Friday, July 29, 2005

Eugene, Oregon

Eugene, Oregon is sort of like the island of lost hippies; it's where all the broken children of the sixties went when everywhere else in the country was too hostile towards them. The good side of this is the fact that they seem to have learned to do everything. Look around Eugene and there are hippie businessmen, farmers, salespeople, artists, and even hippie plumbers. The downside is the same as what you see in places like Amsterdam- armies of rainbow brained shipwrecks wandering the streets at night, mumbling to themselves.

I guess maybe hippie isn't the right word anymore- let's call them "pastoralists" to be nice. The thing about pastoralists is that I can agree with many of their ideas. For example, the marijuana laws are perhaps the stupidest, most draconian, and least necessary laws in the American legal code. Fine, we can agree on that. But, how do you convince Joe Wisconsin of that fact? Do you:
A) Get a chemistry degree at an Ivy League school, put on a suit, and hold a press conference to state that the conclusion of your years of tireless research is that marijuana is not addictive and causes little to no long-term damage?
B) Dress up like a nauseating, half-naked turtle in a paper-mache costume during an anti-Bush parade and beat a tambourine?

If you answered B, you might be a hippie... er, pastoralist. What has always bothered me about them is that their lifestyle seems less like an attempt to change the world than an attempt to pretend that they don't live there.

1 comment:

W. S. Cross said...

I will be revealing my age to say I lived through the first effusion of hippiness in the 60s, so let me deny it and say everything I learned about the era came from Gerard Jones's very lovely novel Ginny Good. Now that I've got THAT out of the way, let me say that your characterization of "pastoralists" as trying to deny living in this world is dead on.

But then, our culture's fascination with escapism of all sorts (movies, Harry Potter, music) seems to reveal a strong yearn in the human species to escape. Maybe the pastoralists have simply cut through to the essence and done what the rest of us secretly wish for?