In my years I have already visited scores of National Parks, driven thousands of miles of scenic highways, supped on exotic food, visited museums, and enjoyed theater—small and extravagant. These were no longer priorities when I set out a year ago.
I knew from the outset one of my purposes was to emulate Steinbeck’s 1958
journey with his French Gentleman, Charley. Steinbeck went in search of America, and I took that to mean the hearts and minds of its people.
Someone from outside the United States probably perceives Americans as homogeneous—uniform in our attitudes and values, politics and prejudices, flaws and faults, opinions and identities. But as citizens we know our country has regional identities and rivalries, as well as predilections and presumptions.
In my lifetime I’ve met people from many parts of the country in which I lived, who’d moved to my locale, or came in to do some business with me. Yet my ideas of our variety are vague.
And so, I resolved to put myself in the way of people, to engage them, and intrude into their more private thoughts.
In order to open the conversational pathways, I decided on three topics and developed three questions that I would ask as soon as a rapport was established.
I’ve collected a few answers, but I’d like more and am ready to seek the help of Jolly Swag’s virtual passengers.
A word about the passenger population, I began with about 150 friends, family, and acquaintances: a group skewed by the very fact of their connection to me. Drawn as they are from my activities, their interests, attitudes, political inclinations would reflect my own leanings. True there are a few who are way at the ends of the curve. They run from the radical left to the radical right, and they are there to keep me honest and informed.
In the last year the number of followers seems to have tripled as I add people I meet from my new world of RV travelers, coffee shop denizens, and the true locals I’ve been lucky enough to connect with. When meeting new people, I avoid revealing my personal bent on national issues or opinions on controversial topics, the better to draw them out.
Over the next few days, I’d like to pose my questions to you. You may share your answer with every one. Remember this IS the Internet —blog readers include those who stumble in via a search engine. Or you may respond to me privately if you prefer privacy. I expect to aggregate the responses and do a chapter on each in the eventual book.
The first question has to do with hippies.
Where are the old hippies? I have met pockets of them as well as individuals and even some former hippies who remolded themselves into mainstream individuals.
And the follow up questions:
What movements today are the heirs to the hippie movement? Are the young people with hippie values coalescing around hippie-like issues? Some would argue that the passionate environmentalists are carrying one of the hippie torches.
Where are the surviving hippie communes? I know there are some that continue as communities after forty years
I know that many of my friends identify themselves as old hippies and ex-hippies. Others might have been antithetical to the notion of hippies. I expect your comments will be across a wide spectrum.
And, FYI, the hippie topic is the lightweight warm-up for the next two: Politics and Religion.