Sunday, November 20, 2005

Old Hippies: A Field Guide

Warning: Generalizations will be made and stereotypes will be perpetuated.

While at the Johnny and Edgar Winter concert, there were cowboys (both real and pretend) and various other kinds of regular everyday people. By far, however, the vast majority of the crowd consisted of Old Hippies.

There are many varieties and sub-varieties of Old Hippies. Their distinguishing characteristics are chronological, economical and geographical. The age of an Old Hippie ranges from 40-ish to 60-ish. The Old Hippie will, on occasion, move from one Old Hippie economic category to another as the result of changes in their employment and/or marital status. Employment and marital status changes frequently occur congruently.

While some Old Hippies are living la vida loca as the result of enduring many years of quiet desperation at unfulfilling but well-paying occupations, the vast majority of Old Hippies still live within twenty miles of where they spent their teenage to mid-twenties glory days. They live in homes much like they grew up in and usually drive a pick-up truck or a Harley. They are less successful, economically speaking, than some of their Old Hippie peers, because they held more seasonal types of jobs (plumbing, carpentry, welding) which allowed for plenty of time off between gigs for concert-going, beach bumming, road trips and just, generally, hanging out with their buds (see definition for buds below).

The hippie state of mind is generally considered to be liberal, earth-friendly, peace loving and of the belief that everything is okay as long as no one gets hurt. In some cases, however, Old Hippie-dom is a state of delusion rather than a state of mind. Most of us Old Hippies, look at our favorite rock icons and think, "Man, that guy don't look so good," and we're horrified to realize that most of them are now Medicare age. The delusional Old Hippie, on the other hand, thinks "Man, that guy hasn't changed at all, dude. Fuckin' A! ROCK AND ROLL!!!!!!!!!!!" The delusion is the result of many years of bud: Bud-weiser and bud-reefer.

Physically, there are some Old Hippies who have weathered well but, for the most part, their skin is like leather, they have rather large beer guts (both the men and the women) and their wardrobes still consist mainly of blue jeans, t-shirts and tennis shoes or boots of some sort (both the men and the women).

Most Old Hippies dance with a heavy foot (both the men and the women) and only after they've become totally wasted. Favorite bands include Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top and Kid Rock. Old Old Hippies and Young Old Hippies tend to have similar musical tastes although some will lean more toward Grateful Dead or Phish, while others might favor Jimmy Buffet or strictly southern rock.

Geographically speaking, for a perfect example of southern Old Hippies, you need look no further than the new television series My Name is Earl and add about ten years to the ages of the characters. I can't improve on that depiction. West coast Old Hippies are still up in the Sierras hugging trees and east coast Old Hippies still haunt Greenwich Village. As for northern Old Hippies, I have no idea. My feeling is that they are probably all of the transplanted variety but I could be wrong about that.

By the way, if forced to relocate, Old Hippies from the east coast or the west coast, might take on some of the characteristics of their indigenous counterparts. However, an Old Hippie from the south is and always will be of the southern Old Hippie variety whether he still lives in Alabama or has, for some inexplicable reason, moved to Minnesota. You can take the Old Hippie out of Alabama but you can't take the Alabama out of the Old Hippie.


Lorna said...

Addendum to the field guide:

There are Canadian Old Hippies too---we tend to fit the generalized description but worry less about out quasi-legalized weed and drink a lethal 12% beer with Gimli Goose chasers. We tend to have woolyish hats and woolyish brains (see 12% beer) We have Kodiak boots, either laced or not, steel-toed or not, and lots of us work for the government to promote change from the inside (see woolyish brains) Our skirts are often the cause of death, dragging us down by our snow-laden hems to a sweet dreamy painless finish in the snowbanks of home.

Laurie said...

Lorna - Thanks for the addendum! Not surprisingly, we collaborate well.

Ed Abbey said...

I live among a huge community of hippies that got their start when the Beatles made public their Indian guru Maharishi Maheesh Yogi who later declared Fairfield, Iowa the center of the universe. They bought an entire college (Parsons) in the 70's and started moving here in droves eventually taking over the town. A few years ago, they built their own town a couple miles north of here but their university is still going strong. I written or posted quite a few blogs on the subject and created a separate blog, Maharishiville to store them all. Beatles bowl hair cuts, tie-die shirts, hemp and everything else is still alive and strong.

Larry Jones said...

The hippies lived in California from 1965 to 1967. Their natural enemy was The Redneck, and by '67 marauding bands of Rednecks had all but obliterated the Hippie from his native habitat, and the creature was nearly extinct.

But then a strange transformation took place. In the 1970's, Rednecks began to take on Hippie characteristics - long hair, tie-dyed t-shirts, pierced ears, bib overalls, pot-smoking, songs with long guitar jams, etc., and in many cases they became indistinguishable from Hippies.

On the west coast, I have only spotted a couple of actual Old Hippies in the wild. More commonly what you are seeing are Rednecks, who have aqcuired the appearance (and some of the attitudes) of Hippies.

Laurie said...

Ed - I must confess I haven't checked out your Maharishiville blog. It is now on my evening's agenda. I think it will go well with Chianti.

Larry - That's exactly right! Here in Southeast Texas, the rednecks and hippies are usually interchangable. It's strange how that happened all over the country.

ToniD said...

Just a tidbit on the elusive Northern Old Hippie (or at least nothern-Midwest Old Hippie):
small pockets of natives CAN be found, hiding out from the uptight conservatives & virulent Bible-thumpers which are the overwhelming majority in this area. Try Saugatuck, Michigan and Yellow Springs, Ohio.

Laurie said...

Tonid - I knew they had to be up there somewhere. Thanks for the update.