#SilverCity #NewMexico #USA: Hippie Fix, aaahhhh….
If you were a member of the 60’s-70’s counter-culture, then it never really leaves you: that camaraderie, that look in the eye, that length of the hair, that… that… hipness that defined you as a card-carrying member of a special group, raised in revolution and defined by contrariness, contrary to the mores of ‘society’, contrary to the dictates of government, and—especially—contrary to the will of Mom and Dad. Hey, you gotta’ have priorities.
Sure, there was a certain amount of self-satisfied know-it-all smugness to the term (i.e. I’m hip; you’re not); and the politics were never as notable as the parties; and more than a little bit of the economy was based on clandestine agriculture or Mom-and-Pop trustafarianism, but still… Being a hippie was good, and fun, and had meaning, in stark contrast to the increasing materialism of modern Western societies and the increasing militarism of the US, in particular.
But, if you’re like most hippies, or ex-hippies, then you need a little booster shot once in a while to keep the feeling fresh. For some places, that’s their stock in trade, say Oregon, labeled ‘last bastion of the terminally hip’ as long ago as 1980. It’s still pretty hip. Then there are New Zealand, certain parts of Europe, and satellite operations in such remote centers of ex-pat awareness as Guatemala, Peru, Bali, Thailand, Nepal, India, etc.
But if you’re Joe Blow in Peoria, or Zhou Blou in Chengdu, then it’s nice to be able to find something a little bit closer, until one can take the full-fledged Hajj to the Oregon Country Fair one summer, a rite of passage for all aspiring hippies (don’t miss the midnight show). So little did I know when I set my trajectory from Tucson to Albuquerque via Silver City, that this would be my pilgrimage. Sure there’s a bluegrass festival, but there’s bluegrass festivals, and then there’s Bluegrass Festivals…
But the music is not really the star attraction here. The town itself is, in all its heady hipness and happiness. At first I thought they were putting me on, in some sort of cosmic joke or scam set-up:
God to staff: We’ve got a tourist at the gate. Roll the ‘Breaking Bad’ tape… oops! My bad. This guy’s got damage. Roll ‘Pleasantville’, instead. He’ll like that…
But no; it’s genuine. I’ve examined the 3-D display, looking for cracks in the screen, but nothing. It’s the real deal. The smiles are real, and these people are soooooo sweet. It’s almost just like Flagstaff—c. 1990—but friendlier and less cliquish. At first I kept wanting to yell out to these other-dimensional doppelgangers by their Flagstaff names, barely catching myself before I did…
It’s like a throwback to another time: just walk up and enjoy the music, free, no bag check, no body search. Pull up a lawn chair and an ice chest, and enjoy the music. Dance when the mood strikes… in hiking boots, or barefoot. And there are no shortage of hippie princesses either, donned in frills and lace, think early Stevie Nicks, frolicking and frivoling, and of course: guys, too, channeling their inner Deadhead and tripping out on their favorite private love drug…
But here come some bad-ass mothers now. They’ll shake this party down. Better back up and give these El Paso gang-bangers some room… no… wait… they’re dancing! SIX GANG-BANGERS FROM EL PASO ARE DANCING AN IRISH JIG IN FRONT OF THE BANDSTAND IN SILVER CITY, NEW MEXICO! This is unreal! This is huge! This means I don’t have to go to Oregon to get my hippie fix once a decade any more! I feel tears welling up in my eyes… no, really…
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I’m better now. Every high must have its lows, of course. I’m sure these people don’t smile like this every day… there’s no festival every day, to be sure… and if I lived here, it would all be different by that very fact. I’d probably be so stressed out with work; would I even bother to come down and hear the music? Good question.
Love is a rose, but you better not pick it. But I want to. I want to pick it. These smiles are contagious. I could get used to this. What is it about an upturned corner of the mouth that makes the universe shine brighter? Which came first, the happiness or the smile? It’s still there the next day, though, so I didn’t just imagine it.
And then it occurs to me: ‘Americana’ is more than just a genre of music. Americana is the distillation of everything that is unique and valuable about the American experience, something that I haven’t been too much in love with lately, as a matter of fact—America the bully, America the idiot, America the violent, America the suicidal. But this is different, just like olden times, apple pie and sweetness.
Funny, I set out four months ago to find Thailand, riffing on the theme of America, and end up finding America in the process. And then something else occurs to me: hipness is more than just a fashion statement, or a musical choice, or a drug of choice. It’s a way of life, a way of life that distils the human-ness of humanity the same way that Americana distils the essence of American-ness; almost the same thing, really.
The meek will inherit the earth—that’s gospel.
And surely that refers to the world’s indigenous peoples, those that maintained their traditions, and their folkways, and their knowledge. That’s my gospel. But western cultures have lost all that, in their rush to modernity. But we have hippies. That’s the next best thing. And as civilization continues to commit sui-genocide, it’s increasingly important. The hippies will inherit the earth. I like that. I feel better now. Maybe the New Dark Ages won’t be so dark after all.
(Show headliners Sarah Jarosz and Steve Riley were excellent, BTW, as were the other dozen some-odd bands. But Silver City could use a little of the local music, you know, if not Apache, then Mexican. They have pickers, too. But that’s next weekend, at Globalquerque! in Albuquerque).