6.6 Question #1

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.

22 Responses to 6.6 Question #1

  1. Colleen Rae says:

    I think I”ve already told you Al that I consider myself an ex-hippie. I traveled the world with a back pack in the 70’s, slept on dirt floors, in forests and drank tea with Afghani smugglers. As far as the surviving hippie communes, I think there are still a couple in Oregon. I am one of those who believes that the passionate enviornmentalists are indeed carrying one of the hippie torches. Although I was non-political in my hippie days, I did protest and demonstrate against the Vietnam War. Some would say that is being political, we thought it was a matter of morality. I think you already knew this info about me. I am sharing it with your friends.
    You have broadened your human-interaction group by all the interesting and colorful people you have met along your travels. I feel fortunate that you share your new friends with those of us who follow your blog.
    I fear the young people of today are more self-centered than we were in the late 60’s/70’s. They want their I-Phone, laptop, internet game equipment (I’m ignorant of what they are), and will cheat on their SAS tests to get into the college of their choice. That ought to bring some reaction from your supporters of your blog.

    • allevenson says:

      Thanks, Colleen. I fully expected you would stoke the fire of this topic. I am not disappointed.

      I am certain there are 40 year-old communes in Oregon. I did not learn about them until I was already in SoCal. So I am looking to find some that are still in front of me.

      BTW. I think there are a few closet ex-Hippies out there–people who prefer to ignore/deny that part of their life.


  2. Pat Bean says:

    I consider myself a flower child. However, when everyone else was off making love not war, I was changing diapers. After 12 years of that I was exposed to the real world through the eyes of a journalist. My way of fighting against the powers that be was to try and tell the American people the truth. While that did not include front-line action, it included telling them the pain of a mother whose son was killed in battle and quoting his letters home. Then I fought, in my own way, for passage of the equal rights admendment for women. Today, I’m thought of as idealistic because I still believe in a world where ethnicity and beliefs are not cause for prejudices and hatred; and a world where greed for power and wealth gives way to fair play and justice. This is what being a hippie means to me. I am proud to call myself a flower child. I have no answers for your other questions.

  3. Eric Levine says:

    I for one would find it helpful if you defined your terms, Al. It seems (to me) that your idea (ideal?) of ‘hippie’ is perhaps more narrow than my own. Also, what do you consider are ‘hippie values’ & ‘hippie-like issues’?

    My initial reaction is that offspring of the hippie movement can be found in the burgeoning emphasis on organic foods and gardening, buy local campaigns, gay/lesbian issues of equality and civil rights, as well as the various ‘Occupy’ protests.

    • allevenson says:

      By not defining terms, I permit people to respond according to the definitions in their head—as you did.And I thank you for your perspectives.

      No one gets to be the one who decide whether others are pure in their hippiness. Some showed up just for the anti=war movement; some for the sex, drugs, and rock and roll; some to tune in, turn on, and drop out; some for the free sex posing as free love; some to live off the grid; some as a mask for anger or adolescence; some for the costume; and some for reasons I failed to mention.

  4. Colleen Rae says:

    I”‘m sure you are correct Al, in that there are some closet-hippies still. I haven’t known any. Most of my friends, as I am, are proud to have been flower children/hippies. We brag about it if the subject comes up.

    • allevenson says:

      There was no intent to disparage closet hippies. I think there people who embraced one or more of the qualities of being a hippie and then moved on from there. They believe they left behind what labeled them without shame but without pride as well.

      I consider you an evolved hippie. You kept and still wear proudly many of the badges of your hippie days and carried forward your values and points of view into the phase of your life that included parenting and profession.

      I am happy that our paths crossed and continue to benefit from being connected to you.

  5. karen wittgraf says:

    I, too, was changing diapers during the mid sixties. I think it all started with the “Beatnik” era- where intellectualism became “cool”..How wonderful! Poetry and books, music and all the fine arts became a way of life, regardless of monetary issues. With an open heart, hippies arrived and questioned. They no longer could accept meaningless wars, conformity to a “Leave it to Beaver” society, and inequality. Yes, there were those that were in it all for the indulgent reasons- but overall, I think of it as a period of enlightenment and their voices were heard. Today’s youth are not ALL tech freaks, I saw that first hand at Occupy NYC. I am proud, also, to say I have a hippie state of mind. We are the patriots.

