same workplace, the same party.

    One of my friends, Scotus, likes to see the movement between the early & late sixties as a contrast between the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (1963) and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”(1967 ). He’s got a point. But I’m amazed at how different our memories are: it wasnt just different perspectives on the same music, idea, movie, place the object at the center of our thoughts, often our obsessions, were different.

    Lex says there were great bands in the sixties: The Thirteenth Floor Elevators and the Chocolate Watchband and the Sonics and the Nightcrawlers all made some great records he says. I look at the names & cant remember any. I ask around. A couple of my colleagues remember the 13th Floor Elevators from sock hops in their youth they were Texan. My husband remembers them, remembers the Sonics. But they werent in the mounds of LPs he brought to our marriage. Looking through Amazon & utube, I suspect Lexs choices arent all that idiosyncratic. Or, perhaps, its just that there was so much out there to consume & our lives, the songs, the world wasn’t staying still for long. One of my colleagues looks at the list, remembers the sock hop, but then wants to talk about the one song on every Elton John album that is just great the one he pulls out and listens to over and over. And the Stones – ah, what the Stones meant, he & my brother would agree: it was they that they remember. And someone, just last week, was ecstatic with Stones tickets. But they’re even older than we are, I said. Well, its hard to see them as a North Star, but maybe they are.

    I can get over my head really fast when it comes to pop music Ive got a lousy ear & havent always cared much. But my acquaintances are not that way. And I find each speaking of different icons.

    In my youth, the era of the great musicals was slowly winding down, but some of us loved those passionately. (One of the bizarre but not unrealistic moments is when Debra Winger, smoking pot & listening to old musicals, prepares for her wedding in Terms of Endearment.) I can remember one of my friends belting out those old musicals bouncing them off the walls of parking garages at night. He ended up playing them for decades at a piano bar, only quitting a couple of years ago. For many people, though less often for teenagers, Frank Sinatra was still adored and these were years he put out some of his best. One of my boyfriends loved Dean Martin & watched his show, quoting it the next day. He was not, of course, one of my more musical friends. But lately, I heard a cd and realized that Dino had virtues his voice caressed the lyrics, warmed the song.

    My friends were various & various in their passions. They were even more varied in their abilities. One guy in our group was already on his way to being a well-respected composer – though in the manner of “serious” music today, his name & his music are not widely known & hes an academic. But I can remember his significant other, my dear friend, rocking on the bed, mouthing the lyrics to Joan Baez & Odetta, filling his poetry with allusions to Dylan. Meanwhile, another friend was quite serious about becoming an opera singer and in her apartment the records shed pull out were opera.

    In high school, we longed for the cool of coffee houses & West Coast jazz. In college, we first found the folkies – The Kingston Trio, The Belafonte singers, Peter, Paul & Mary, even Pete Seeger. The Beatles were great & everybody loved them, the soft folkies came & we listened. But when it all came down to what was in the back of our minds in those years, it was Dylan and those like him. The guy that lived in the attic in the first house where I rented a room was obsessed – buying out the front row of seats. Fifteen years later, I ran into him. He was driving a cab, but that was his day job. At night, he still sang in a local club: I wondered if he also kept that case of harmonicas he always slung across his shoulder. I remember once during that weird year we all shared our troubles & our bathroom, he phoned in sick; he suffered, he said, from the potato famine. (I guess all those folkies really wanted to be Irish.) He introduced me to Ian & Sylvia. My husband, a thousand miles away, had come to love Eric Anderson. (And, by the way Lex, we didnt smoke dope. We might later on, but this was way too early & we were all way too Midwestern & besides, hell, we were sufficiently out of it on our own.)

    The Beatles led the great British invasion of those years; it seems fitting that a group that clearly loved being together celebrated romance in such songs as I Want to Hold Your Hand or When Im 64.” That freedom & quirky buoyancy was reflected in Georgy Girl and Morgan and especially, The Knack. (Though Blow Up notes the down side of that free for all.) On the other hand, the American who began as Robert Zimmerman & took on a name resonant of the Celtic bard tradition writes of isolation and loneliness: It Aint Me Babe and Tambourine Man. Americans watched The Graduate and Midnight Cowboy, the tone that Easy Rider ends with – the “We blew it” – was ours. So, as British novels end in marriage & American ones with a hero heading out for the territory, in mid-twentieth century, our pop heroes represented different voices. The Beatles official site describes them Unafraid of growth, dogged individuals with a powerful devotion to the group ethic, the Beatles accepted each others offerings and really cooked to make each record a feast that left us breathless with admiration. They never stood still. Meanwhile, the loneliness at the core of Dylan resembles that we hear in the center of Sinatras quiet and later in the quiet spaces in Willies songs. One of my husbands friends wrote a phenomenological study of Nelsons lyrics, arguing what most characterized them was a haunting & beautiful loneliness, even emptiness at their center.

