Doug Bruns

Posts Tagged ‘Woodstock’

My Freak Flag

In Life, Memoir, Popular Culture on March 11, 2013 at 5:00 am

I haven’t cut my hair in a year and a half. I’ve had a couple of trims, like before my daughter’s wedding, but not a cut as in, “I got a haircut today.”

At fifty-seven this might appear immature and I admit to taking satisfaction in that. I take satisfaction in being a somewhat respectable pillar of the community and looking less respectable each day. It’s a good way to jigger with people’s expectations and that’s, frankly, fun, particularly if you’ve got nothing to lose. I was neat and orderly and filled the general conception of respectability long enough. I subscribe to the great American tradition of re-inventing yourself. Not cutting your hair, though so very superficial, is as easy a reinvention as a guy could hope for.

A few weeks ago I visited the business my wife and I founded twenty years ago and one of the company officers, a guy who’d not seen me in a long time, declared that I was, indeed, letting my freak flag fly. If you’re too young to appreciate the reference, you might want to check out Crosby, Stills, and Nash.

I missed Woodstock and the culture it ushered in by just a few years. The midwest, where I was raised, is slow on the uptake, which is probably not a bad thing, unless you’re a kid in Indiana assuming all the cool kids on the coasts are having a lot more fun than you are. But that seems a general state of adolescence no matter the geography. Regardless, I still long for that state of self-righteousness over a cause that I observed being exercised in the sixties and early seventies. God, what enthusiasm they had! Despite there being amble opportunity for cause–financial malfeasance, government malfeasance, Wall Street malfeasance, fill-in-the-blank malfeasance–despite everywhere you look, there seems little indignation. I am as guilty of lack in this department as the next person–a general malaise of indifference. But you expect that of a 57 year-old–we count on our kids to blaze the path of self-righteousness. That’s a poor excuse, now that I think on it. Maybe it is resignation, not just resignation of the mid-lifers, but abject and complete societal resignation. We have mostly rolled over.

Regardless of the cause, or lack thereof, I’m letting my freak flag fly high. Peace. Love. Hippie Beads forever.

Crosby, Stills, and Nash:

This Land is Your Land

In Creativity, Memoir, Music on June 21, 2010 at 2:25 pm
Arlo Guthrie

Arlo Guthrie

We saw Arlo Guthrie perform in Ogunquit last night. He was wonderful, a witty, and compelling musician. He is the traveling bard, teller of tall tales and entertainer. He is also a link to a tradition, two traditions in fact. For he is born of the Great American Hippy Tradition, for lack of more graceful prose. He performed at Woodstock in 1969. I was fourteen and at camp in Northern Michigan. Camp was remote, but we still learned of the concert that summer. The counselors, young men in their late teens and older, heard about it and passed it along. I recall sitting wide-eyed on my bunk and wishing I was part of that strange and exciting world. Guthrie related how he’d been called on stage at Woodstock a day early, and that he was in no condition to perform, citing the atmosphere at the concert: “A lot of hippies…” The audience laughed. He was sporting long locks of hair, every strand now silver-gray. We were still chuckling when he launched into Coming into Los Angles. The words came to me, to everyone, in a rush and we broke into song, “Don’t check my bags if you please, mister customs man.” Certainly I was not the only one transported to another time and place.

The other tradition Arlo represents, also on full display last night, is that of his father,

Woody Guthrie

Woody Guthrie

folk-singer and activist, Woodie Guthrie. He talked lovingly of his dad and since it was father’s day, he played many of his dad’s songs in tribute. He spoke of his father’s book, Bound for Glory, and talked poignantly about his last years battling debilitating physical infirmities. He was all the while and to the end, creative and productive. Arlo performed several songs unknown to anyone outside of  family and archivists, created during this period. Arlo is not strident, at least he was not last night. But his father’s songs, were–and still are, in the finest tradition. They are songs of race and immigration and struggle; songs about the land and what is fair and about justice. Perhaps most about justice. And tellingly, they easily could have been written today. As Arlo said, “Man, the world still sucks.”

I marveled at the rich legacy on display, these two traditions, Woodstock and Woodie Guthrie, embodied in this one man. It prompted me to reflect on the current paucity of response to today’s challenges, the lack of rational activism, the voices of reason. Where might I now find a community of idealists, let alone the visionary bard?