  6. Tanya Grove says:

    Colleen, I’m sure that there are some self-centered teens today as there are self-centered people of all ages; and as Al mentioned, some of the young people in the 60s were more attracted to the drugs and rock ‘n roll than to making peace. That’s not a condemnation, just a fact. Every movement, no matter how pure the original intentions, attracts elements that detract from the primary purpose and can even hurt the cause. All eras have versions of this from hippies to today’s Occupy movements groups.

    But I’m equally sure that today there are compassionate, forward-thinking, generous young people who are quite eager to change the world for the better. My daughter lives her life trying to take as little from the earth as possible by buying used products, recycling, and making art and useful objects from what others throw away. My nephew spent a chunk of his summer off from school helping to clean up in Japan after the earthquake and ensuing floods. I know kids who found an environmentally friendly pizza place who organized a carrot mob. (A carrot mob is a group that spreads the word to frequent a specific business at the same time to create positive publicity.) These kids showed that environmental concerns are important enough to make food choices around them. A former student of mine went off to college and founded Challah for Hunger, raising money for those less fortunate. These are just kids I happen to know.

    So, I know it’s easy to see the abuses of technology today and associate those with children born in the digital age, but the truth is there’s a lot of technology that is beneficial and there are plenty of people far too young to be ex-hippies who are concerned with justice and human rights.

    I realize I’m not really answering Al’s first question about hippies, but I just wanted to express this: hippies were not the last socially conscious group of young people. They paved the way for others, but those who followed did so in their own ways.

  7. Dave L says:

    Another perspecitve arrives ….
    Zoots, beats, hippies, gen xers, occupiers – all seem to me to be states of mind that oppose, in various ways, the status quo. I think in some respect it reflects the contrast between the real world, newly encountered, and the idealism inculcated by our formative years of conventional education. That said, organized movements, to Canada or Liberty Square, are prompted by socioeconomic conditions that are so far from the ideal that we need to scream, but instead we don different attire, write poetry in coffee houses, smoke weed, and today camp out in the town square. Listen up, things just aren’t going right, is our message.

  8. jordan says:

    uncle al..as a fellow travellin man..im back in santa fe by the way..i’;ve lived my life not living my life with “labels”..one thing i can share as a gen x’er..44yr old who has travelled to every inch of the US, it’s hard to put one label on anyone..sedona was filled with cliche hippies..pot smoking, doc martin wearing, bearded, former dead heads..some had protest signs of the 99% on the main drag, while others rode the bike next to me at the gym..some were were seemingly in desperate financial straits while others were rich and retired..
    when i think hippie i think venice beach..i lived there..yet, in between the actors and artists and freaks and hippies in VW buses there were 3 million dollar homes..and the ones in the rich homes–are they hippies? i think so..i think santa cruz is a hippie town..but, im sure a rich hippie doesn’t fit the cliche or stereotype..
    when i lived at the beach in southern california, i knew a lot of people–young and old–with many hippie values..we still love to have fun..c live music..be out of the box..create..liberal..yet, we don’t fit any cliche..i know hippie dressed flower children who sell millions in real estate..i know hippie attitude’d guys who travel the country seeing great music, then spend 4 months preparing other people’s taxes..and on and on..
    i’m in santa fe, new mexico..lots of cliche hippies here..would someone look at me as a hippie or someone with similar values? not upon looking at me..but, i am a result of the hippie culture at it’s best..in the end, i’m just me..and that’s a victory for the hippies..

    • allevenson says:


      Thanks for your thoughtful response. Your perspective, from a generation behind me, and the majority of equally curious people who read my blog, is appreciated.

      As different as you and I are, of all my nieces and nephs, I think you are the one from your generation who hears many of the same sirens that I do.

      Stay in touch, let me know where you light, I look forward to the next time we see each other.


  9. jordan says:

    p.s.–most of the people i know want to and do make a difference in the world..but, again–not in cliche ways..they don’t join the peace corp–a noble pursuit..they spend a lot more time with their kids and families..and their communities..that is where the make the most difference..and they def do a lot more work on themselves to be a better person..
    in my travels, clearly the college towns are where the most hippie values still r..and in pockets filled with the opposite..
    hippie values have mainstreamed in many .ways..and that is a good thing..
    young kids today..even ones far from considered hippie..reflect hippie culture..they all care about the environment..gay and lesbian issues are a non-issue to them,..and i can tell you–regardless of the doom and gloom we read about–they still see the world filled with endless possibilities..