    I try to explain to someone a generation younger it wasnt really that Dylan was counterculture. It wasnt really that we were anti-war. We werent political no one much was yet. (Well, Pete Seeger, of course.) Our music & our tastes came out of the fifties and its obsession with mental illness & alienation. We were prepared for it by the beats & the jazz our parents listened to. Brubeck cool. Sure, Dylan sat at Guthrie’s feet, but we didn’t know Guthrie. We didn’t care. We just wanted to sit around & talk about ourselves – throw in something from the novels we were reading, philosophy & history but in the end, it was always about us. Shannons right to complain about our generations naval-gazing, solipsism. But Im not sure that we were that much worse than most are during those years. Still, there were so many of us and somehow, some of us never made our way out of that solipsism, that inward gaze of late adolescence. Probably the rest of you can give up on any of us still lost I think weve passed the point of no return.

    But, as always, our cultures were more various than this implies; most of us take a bit, remember how we felt because we did something & in the background a song was playing. The Beatles changed us and experience changed them. Eleanor Rigby (1966) catches loneliness, too. By decades end they are splitting up. Meanwhile, Dylan has gone to Nashville. Mellower in Nashville Skyline, mellower in those riveting duets with Johnny Cash, hes singing Lay Lady Lay (1969).

    When I came to Austin in the early seventies, life changed for me. I was beginning to grow up. Early in our courtship, we went to the great Dripping Springs picnic; we only had a day there were papers to grade and papers to write. But Willie Nelson had arrived & much happened in Austin city limits following that 3-day festival. I remember the director of my husband’s dissertation, a quite respected Victorian scholar, commenting that in Austin he’d come to like country music, too. (I suspect he started knowing something about music; I didn’t.) His point was that country music was about grown ups – cheating, yes, but also families and death and faith. I came to love the lyrics, too.

    To our marriage, my husband brought mounds of records, a hundred country/western songs hed been writing, and a variety of instruments from the medieval to the hammer dulcimer to the guitar. They fill up cabinets & nooks around our house; for countless nights theyve also filled our living room with smoke & beer bottles &, well, its not fair to call them drunks certainly not any more. Now the guys he plays with dont drink much and never smoke indoors. Weve grown older. Still, I flee, moving around the house, the music filtering in. Im pretty much musically illiterate, but thats okay with me & generally they don’t care. They can hang out at my house. (And, thankfully, I no longer feel an obligation to go to those August festivals.)

    As with languages, my children are much more gifted than their mother. Our heritages were complicated in those days. But I suspect theirs will be more complicated. Im moved inexplicably by the Irish cd, Faith of Our Fathers. Much is inexplicable. The variety offered on Amazon & Ebay, on Utube & Itunes these all weave the present with the past. What will their memories be? All listen to John Prine over and over, as does their father. But one is writing scholarly papers on Gretchen Wilson & Loretta Lynn; another keeps MoTown on the car speakers, and the third played cello, listens to Indy stuff & has now married a guy whose era may be closer to Lexs but his taste is, I suspect, quite different. My other son-in-law gives me a cd of opera from his parents it barely registers with me; they genially give me credit for a more sophisticated taste than I have. And he brings to the marriage his pure voice, trained in a German choir while my other son-in-law played trombone in a Prague bar. This summer we tried to organize the cds; Im lost in the classical but Im not very good at organizing any of it. What do we do with this? Or that? How do they cohere? Ian has given us Gypsy music – where does that go? What do you do with Brave Combo? Sneaky Pete? My husbands uncle? Our daughter chooses Psančko for her wedding folkie, yes, but who else will have that particular memory?

     

    30 Responses to “Everybody Has a 60’s”

    1. Sam_S Says:

      I’m loving this thread. But I never got excited about Jackie DeShannon or the Elevators. I think it was more that the 13th Floor Elevators was what was in the air at the time, and with a little Mescaline, a little weed, it all went down pretty well. Now, Hendrix or the Jefferson Airplane actually DID seem to be breaking new ground (along with the Beatles, of course), and I still consider them primary markers of “changing times”. There was less revolutionary music being made at the time that I actually enjoy more now. I heard a Phillipino cover band do Aretha Franklin’s “Natural woman” and Roberta Flack’s “Killing me Softly” so well it brought me to tears last week here in Shenzhen.

