DIRTY HIPPIES on Skateboards
I ran into my mother the other day while skating along down by the beach. We got to talking and I mentioned to her that we were doing a thing on hippies in the next issue. She lived through the sixties and, though too young to partake in the nationwide debauchery that took place, got to witness the entire era first hand. I’ll spare you the details of our conversation, but what seemed to amuse her the most about the whole affair was not the events that actually took place, but what eventually became of the hippies.
“They’re mean,” she said. “Not the ones who eventually became normal people, but the ones that really bought into it. I think it’s because everything failed. Things are still pretty much the same now as they were then.”
People could say, and they’d be right, that the hippy is a dying breed. The sixties are nearly forty years behind us now, and any residual foment left from the whole affair has surely dissipated. But, at the same time, the term hippy is just as valid today as it was then. However, in the modern context it has little to do with free love and a failure to bring a timely end to the Vietnam war. Rather, it is more of a mindset, and less of a movement.
The qualifications of a hippy, in my eyes, are a sense of environmental and political awareness, a taste for “Hippy” music (The Dead, Reggae, Phish, String Cheese Incident, or any number of cheesy Santa Barbara frat boy pseudo jam bands), righteous dietary awareness, an alternative spirituality, marijuana saturation, and a healthy taste for sexual experimentation. Of course, this would mean that I’m a hippy. I’m not so sure how that makes me feel.
But people don’t really fit into molds like that. Pretty soon after I started calling guys on our hippy list I realized that none of them were really all that similar in any sense other than a vague sort of physical appearance. At the same time, I knew that they were all, in fact, hippies. Because, after all, to other people it’s not important so much who you think you are, as who they think you are. Therefore, they’re hippies, if for no other reason than that other people think they are.
Still, the hippies have left behind a legacy, in the form of the numerous love children that were a result of that decade. Lucian Moon, art director for, among others, Yellow Brand is one such individual. His mother, born Christine Hayes, made the trek from her birthplace in Ohio to San Francisco, ground zero for that decade’s wave of insanity. After moving to California she changed her name to Ramona Moon, and eventually gave birth to Lucian. Lucian, despite being raised as a full on hippy baby, hasn’t really followed to closely in his mother’s footsteps. Raised vegetarian, he nonetheless loves his meat. Besides, he dismisses the notion that there are any hippies around anyway. In his words, “Hippies are at least sixty, you aren’t a hippy unless you are at least sixty.”
He makes a good point, and it begs an interesting question. Hippies are, in general, seen as lazy, non working human stink bombs. But, that doesn’t take into account what became of the hippies in the years following the end of the Vietnam War. The Flower Power movement eventually morphed into the Disco scene, which eventually turned into the greedy, greedy Eighties. It turned out that many ex hippies were actually good at making money. Not really surprising, since America tends to bring out the entrepreneur in its citizens.
Which helps explain the inherent contradiction embodied by the hippy pro/ aspiring pro skater. Hippies may tend to be broke, but they don’t necessarily have to be. Some, like Josh Falk, make their living in such a fashion as allows them to be their own master. Falk, who runs his own house painting company, as well as Northwest Skateboards, has managed to carve out a niche for himself that allows him to pursue his own life, while still being able to survive with resorting to panhandling. Because, let’s be honest, relying too heavily on skating to pay the bills can be like playing Russian Roulette with your future. It’s a pretty sketchy proposition, especially if you’ve got a family you don’t want starving.
Of course, there are those who fit the stereotype, like Brian Delatorre. Brian was the only hippy I talked to who actually consumed more of the saintly herb than I. I’m not sure how, since he has no job outside of skating, and lord knows that weed don’t come cheap. Especially in Florida, where they haven’t yet realized the beauty of the friendly neighborhood prescription pot dispensary. He does play a lot of poker though, so maybe that’s how he manages to pay the bills. Still, I can’t be sure, since hippy card shark seems like such a contradiction in terms.
Another mark of the modern hippy would seem to be hairstyle. Dreads scream hippy, at least they do on white people. And, among skaters, they’ve become pretty common. Witness Matt Pailes, Tosh Townend and little Nyjah Huston, among others. But, just because you got a knotted ‘do doesn’t mean you’re a patchouli drenched dirt bag.
“Yeah,” said Pailes when I spoke to him over the phone, “ I’m not a hippy… I’ve got dreads, but I really like new clothes.”
And you know that Nyjah and Tosh aren’t hurting for any free threads. Shit, Tosh’s Dad is a surf legend, I’d be surprised if his family had paid for a stitch of clothing in his entire life. And Nyjah is still just a little kid, you can’t really say he’s a hippy yet, he’s not really anything.
Lest I forget, it’s almost impossible to think hippy without thinking of the environment. Communing with nature, trying to save all the little animals, talking to trees and then waiting for a response; hippies love their planet. Brian Downey loved it so much that he went and, with his brother’s help, converted his Jeep from gas powered to bio diesel. Now he can zip around town in his pink ride, stopping only to fill up his tank at the local fast food restaurant. But, while he cares enough about the world to try and minimize his own negative impact on it, don’t start looking for him to try and change the world. When I asked him about his political views I found that he had none. Brain manages to pretty much block out the larger world affairs from his concern, because, “…it’s pretty much pointless, no matter what you do.”
Which brings me back to where I started, mean hippies. The hippy movement failed, in any lasting sense, to achieve any real changes in the world. Here we are, decades later, with a corrupt president, locked into a pointless war, having our “American” liberties steadily eroded. But, this time it’s worse, because the generation in power, the ones who have made the decisions that are steadily fucking us into the ground, is the same one which tried to fight the same problems once upon a time. The few remaining hippies have every right to be mean. They’ve sat by and watched their former comrades make the same mistakes their forebears did, without any sense of the ridiculousness of it.
So, in closing, I’ll have to say that, while I think the original hippies were a bunch of idealistic morons, I’m a fan of the new breed. It’s nice to be able to live a life that you choose, without being to drawn into the dogma of a social movement. To not care too deeply about what the future holds for the rest of humanity may not be the most honorable way to live your life, it has nowhere near the stink of cowardice and hypocrisy that is the result of knowing better, and still repeating the same mistakes. Because, in the end there may be hope out there for each and everyone of us, but, as a group we’re no smarter today than we were the day we first started walking upright. People hurt each other, for good reasons, bad reasons, and sometimes no reason at all. But, rather than helping, it just makes life that much more unbearable to have to problems pointed out. Because we don’t change, not as a whole, and I don’t think there’s much point in trying.