  10. David Bauer says:

    As I see it from a very broad level of analysis, the so called Hippie Movement emerged in response to the social climate in the US created by a combination of the Vietnam Conflict, the Civil Rights Movement , and the Cold War. It was a reflection of earlier anti-establishment movements such as the Bohemian movement in Europe and in the US at the turn of the 20th Century as well as in the 1940s and 1950s anti-conformist youth movement in New York City, which was labeled by author Jack Kerouac as being the Beat Generation. In the US, followers of that movement were known as Beatniks. In the 50’s poet Allen Ginsberg gave voice to that world view and was a leading figure among members of the Beatnik group New York City. Ginsberg emerged in the early 60s as a significant figure who expressed aspects of the Hippie counter-culture’s philosophy of life in his poetry.

    Along with rejection of the capitalistic economic system, a key feature of the Hippie ethos was a back-to-the-land, simple, and self-sufficient life style such as the life lived by Helen and Scott Nearing, who reported on their approach in their book titled The Good Life. During the 60s and early 70s the Nearings hosted a constant flow of young women and men at their home and compound to be students who volunteered time and talents in exchange for living with and learning from the Nearings. Among those students who studied with the Nearings were Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman. Both Damrosch and Coleman have continued on in the Nearing tradition by focusing their life’s work on organic gardening and a self-sufficient lifestyle.

    Now having defined loosely what the word Hippie means to me, my opinion is that the movement has had a lasting impact on American as well as on world culture For example, along with their clear contribution to the growing and consuming of organic foods and other products, the Hippies played a major role in the cessation of the hostilities in Vietnam. Also, because they called increased attention to living more in harmony with, than in control of, nature, the social movement stimulated concern for protecting the natural environment along with creation of more holistic approaches to modern medicine. Today, I see many young people following in the traditon of their parents and grandparents by sharing these same values, even though they may be using different technologies to actualize those values.

    From a personal perspectives, I can say that though I am growing old, I am not an Old Hippie, at least on the surface. Through the last 50 years, however, i have agreed with many of the positions on social issues taken by the group and with the group’s attempt to live simply, harmoniously, and lovingly. On the other hand, I have also felt at times that certain individuals claiming to represent the group have gone to extremes by committing the very same acts of violence against their fellow human beings as they were allegedly protesting against. That type of action only served to polarize, rather than unify, the broader community in which we were trying to live life productively, creatively and peacefully.

    At any rate, Al, these are a few thoughts that I have had in response to the question that you have raised in this issue of your blog.

  11. jordan says:

    have to say one of my pet peeves..older generations negative on younger ones..does this happen with every generation?..about 11 years or so ago i was at my mom;’s house..the home i grew up in..i was visiting and sleeping in my own room..my mom comes in and we had a great talk..then she says she’s worried about the future and the younger generation..”things arey just so fast now”..i look at her and say..”not to the younger generation..it just is”..just because younger generations have all this technology..just means they–like other generations–have different things and lives..things are not falling apart..if i were a kid worried about going to vietnam, i’d be freaking out..if i were a kid doing nuclear bomb drills in school? to a kid, that has to be a crazy memory..the hippie generation had to deal with that growing up..
    i do my best to stop myself when i see a younger person who i don’t understand..not understanding doesn;t make things out of control or “things are falling apart”

    and ps–the hippie generation invented a lot of technology we use today..hundreds of millions of non-americans have better lives because of this..we tend to forget the amazing difference made by that generation to people outside this country..

    i ramble..great topic al..clearly got me going

    • allevenson says:


      I am thrilled at the variety of perspectives that have shown up for this topic. I think may people like yourself had some ideas that had been rolling around in their heads and the topic gelled them. The blog provided a safe place to sort our and verbalize.

      The notion of generations being negative about subsequent generations is not obvious to me. Every generation must have worried about what the increased pace would do to their children’s live but each must have recognized the increase in pace from the generation of their parents.

      I dont know how well you remember your grandfather, my father. When you were a teen, he was the age I am now, and he was already much more slowed than I am today. I remember him when he was the age you are today and I worked for him after school stocking shelves in his store. And I used to wonder about his teens. He’d lost his father, his mother moved in with a cousin. There was no room for my pop an he slept on porches as a 14 year old. He left school and worked. His life was mostly about work and providing for his kids and not much else. He was a taciturn man and I am sure never understood all the mischief kids got into.

      Whether or not you ever have children of your own, your brothers have already provided you with nieces and nephews for you to observe as your decade tick away.

      I hope I am around and lucid in twenty years to hear you take on the next generation.

  12. Dave L says:

    Provocative discussion. I agree witht David B and Jordon above in that labels don’t tell the story. People spend their energy serving their interests – themselves, their communtiy and family, and their country – in all sorts of ways and in many directions. Some, due to circumstances, find common ground and hold hands. Enough said.