      Now, I want to ask a seriously respectful question: We’re of similar ages, I guess; I was in school (in Austin) at the end of the 60’s. So, why is it, exactly, that these issues, this music, these memories, are important now? Is it that those were historic times and we want to be sure their importance is recognized? Or is it, at least partly, that the end of life is inevitably closer than before, those times will never come again, and we want to savor them again while we’re able? I know the latter factors heavily in my appreciation.

    2. Wickedpinto Says:

      I started to read, but finished with “garter belts and nylons” Sorry.

    3. Edgar R Burrows Says:

      The times they are achangin. Get over it and move on. All things change and what seemed at one time so cutting edge and classic is now camp and funny.

    4. Mitch Says:

      Many of the bands Lex cites were nearly unknown in their times. Some of them came to light with the issuance of the Nuggets album in the mid ’70’s. They were essentially a re-evaluation of some of the antecedents of punk & garage. (Lex and I both have known punk tendencies.)

      My big reassessment was in r&b. I had played and enjoyed it in a cover band, when we had a couple of horns and a Fender Rhodes instead of the usual guitar-only setup. It wasn’t until a few years ago, when I heard Otis Redding over a store PA system, that I remembered how much I loved it. Now I have a ton of Sam & Dave, Otis, Wilson Pickett, etc., and have discovered the last active performer of that era, Solomon Burke.

      The past is more malleable than we sometimes think. Events don’t change, but we do, and we change our interpretations.

    5. k. pablo Says:

      Don’t know about the sixties, but I think I figured out what Al Franken was doing in the seventies!

    6. Lex Says:

      Mitch is right on. “My” 60s was archeology. Several of my friends were youngest kids of large Catholic families. Their older siblings had been teenagers in the 60s and had been into music. One kid had a three foot stack of 45s his sister left behind. We listened to it — Byrds, Count Five, Shadows of Knight, Jefferson Airplane, Beatles, Stones, Beach Boys, etc. Also, there was the incredibly important series of reissues of 60s garage stuff, started by Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets album, which I got around 1980. There was a whole sub-field of punk rock that was retro 60s stuff — the mighty Lyres from Boston being the kings of this stuff. Their set was almost entirely obscure 60s stuff — I learned about the Sonics because of reading interviews with them. There were also rock magazines in the general punk area, pre-1980 or so when it all changed to h*rdcore, that looked back at this stuff: Trouser Press, New York Rocker, Subway News from Boston interviewed 60s era Boston guys.

      If you lived through the 60s, you heard what was going on in your area, and did not have the advantage of the Pebbles series of compilations of regional rock bands. And, as Mitch says, looking back we reassess. The Stones 60s era stuff has held up very well. But some relatively unknown, or regional bands, like the ones I cited, have a large, worldwide following due to the rediscovery of all this music that has been going on for three decades now.

    7. John Says:

      One of the things we (or at least those of us who rag on the Boomers so hard) forget is how much freedom of expression those days unleashed. All kinds of freedom, in fact. I sure as hell would have a harder time in society, being in an inter-racial marriage and all, if it weren’t for some of the freedoms opened up in the 1960s.

      And sometimes, the freedom got picked up by us conservatives, too. I highly recommend this view of the SOG’s experience in Vietnam, for both the history and the poetry of it, but Coombs wrote a chapter relavent to the thread here, titled “Hendrix”. RTWT.

      We were all music*l conservatives, really. Well…, mostly. But Jimi picked up a guitar and strummed our souls with sounds like we’d never heard. The heart and the mind throbbed with the bass, the nerves trying to keep up with the rip. The music was not our style, but we lived by it; we loved it. Highway Chile, Long Hot Summer Night. Life blood. You were more likely to hear Bach there than Rock ‘n Roll. But Jimi was there – in every hootch, in every meal, in every breath we took, in every waking hour. In many of the sleeping one.

      Maybe it was ’cause he was dead, like so many we knew. Maybe it was ’cause he was different, like we thought we were. Or maybe he just found what really counted to all of us. Crazy fookin’ music for a crazy fookin’ war. Dunno. Just was. Just is. The spokesman of an age, the poet laureate of the Viet Nam War.

