Finally, some flowers. It’s like there was no spring this year. We went straight from winter to summer. It’s nice to see a few flowers before the sun cooks them into tinder.
The bummer is that flowers remind me of those anti-fascist protesters. Sounds crazy, but it’s true. These far-left-leaning forces remind me of the flower children we were back when our youth was often mistaken for genius.
Flower children in the 1960s and ’70s didn’t dress up like ninjas. But we were just as vexed about the things going on in the world — so much so that we were willing to scream ourselves hoarse and get shot by police tear gas.
In my closet is a box from my teenage years, a dimly remembered time when I was smarter than anyone over 30. In the box are my scratched Cream and Jimi Hendrix albums, a bunch of beads, an incense holder, pressed flowers and a few frayed anti-war leaflets.
It also holds a prisoner-of-war bracelet demanding a full accounting for a missing Navy pilot, a poster of cops beating civil rights marchers and John Lennon communing with some Indian guru — whose name I forget because he doesn’t matter anymore and probably didn’t back then.
There’s a picture of some girl, my friend Bammer and me pretending to burn my draft card and her bra. I even saved a picture of Acid Head, my cat, whom we planned to nominate for president one organically disjointed autumn.
I’m not proud of any of that. Wistful, maybe, but not proud. At the time, though, it seemed like the appropriate response to a world an older generation had dumped on us — one filled with racism, war, pollution and a morally bankrupt president.
Sure, they were wrong but so were we. Our “turn on and drop out” response to society did not make things better; it made them worse. But, wow, did we feel superior doing it.
Proof of what we accomplished is right outside the windows of our business offices, suburban homes and nursing care facilities where we grind out the rest of our sold-out lives making an economy possible.
Roll over, Haight-Ashbury. We made the same stupid mistakes our parents did, and we’ve become invisible as a result. If we’re noticeable at all, it’s as someone to blame for the world’s woes by the children and grandchildren we loosed into it.
Every generation is assured of ignominy because every generation is one extreme born of another. No generation has ever been able to right the wrongs of a previous one because no generation — no matter how much justifiable outrage it feels — has ever learned how to make itself free and responsible at the same time.
My generation is on the verge of extinction. The next couple of generations prove that the legacy we left is not.
Fools who cried free love was peace and peace could be achieved only by free drugs for everyone are gone.
Oh, we changed a few things. We made gains against racism, tore down some provincial thought and fought repressive censorship, but we left in our wilted-flower wake a world rife with sexual disease, corporate greed and military buildup that make Vietnam seem like small change.
Life happened to my generation as sure as it happened to the ducktailed and poodle-skirted generation of my parents. The draft board came looking for me, Bammer married a woman who turned him into a Mormon bishop, and Acid Head didn’t make it back across the highway one night.
My friends who are still alive today are now patriotic and brassiered family types embarrassed by what we once were.
If we learned anything about changing life, it’s more because of what life eventually did to us rather than what we did to it.