  13. jordan says:

    one thing about technology..it’s neutral..you do what you want with it..for me, i run a business that allows me to live anywhere i want..a good thing..to a family with kids in a local school?–what i use it for would have little use..my older brother met his wife on an online dating site..they lived 4 blocks from each other and probably never would have met..without technology..

    this topic is one that i have thought about before..keep it coming uncle al

  14. I’m afraid I don’t relate to much of this. I wore my hair long, smoked weed and listened to rock n’roll in college, but that didn’t make me a hippie. I did not join Bohemia voluntarily, as an “act of rebellion against the stasus quo” but was forced into it by other circumstances (BTW: the number of “bohos” I’ve met who hold reactionary values would surprise you). I never got the chance to rebel against the system:I was simply locked out of it–or exiled–before the idea could take shape. I was starkly conservative in high school, grew more liberal in college, but never embraced–or was embraced by–the Left. Politically, I remain a moral pragmatist, mostly liberal, sometimes conservative. I sometimes wish I’d played it “straight.”

  15. Andrew says:

    What I see today is how conscientious we are as a family and many of the people in my communities are about recycling our goods, donating our lightly used things, and reducing our carbon footprint where we can. Receiving hand me downs from our friend’s older kids and in turn donating our hand me downs to the newer born kids of other friends is very common. We buy local where and when we can and support our local farms and businesses. We have had a backyard organic garden for years that includes several apple trees. What is very interesting is the growing trend towards keeping backyard chickens that is becoming very popular around here. There are 2 families within walking distance that are now raising their own. I know of another local family that is planning to start beekeeping in the spring. I have channeled some of this energy over the years into baking and am now proud to call myself a professional baker. One of the satisfying benefits this has provided is the ability to trade my bread for eggs with my neighbors. I certainly hope to be able to do the same for neighborhood honey next year. This would have seemed quite odd in my neighborhood when I was growing up but now seems quite normal.

    We do not put any labels on this activity. It is simply how we live our lives and in many ways huge improvements on the behaviors that seemed common when I was growing up. I see many examples of the same within our local communities. Our local farms are partnering with our local schools to supply more local food for school lunches. Most schools now maintain organic gardens to enhance the learning opportunities about our food and much of the bounty is eaten by students or donated to local food banks. Local towns are ranked by the percentage of its trash that is recycled and come up with inventive schemes to raise the percentages. Sure recycling costs the town less money to deal with its trash so it is a win win. Green construction is now common to greatly reduce the amount of energy needed to power and heat or homes and buildings while reducing harmful chemicals and the waste generated by construction. Many seem to take for granted how these changes have greatly changed the way we live our lives. Growing up saving energy was a short lived 70’s phenomenon and our efforts were no better than lowering our heat a degree or two and turning off some lights. Today we are insulating better, our heating systems are more efficient, our light bulbs us a fraction of the energy they once did, our clothes and dishes are washed much more efficiently, on and on.

    I think that the younger generations deserve far more credit that than they are given. Most are hard working and conscientious. Most work 2 or even 3 jobs to make ends meet since good quality full time well paying jobs are becoming harder to find. We have provided them a world with many improvements but have also stuck them with many social and environmental issues that they will have to deal with. To begrudge them the tools that have become common in all of our lives – iPhones, iPods, Kindles, etc – is simply counter productive. Did we not all judge our parents unfairly for not embracing enough the technology of the day?

  16. Linda Brown says:

    Al, the word hippie is so broad. Many hippies have led (or are leading) organizations today, especially advocacy-oriented nonprofits.

    The Occupy movement as well as the Tea Party seem to be two versions today. Like the 60’s, the people who support the cause are diverse. It takes a certain type of person to raise awareness through marches, writing, and speaking. Others, sometimes those behind the scenes, may negotiate with the powers that be. At the end, social change takes a critical mass to make the necessary daily changes in their own life.

    I am heartened by the positive social changes that came out of the 60’s and glad I could make small contributions on campus and later, in the workplace. Did my actions make me a hippie? I see myself on the fringes as I marched (with James Farmer of the Congress for Racial Equality) in a former Confederate state (Texas) and invited him to speak on campus. I fought for equal opportunity in the workplace and lost a couple of jobs when I drew the line in the sand over discriminatory practices such as paying for memberships in clubs that discriminated.

    I am dismayed that many changes took so long and saddened to see those whose bad trip(s) lasted a life time.

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