Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Reading Joan Didion's essay "Slouching to Gomorrah", bringing up some memories

"Slouching to Gomorrah" is Joan Didion's essay on the Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco during the peak of the hippy era, in 1967, and focuses on the disturbing aspects of the scene. Didion interviewed runaways, hippies that only knew drug use and slogans, and folks who thought that it was groovy to give acid to kids.

One of the most poignant paragraphs talks about how these folks can't be counter-culture, because they haven't known culture at all. They came from bad backgrounds and skipt out of town to join the Summer of Love. I agree, and can most definitely apply that judgement to my own experience of the neo-hippy lifestyle in middle school and, to a much lesser extent, in early high school.

What does a twelve year old person know about the hippy movement? What I saw was a sappy ideal. I looked to TV during the early '90s revival of interest and saw documentaries, movies, and bands like Blind Melon, and I thought it all looked much better than what was around me. I saw a notion of folks motivated by peace and love who wanted to pursue a compassionate utopia. Of course I had no actual contact with the culture.

I drifted from there into a group of friends concerned with another ideal, the masculine fantasy utopia of gangster rap that was marketed to white people in the mid '90s. It happened without too much of a shock to my system. The reason, strange as it may seem, is that both communities, the neo-hippies and that of adolescent gangster rap fans, where composed of people who were lost and looking for something, anything, and one ideal looked just as good as another.

I eventually put the gangster silliness behind and moved into Alternative culture, where I've stayed every since, albeit with hippy idealism added in.

Lost child, the Lost Highway, perhaps there's a connection there.

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