My brother and I were a couple of curious little house apes and that led to wanderings into sometimes questionable circumstances. We would open our bedroom window at night so we could listen in on the hipsters and beat folks down the highway from us read poetry and chug wine, the crowd cheering on the reader with gusto while the jug was passed. A peculiar odor occasionally wafted from their 'pad' when the wind was right, an odd burnt leaf smell. My father dismissed them as left of center loonies that did not contribute to society and advocated the downfall of America through free love and subversive activities. I thought they were having a lot of fun myself. Our curiosity up, my brother and I decided to investigate one early Friday evening after dinner.
We decided to cut through the woods to the dirt driveway of the hipster haven. We spied an old bus, festooned with modern art styled graphics lated relegated to scores of VW microbuses and other 'vanoid' vehicles driven by the counterculture set. We saw our first peace sign (the egg shaped oval divided by a chicken foot) painted on the driver's side of the bus and another painted on the glass of the living room window. The bus was a fair spectacle to our unbiased minds and it gave me the impression that these were truly cool folks. I bravely knocked at the door and a goateed man with a flattop and somewhat shredded looking sweatshirt answered.
"Welcome, impressionable young minds - Like, what may I help you budding hipsters with this fine evening?" He said with a sincere smile.
"Mister, you folks seem to be having a swell time down here - what are you celebrating?" I asked, hoping not to sound like a dumb little kid.
"You have asked the important question - the very profound question, indeed. Ken - we have students! Come on into our humble domocile, fertile minds for change!"
"What are we celebrating? Allen - explain to them our mission!" Ken exclaimed with glee.
"We celebrate life, happiness, peace, love of all mankind, freedom, creativity and social harmony, man," Allen explained. "You are the future, young men. You will be the ones who effect social change."
"What is that huge tea pot with a smoking ashtray on top?" It's as tall as you are, mister," My brother asked.
"It is called a hookah - we burn boo in the tray and the water, like the cools the smoke, man. You suck the smoke from one of a dozen tubes coming out of it," Ken answered.
"What's boo?" I innocently asked.
"It has many names - marijuana, reefer, tea, pot, grass - but we like to call it boo, man, 'cause it scares you into reality - it's a reality kick," Allen explained.
"What does it have to do with peace, love, freedom and junk?" My brother spoke up.
"Good question, young scholar," Allen. "It alters your universe and allows you to see it from a different perspective - it is the catalyst of change. Bear in mind it is a mere humble herb, but the simple things can confound the wise and enlighten the inquisitive. You must partake - both of you. It will flush the toxins of the military industrial complex from your minds and open your minds."
"That is incredibly groovy, man!" Ken exclaimed. "We are teachers - but not the mind programmers of the public school system who tell you of the glory of being cannon fodder or if you survive that, how you can plug into the establishment, barely afford a house, just make ends meet and pop out 2.3 children while settling for cheap beer while the silver spoons who run it guzzle champagne at the Space Needle restaurant. Come and take your place around the hookah - you are our young guests of honor."
The two hipsters led us into the 'scene' (living room) of the 'happening' to the other hipsters making the 'scene' around the ornate brass and painted porcelain smoking apparatus that nearly reached within a foot of the ceiling. We were welcomed with zeal by the other 'freaks' as they called themselves, some wearing beards, some wearing beads and some women going braless, something my mother would not be caught dead doing. 'Puff the Magic Dragon' played on a reel to reel as we were each handed an ivory mouthpiece attached to a long tube connected to the hookah.
"Just take a drag off of it - it will change your world forever - you will have such a head start on your friends. You will be possibly the youngest hipsters on this planet and the only kids who really know where it's at. Then you be ready to learn about yin and yang - the forces of darkness and light that you must balance to attain Nirvana," Allen lectured.
"C'mon Al - Nirvana? The boo is talking, man. I think you are a bit confused, religionwise. We don't need to load their heads with that Zen stuff yet," Ken countered. "Like don't scare them too much, man or they might split the scene. Like - let them take in the happening, man."
"I'm getting ahead of the game here," Allen said. "Now the moment of truth - are you ready, fellow hipsters?"
"Eric, mom is not going to like this," my brother warned.
"If you don't tell, I won't tell," I reassured him. "What mom don't know won't hurt her."
"You'll not regret this - you will have vision your parents never had," Allen exclaimed. The happening participants began to chant "go-go-go-go-go-go.........." to encourage us to partake. We succumbed to the power of suggestion and both took a big drag. My brother looked confused and started laughing and I felt so light- headed I started giggling. I was flying in a heaven of euphoria when the whole scene cheered and burst into applause. We kept taking more 'hits' on the hookah as everybody focused on us and introduced themselves to us - we did well with our new found celebrity, getting them to get us hors d'oeuvres, and drinks. It was poetry time and the jugs of wine came out as we sat on benches in the back yard of the 'pad', the hookah being carried by some of the hipsters out to the edge of a concrete slab behind the kitchen door. Soon, some of the members voiced their concern that we were too young to particpate in the next activitiy. It was agreed that we had to leave. Allen escorted us back to our house in the darkness. My folks had company and my mom thought we were being antisocial, hiding from them. We must have looked different to mom at the dessert table - especially when Glenn and I ate our cream puffs and wanted seconds, eating much faster than we did normally.
"Where have you two been? my mom inquired. "You smell like some kind of wierd burnt grass -"
We were forbidden to go back. My father knew what we smoked - he'd burned thousands of acres of the noxious 'weed' in California when he worked for the Department of Health to prevent livestock from consuming it. Within a few months, the whole country saw the reality kick of the Kennedy assasination. As for me, I really don't know if it changed my world or not. I just know that feeling 'high' stayed with me and later sought to have that feeling on a regular basis.
LIKE THE END, MAN