Tag Archives: hippie
August in Florida
Outside, people crowd around water. Heat, the bright aqua of water, smell of chlorine and sun lotion. Coconut, spice. Young girls with slender hips, high breasts. Mincing, they walk barefoot over the burning concrete. Ankle bracelets. Hairless women, hairy men. Some men look vaguely female–lack body hair, possess slender torso, a feminine grace. They practice diving off the high platform, catapulting through the air like minor gods.
Spindly little children, bowlegged, one girl like a large walking doll, Wedgewood eyes, white skin, hair almost white, but so fierce. She puts her face in the water, proud of herself, comes up spitting, does it over and over. This girl’s mother, slim, pale body like a teenager’s, but her face red and sun-aged, enormous Southern twang. A former cheerleader, rural Georgia or Alabama. Lying on the blistering concrete, eyes closed, listening to the sounds of laughter and splashing. My sore back, the heat melting the ache away.
On the towel closest to me, a young girl, pretty, bleached blonde hair with dark roots showing, golden-brown string bikini that matches her skin, her perfect feet. Sudden thunder, the pool closed, into the locker rooms for 20 minutes. Live oaks, huge spread branches like arms reaching into the sky. The arms are shading, watchful. The oaks are like sentinels. The moss hangs like underarm hair. Young boys, thick and awkward, walk stiff-legged. They turn dark reddish-brown, but look silly next to the black kids. Tall, skinny black boy with red hair, a crew cut. His mama, a large woman in bright blue tank suit and neon orange shorts, matching neon bathing cap. Her earrings graze the sides of her neck. She isn’t ready to leave yet. He watches the girls, pretending not to.
Over there, a skinny, burnt woman with bad teeth, yet her daughters are so lovely, so young and fair and smooth. How did she produce them? A hippie girl with a blonde baby boy, crooning one minute, yelling the next, she holds him on her hip, sways in the sun. More and more women look like those prehistoric clay fertility figurines, heavy hanging breasts, stomach overlapping their thighs. I lie still and watch, lazy with the heat, my own weight.
Elf Therapists I Have Known, a short story
I went to a Reichian therapist (a disciple of Wilhelm Reich, who was a student of Sigmund Freud) once, and it was some experience. She was this neat little lady named Lila. She had these big flashing eyes and she looked like an elf except she didn’t have pointed ears. Well, actually, maybe she did. I’m not sure. Wow, I think they really were pointed ears! So, like, dude, I think she actually was an elf! How spooky is that? The elf Reichian therapist/analyst/spiritual counselor? Who just happened to be counseling my dad? In group therapy? With my Aunt, his baby sister, who was ten years younger than him? Like I was ten years older than my baby brother? My two daughters that I have now, thirty something years later, are ten years apart. How many times do we have to repeat this generational pattern thing to get it right? To infinity, and beyond, it would seem.
So, the reason I went to see her, Lila the elf therapist, is that I was in California visiting my father the Communist criminal defense lawyer. He was really tall and thin with wild, curly hair. He was what I call now an “interesting” person. Which my older daughter will tell you really means “eccentric,” which is supposedly good, and which my younger daughter will tell you means “weird,” which is not so good, in fact, is bad in a major way, that is, any way which embarrasses her in front of her friends, which may be perfect strangers, but, you can never be too careful. Someone might turn out, in the end, to be a friend. Or they might turn out to be your worst enemy, so don’t give them any ammo they might be able to use against you in future.
Well, anyway, I was out visiting him, my Commie criminal defense lawyer father whom I didn’t see from the ages of four to twelve, over Easter break when I am fifteen going on sixteen, the exact same age my younger daughter is now, and he had an appointment for group therapy while I was there, and for some unknown reason, he invited me to go along with him. Because I guess he thought exposing a vulnerable adolescent to some of the wackiest, mid-1970s-counterculture, radical German existentialist-inspired group therapy that ever existed was a great idea to heal our battered and bruised father/daughter relationship! Which is exactly the sort of thing my father would think! Which is one of the things I most love about him now, but let me tell you, then was a completely different story!
I didn’t love this characteristic of Popsy at all when I was fifteen. No, that characteristic made my stomach hurt. In fact, the entire time I was with him, mostly, I was always on the verge of passing out, throwing up, breaking into a horrible sweat, having diarrhea, or all of those things simultaneously! Not that I was tense, mind you, just that he made me ever the teensiest bit nervous because of his unpredictable-ness. Excuse me while I wipe the tears from my eyes from writing that last couple of sentences! Tears of laughter! Now! Tears of sickness, then. See what a difference 36 years can make to a person? From one of your most horrible experiences to one of your most cherished, a few dozen deaths and a few divorces and a couple of children later! I’m laughing so hard I have abdominal cramps right this second! Whew!
Sisterlove, a short story
I was teaching my sister to drive that year. We had bought a weird old ’66 Barracuda, silvery-mauve color, and we’d spent weekends compounding the surface, getting ready to give it a coat of wax that would make it really shine. Vickie and I used the car to cruise the strip and troll for boys. My sister loved the boys. The boys loved my sister.
She had long hair, golden brown, with blonde ends. It turned green when she went swimming, then we’d cut the green parts off with nail scissors, her sitting on the toilet, me catching the hair in an ancient orange beach bucket. We’d leave the hair on the compost pile for the birds to line their nests with.