      Sam S: I think you might identify with this bit:

      Can’t believe I actually miss any portion of this crap, man. It’s all gone. And I’m still here. Sh*t! God, Jimi. Why can’t I let you just be dead? With all of ’em. Why can’t you let me be dead? Or at least just plain forget?

      Maybe ’cause somewhere ‘tween Fire and that unbelievable version of Wild Thing, I’m not quite so alone. Lord only knows why. Or, I s’pose, cares.

    8. Helen Says:

      I understand that if you can remember the sixties, you weren’t there.

    9. Jonathan Says:

      I don’t even remember the nineties.

    10. Wickedpinto Says:

      I don’t care what you say, I will NEVER get over Garter Belts and Nylons.

      NEVER! NEVER I SAY, NEVER!!!

    11. Ginny Says:

      Sam S,
      Thanks for your wonderful comment. I know I’m getting old & nostalgic – that’s part of it. And that Lex’s utube stuff brought back memories.

      Also, I just finished a book, (The Movement and the Sixties, which I’ve been meaning to post about. A colleague suggested it & it is chock full of primary quotes, etc., but it’s like parachuting in – the author has done oral history & is an unreconstructed sixties guy. No causes (no early Vietnam, no Freud, no sense of WWII’s effect on family, no sense that the Cold War might have arisen because of the nature of our enemy rather than our own nature) & no ramifications (no post American Vietnam or Cambodia, no sense of the fall of the Iron Curtain).

      It’s more like a primary source than a secondary one – he doesn’t do representative people let alone major ones, he doesn’t do ideas. He just throws out this kind of manic celebratory prose and lots of quotes from observers. So, I’ve been thinking about the differences between his world & mine – because, of course, they were the same one.

      And I don’t do enough with that period in my lit survey; also we’ve been watching a lot of movies from that period and I’ve been trying to remember the context in which we saw them first or heard about them.

      (Netflix confirms Lex’s point; somehow neither my husband nor I had seen any Kurosawa, so, instead of the fifties when they were filmed or the sixties when many Americans saw those movies, for us they will be new & memorable in the context of 2006.)

    12. DirtCrashr Says:

      When we returned in the summer of 1969 after about four-years overseas living on the very-rural East Coast of India where my dad taught industrial arts and was Principal in a Missionary school for orphan boys, the country had changed. I didn’t share a lot of what was expeceted as “common” among my new school-mates, I didn’t have anybody who even remembered me from 2nd Grade except one kid, and he was in the “in-crowd” and I was not, and that was that. ’69 was horrible – an alien landscape and not the USA I remembered. ’70 was not much better, and it seemed to get worse each year. I left again as soon as I could in ’75 and went back to finish High School in India. My family had been breaking apart in different ways ever since…

    13. Mitch Says:

      Lex – I just looked at some cassettes one of my brothers gave me many years ago. He had re-recorded our joint 45 collection. We actually owned about 1/3 of the first Nuggets album as singles, plus other singles by those same artists, and more stuff that was either in a later album or by the artists in the later albums. Not bad, eh?

      We were close in age and since it was a big family (7 kids), we always roomed together until junior year of college. We were also bandmates (I played bass; he sang, played rhythm guitar and trumpet). We had a system: if we knew we liked the band/album/song, we each bought it for ourselves. If we thought it was a little weird, or an interesting experiment, or we might like it but weren’t sure, we bought it as a birthday or Christmas present for each other.

      Fast forward 30 years. I tried the same thing on him and bought him the Kronos Quartet’s CD with Purple Haze. Punchline: he already owned it.

      Our daughters now want to start a band. This could get ugly.

    14. Lex Says:

      Mitch that is very cool. I envy you that record collection. I got into all that 60s garage stuff long after it was over.

    15. Tyouth Says:

      1968, I was a college freshman: low draft number- do I go or do I stay-do I go or do I stay? The writing’s on the wall – hypoctrical leaders fooling around with a pretend war (if you send in young men to die, you should go win the damn thing), riots, assasinations, lefties “making hay” at speeches in the quad, marches and billy clubs in the streets, and, last, but not least drugs and rock and roll. Not the best of times to be 18, in retrospect.

      I did meet my future wife that year though.

    16. Tyouth Says:

      1968, I may have also been exposed to Cream. Their music (and Eric Clapton) seems to hold up well over the years. I suppose EC’s brilliant electrical massage and expansion of interesting negro blues themes may explain it.

