Flower Power

Just finished reading Drop City, T. C. Boyle’s edgy take on the counterculture of the 1960s. Boyle’s narrative muscle brought back my freak days in glorious trippy color. Because I called myself a freak, not a hippie. Hippie was the establishments’ word for what we were, and they didn’t know shit. We called straight guys “the man” and the term was not meant kindly.

Boyle’s freaks and heads, chicks and cats, lived in a commune, the real getting back to nature deal. As I read,I was sort of jealous of them. I’d never lived in a commune, not really. The places I stayed in my freak days were derisively callled crash pads by our landlords, houses or flats in cities, never farms on rolling acres. An exception was a great place in Key West that looked out to the Gulf of Mexico. 

As an introver t, it was difficult for me to share my space with so many other people. As an underpaid waitress, it was a necessity. Just as it was a necessity that I share the bed of the guy paying most the rent in Key West. I didn’t mind, not really. I even came to care for him–until the next young girl came along looking for a place to stay and took my place in his flea-infested bed.

Boyle’s book brought back those days, the flowers, peace and love. But also the panhandling, poverty, and dirt. The worst part of letting my freak flag fly was the whole ridiculous idea of free love. Love wasn’t free, not really. Free love was just code that meant hip chicks, if they really had their head together, if they really knew where they were at, if they really dug the scene, if they were totally free of establishment hang ups, got naked with any guy any time.

And that, I see in hindsight, was just another form of coercion from the man.

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