Vickie had gone crazy about this guy Michel she’d met over spring break, and all she could talk about was getting up to Canada to visit him. It might as well have been China. She was still a virgin, but crazy over the idea of sex. I pretended I didn’t care about boys in the slightest, but I did, maybe more than she did. I’d never had a real boyfriend, just a few short flings. Vickie was always falling in love, which made me sick to my stomach.
I was two years older. I was named Edna for my great-grandmother, but everyone called me Jessie, because for some reason that had been her nickname, too. I always wondered how they got Jessie out of Edna, but I was glad they had. Mom got really crabby whenever I asked her about the family history, she never showed old pictures, though we knew where they were, stuffed on the highest shelf of her closet, over the old college dresses she’d kept.
My mother was completely hippied out — she didn’t shave her legs or under her arms, and the compost pile was her altar. She didn’t pay much attention to us unless we were sick and then she was the most wonderful nurse in the world — even though she was a strict vegetarian she’d make us chicken broth with little stars, mostly stars so that it was more of a chicken pudding, a glob of butter oozing on the top. She’d spoon it into our open mouths like a mother bird.
Vickie and I liked to sneak into Mom’s room while she was at work, and dress up in her old clothes and look at her old pictures. She’d been married before she married our dad, straight out of college, and so we always tried to guess who he was from the pictures. Our favorite was the one of her going into a dance, frothy skirt and strapless bodice, her sharp collarbones like exclamation points underneath her satiny, satiny skin. She wouldn’t say, but we figured she’d had a pretty wild career, before we were born.
Neither of us were as pretty as Mom, though. We’d play all day with her makeup, trying and trying to get her look. It was no good — Vickie had her chin, I had her eyebrows, but there was too much of our dad in both of us, and this was unfortunate, because he was homely. Since Mom was drop-dead gorgeous, we came out average-looking.
Not that we didn’t get plenty of attention in our own way. We’d get in the Barracuda and drive up and down the beach road, honking at cute boys. Once in a while they’d motion us over, and we’d park, take our sandals off and hop across the burning sand to find out where they were from. Most were from Boston, a few from New York. We liked the Canadians best, they loved the sun so much they’d fry themselves, joyous to turn red and peel — they thought it looked so healthy. Sunscreen hadn’t been invented, we mixed iodine with baby oil and slathered it on.
Vickie and I had good skin, the kind that never burned, so we looked like Indians, and I’m not talking the American kind but the Hindus. Our brown legs shone — they were our best feature by far, all the boys said so. We learned to kiss from those sunburned Canucks. The ones from French Canada were the best, but they’d never write to you once they left. The other Canadian boys were all earnest and geeky and would write us millions of letters, which eventually we stopped even opening. Instead, we’d take them to the beach, put them in empty juice bottles, then cap them and throw them in the surf.
So, Vickie went more than a little nuts this time, started calling Michel in Montreal every night after Mom was asleep, and when the phone bill came she was put on restriction for a month. Mom yanked our bedroom phone out of the wall. I laughed, but Vickie cried, she was really serious about him. “Love isn’t real,” I told her. “Do you think this guy would ever, ever cry over you?”
“Michel loves me,” she said. “But now he’ll think I don’t love him and he’ll go back to his girlfriend.”
What had caught her eye first about Michel were the brilliant red scars on his back, streaky and painful-looking. We thought he’d been wounded playing hockey or something. His English was so bad, at first we thought he was kidding when we pointed to his back and asked what happened.
“My girlfriend,” he said, shrugging his shoulders and smiling. We were so dense, we didn’t know what he was talking about for days, until Vickie came across this ratty copy of the Joy of Sex while she was babysitting for our best client, a lady who danced Polynesian-style at a big tourist restaurant downtown.
“Scratches are given during the throes of passion,” she whispered over the phone.
“Bring the book home,” I said. Later that night, we snuck out of the bedroom window and went driving. I let her drive and held the book on my lap, reading it to her while we went up and down A-1-A, bending down and swigging our beer at the stoplights.
“His girlfriend scratched hell out of his back, and he let her do it,” I said. “He seemed happy about it, even.”
“He was,” she said. “Let’s drive to Canada.” She put her foot down hard on the gas and passed a couple of cars.
“No way,” I said. “We’d get caught before we got out of Florida.”
“I’m going,” she said. “I want to see him again. You can come if you want to.”
“This is insane,” I said. “You don’t even have your license.”
“There’s only one first time,” she said. “I want mine to be with Michel.”
“You’ve been loony over a dozen boys this past year,” I said. “How is this different? What makes you think this’ll last more than a week?”
“So what if it doesn’t?” she said, and the look in her eyes was fierce. “You’re missing the point.”
“The point is, we’ll be in jail,” I said.
“Where do you want me to let you out?” she said. She swerved over to the side of the road and slowed way down. Her hair rippled over her face like a million tiny whips. I knew I couldn’t let her go alone.
“God damn you,” I said, and she threw her head back and laughed.
“Hijacked by your baby sister,” she said.
“Hijacked by a victim of raging hormones,” I said.
“Damn right,” she said. “And deep down, you’re not any different.”
“Oh, yes I am,” I said. “I’d never drive to fucking Canada to lose my virginity.”
“I feel sorry for you, then,” she said.
“Shut up and drive,” I said. “The farther we get tonight, the better.”
“Mom is going to be so pissed,” she said.
I felt my stomach twirling with fear and excitement. “I would say Mom is the least of your problems.”