    17. Lex Says:

      History was moving very fast in the 1960s. 1962 — Jackie Kennedy, skinny ties, Pat Boone. 1965 — mod and groovy, Wilson Pickett and Ticket to Ride, liberals still wore suits, and thought they could end poverty by better managementhair was just getting long, drugs were just coming in, Vietnam was just heating up. 1968 — Riots, Tet and imminent defeat, long hair, beards, Jimi Hendrix, Liberals are in disarray, attacked from Right and left, Nixon gets elected.

      Someone said the Balkans generate too much history locally and have to export it. The Sixties are similar except as a time rather than a place.

      Culturally, politically, militarily, scientifically, economically — everything changed massively during the decade of the sixties. There was no “60s” as a cultural period, there was a rapid series of trends and event which must have been bewildering to live through. Ginny’s reference to women wearing pants, miniskirts and ankle length skirts captures it to some degree.

      In terms of popular Music more innovation happened in that period than in all the decades since. We are still mining it.

      If you remember it, you weren’t there. I remember being a small child playing with GI Joes in the back yard and watching Batman on TV. I remember the “hippie truck” parked across the street. I remember the corvette one of the guys down the street had. I remember when RFK was shot. I was five. I remember the moon landing.

      So, I guess I was there.

    18. BobG Says:

      I was there, and I remember it quite well. The sixties had problems, but it was important because it opened up a lot of people to change; it started people questioning things. A lot of mistakes were made, but the general was idea of trying to get people to think outside of what they had been taught. It is true that some of the repercussions today are not the best, but there are a lot of freedoms that would not be possible without someone stirring the pot a bit. You have to take the bad with the good.
      Just my opinion.

    19. John Says:

      No, you have to exorcise the bad and keep the good. Something that the Boomers were just terrible at.

    20. Sam_S Says:

      but there are a lot of freedoms that would not be possible without someone stirring the pot a bit.

      John’s got a point, but I tend to agree with BobG here. I regret some things about this era, like the seeming end of personal responsibility, and a sort of permanent adolescence, but I’d be hard-pressed to say the positive changes that came out of th 60’s would be possible without the whole package. I guess we can keep trying to exorcise the residual demons as we go along.

      Incidentally, for you sinful old rockers, Jerry Lee Lewis is releasing a new album (yes! He’s still alive.) “Last Man Standing”

    21. John Says:

      “I’d be hard-pressed to say the positive changes that came out of th 60’s would be possible without the whole package.”

      The changes would have been slower, but they would have come. The social movements were already in place. One of the big negative attributes of the Boomer generation is that the American lack of patience is amplified in that cohort. 1964 was the year that the Civil Rights Act passed. The Chinese Exclusion Act ended soon after. All this before “the whole package” got wrapped up in a bow in 1968. Without a lot of the “total equality now” crap that engendered the government programs (the precursors of which were causing problems as far back as 1965, as Moynihan pointed out), the changes would have been less sudden, but also less destructive. And as much as I seek to look at the Boomers as a whole, to see the good as well as the bad which I tend to focus on, this is their one negative legacy we have to exorcise from the body politic, because it’s poisoned the well ever since.

      David Foster once said somewhere on the Photon Courier that politicians need to understand that we are test pilots in social and politcal structure, with how far we are surging past the traditional social structures that kept pre-industrial societies in line. The Boomers always wanted to constantly push the envelope, but as one test pilot once remarked, that means that you are operating on the upper right hand corner of the graph – where the stamp gets cancelled.

    22. LeMessurier Says:

      I was an “observer” of the 60’s. When in college I never got caught-up in the 60’s culture. I was a ’50’s guy myself and got sick real quick of the protests and excesses that started in the 60’s. For those of you too young to remember, I think it is fair to say that the 50’s were the golden age of the United States. Oh yes we had a lot of problems (racism comes to mind) but for a Midwestern teen, I can’t imagine a better time. We had a great economy, peace for most of the decade, and above all, a great optimism. As for garter belts and stockings… YESSSS! I think pantyhose are the least sexiest garment ever invented. A real turnoff! Maybe that’s why i didn’t like the 60’s.

    23. Mitch Says:

      Not exactly off-topic: I’m seeing the Who tonight with my daughter.

    24. Lex Says:

      The Who, an appetizer.

    25. Jonathan Says:

      Old people today! The beads, the patchouli, the rock music. ..

    26. Bilwick Says:

      I have a theory about Baby Boomers and the music of the Sixties. It’s just a theory, tentatively proffered, and maybe just as full of baloney as other theories on the Boomers I’ve read here. It’s based on nothing more scientific than my own little experience, and my very personal interest in the Boomers Who Fell Through the Cracks: i.e., the Boomers who didn’t become Yuppies or entrepreneurs or whatever and fell into the other stereotype: i.e., “The First Downwardly Mobile Generation in History.” OK, here it is: the Boomers who were very much caught up in Sixties music became, after youthful flirtation with counter-cultural poverty, the financially comfortable Boomers of today. I know some exceptions to that, but mainly they’re the Boomers who stayed locked into the counter-culture and on some level think that money is bad. I’m talking of Boomers who weren’t smitten with the popular music of the Sixties and were pretty much into classical music. None of the people I’ve known in that category were anti-capitalistic, or thought money was bad; yet none of them ever seemed to make much money and are now, in terms of mainstream middle-class society, pretty marginal. Anyone else noticed this, or is it just me and the small circle of people I know?

    27. Ginny Says:

      Are your friends notably intellectual? Do they live for ideas more than most? These people were not conformists then and they aren’t now. It isn’t that making money requires conformity and certainly not stupidity – indeed, making big bucks means applying creativity to your work and intelligence is rewarded with money. But that kind of success does require a certain focus an intellectual is just not as likely to have.

      The classical music buffs are likely to have made consistent choices that are designed to spend time with more complicated & demanding music, more complicated & demanding ideas. While academics think such choices should be rewarded, they seldom are – even in academia. And such people are not likely to go with the flow, become a part of whatever is “in.” The people who were “in” in the sixties are “in” today.

      But, then, there are other rewards.

    28. Lex Says:

      Getting a band going, rehearsing, getting gigs and even — yes, sometimes it happens — making money at it, is a very entrepreneurial undertaking. People who could do that could do other, more money-focused things, as well. However, the visual cues — long hair, hippy demeanor — might throw off the viewer. The more intense Lefties were not into music, since they were into revolution. Among lawyers, a lot of them went into public interest law, and are now greying people with scuffed shoes driving old Volvo station wagons. Some of them are good lawyers, and should not be underestimated if you go up against them, but they did not make a lot of money at it.

    29. Bilwick Says:

      I see your point, Ginny. In fact, I have often noted that the plastic hippie seems to have easily metamorphosized into the plastic yuppie. And yes, while the people I am referring to would not be classified (except maybe by Archie Bunker) as “intellectuals,” they were, and are (speaking of those who survive) intellectual. I have been thinking a lot about this lately as I slide toward old age. I live in a nice neighborhood in a major city that borders on a not-so-nice neighborhood with a large derelict/homeless population. Of late I’ve noticed a number of these guys (there are no women in this category, interestingly) who do not look like druggies or winos or crazy people. They are white-haired, reasonably clean, and often very dignified; and not just intelligent-looking, but often intellectual looking. They seem like sad lost souls without booze or drugs or insanity to buffer them from their reality. Then it hits me that they are not that much older than I am. They are probably Boomers from the first years of the Boom, the immediate post-war years. Recently a friend of mine and I passed one of these lost souls and my friend joked, “That’s you in a few years.” We laughed, but then we realized the guy actually did look like what I would look like if you aged me a little. It was sobering to think that I could be looking into the face of the future.

    30. Ginny Says:

      I suspect in the back of my mind I was thinking of a guy that worked for me. He was essentially getting minimum wage. His wife was teaching math. Both his M.A. and Ph.D. were from Ivy League schools. His specialty was pre-Semitic languages. (Once when I asked if he could talk to the Arab students he replied that he had no interest in live languages.) He’d actually been to Woodstock but he was far from being a Hippie. In some ways his life seemed wasted (he’d been thrown up on the beach in our town because his wife taught in the science/math field and she’d been hired). But in some ways it was full; he was learning a new ancient language; he read interesting books and interesting journals. I enjoyed talking to him, learned from him. Of course, he wasn’t the best employee I’d ever had (his typing speed alone kept me from making much profit on the time he was there).

      Looking back, I suppose he had issues. And there were other problems, I suspect, that this job didn’t uncover because it was so untaxing of his mind. Still, I could understand some of the choices he made and I think he made those choices in part because he was a true intellectual, though, in part because he had a variety of issues as well. I envied him his time & his devotion to mastering certain intellectual skills. Me, I like to watch junk tv and listen to country music. He’d probably fit into your neighbothood.