Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Playing with Fire

Someone firedancing at a party I attended last week.
At the insistence of my landlord, I had to buy renter's insurance this week. Insurance agents are so friendly, talkative and forthcoming, because they are trying to sell you something, of course.

I could add two cents here about reciprocity theory, but I know how you feel when I lapse into academic discourse. So instead I will marvel that of all the people with good stories collected up in their heads, insurance agents top the list.

Frankly, I'm surprised more of them do not become novelists. I am a writer, but I don't have any stories. What I need is an insurance agent!

Fires, floods and accidents--accidents as a result of horrendous negligence or as the result of an ordinary thoughtless moment like the ones you and I have every day. Never mind acts of God.

But it's all covered under renter's insurance: falling asleep with candles burning, adolescents hiding burning incense under the bed, using paper bags to carry out the ashes from your woodstove, tossing a bunch of solvent-soaked rags into the corner of your garage.

When I got home, I gave my son a bunch of warnings, and he asked, "Mom, don't you trust me? It's like you trust me less now that I'm older." I said, "Part of growing up is to look into the future and see possible outcomes so you can take precautions."

Not that I was very good at that myself until the awesome, overwhelming responsibility of motherhood entered my life. In fact, I lived the riskiest of young adulthoods: I was a gypsy vagabond.
On the subject of stories and outcomes, I was looking at a group on Facebook called "Grateful Dead Tour: 1980s." I was wondering whatever happened to some people I knew from my vagabond days.

Of course, people went by nicknames in those days, and we are all middle-aged now, so looking through the list of 1,500 people and their little thumbnail photos didn't help much.

There was a spot for people to post photos from back in the day, but unfortunately, a good 30 percent of the pics were of tie-dyes, ticket stubs. concert posters and acid hits. Who the hell cares about such things?

I want to see people, movement, dancing, colors, clothes, children, puppies, rosy cheeks, tents and vans.
There was also a discussion board called "Where are they now?" I read it, but it didn't bring back any good memories, quite the opposite: it reminded me how dangerous our lifestyle was.

There were so many drugs so, of course, people became junkies, sold out their friends, lost everything, died. Numerous, numerous people are dead since then, people younger than I am.

In those days, some people also sold drugs, so there is considerable lingering paranoia in those discussion threads. I learned that one of my former boyfriends just got out of prison after serving 17 years. Seventeen years --his entire blossoming prime -- behind bars!

This was a very sweet, kind guy. But last time I saw him was in summer of 1988, when he had already begun "jonesing"-- had already begun the descent into drug addiction.

As always, the difficulty lies in the fact that "drugs" is such a catch-all term. There is quite a continuum of seriousness, addictiveness, deadliness, with marijuana & magic mushrooms one one end and heroin & crack cocaine on the other. Sadly, many people don't have the critical thinking skills to do some drugs, avoid others. I thank my lucky stars I was cautious even then.

My kids like to ask me why I changed, why I am no longer a hippy, no longer "sav" (savage) as they call it. Whatever I do, wherever I go, I will always be different, a misfit. A dilettante perhaps, but I know when something is dangerous and destructive, and it's time to move on. So I move on, a lot.


Anonymous said...

I am moved to post. I have to say that no one brought up any of the good things about Dead tour on the FB discussion board. Yes, people made risky decisions and had horrible things happen, but there was also a lot of good. We were a group of like minded people traveling around the country,seeing music and learning huge lessons in life and life skills. As far as great pictures go, Hollie, Talia and I have posted tons of pictures from then and they do not include acid hits and tie dyes.
I used to deny my inner hippiness. That is when my daughter compared me to Susan Sarandon in the Banger Sisters. I had turned into her. My decision to act like that came out of fear that my teenager would make some of the same decisions I made. Everyone has their own lessons to learn, and maybe some of those people in the posts you read got what they needed to be a contributing member to society and better the planet. No matter how uncool it might be for me to admit this, I loved Dead tour, the good the bad and the ugly. I love that sometimes when I am running I can listen to a certain song and it will bring me right back to that moment, feeling as if I am dancing through my run. I had many lasting friendships develop from that time. We were a special tribe of people and I feel blessed to have come in contact with old friends through FB. Most of the ones I truly cared about are doing great. I have amazing memories that involve you and will cherish them for the rest of my life.

Indie said...

I go back and forth with my feelings about those days, sometimes positive, sometimes with a shiver.

For me, the Grateful Dead were only a tiny piece of the puzzle of the lifestyle I was leading. Dead shows, Rainbow Gatherings, the streets of Santa Cruz, Berkeley and the Haight, the beach, the beach, the beach. Once I saw the video for Sheryl Crow's "Soak up the Sun" and whoosh, all these feelings, good feelings, came flooding in on me.

It is so funny that you mention the Banger Sisters, because I confess to some of the same feelings when I saw it. And for the same reasons! I didn't want the boys to take risks like I took, but they do/have anyway.

I was beginning to romanticize those days again, but reading that Who's Who discussion board really set me to thinking. I am reminded of some of the scarier moments. I never really had much of a safety net.

The pictures you are talking about are pure art. You and she were able to see the beauty of it and capture it with your camera.

All of my best memories involve you. I loved to dance more than anything on earth. I have some pictures to post too, if I would ever get around to it.

Anonymous said...

I recently read a book about the sixties, the acid tests,summer of love,etc...That too got convoluted,dark and scary. There was a lot of good that came out of it. The author spoke of a light that was so big that they believed they could change the world. That door was shut to a small crack and a glimmer shown through. I feel like I was in that light. That we were a part of keeping that alive and like all good things the darkness had to show its head. I know that there was a lot of risky behavior going on. I am not in denial about those things, or the friends I have lost, or the mistakes I have made. A lot of people from then are doing really cool things with their lives and I am happy to have them in mine.

Indie said...

I never knew you were such a writer, although I should have guessed since you had a journal going all the time.

Anonymous said...

Hi K, all I have to add: I'm living with an insurance agent... *sigh* I know what you're talking about *lol* He's in this business for almost thirty years now, so tell me about them being talkers, convincing and such *giggle* I love your two photos in here, on one I can actually acknowledge you already! Hugs, R.

Indie said...

R, I had no idea he was an insurance agent! How did I manage not to know that? So you must hear all the crazy stories of all the things that can and do go wrong in people's everyday lives.

Those photos are from almost 22 years ago. There were many such beautiful moments, but not many cameras around. I wish there were more pictures like that.

One of the photos is what my mom used to paint a picture a few years back, and I think you've seen the painting, right?

Anonymous said...

K, I just thought that, now that you mention it! You've posted a photo of the drawing, it's exactly like the photo. I ment the photo with the little child in it together with you. Who is that? Tristan? That's where I would've recognized your face out of thousands!!! Exactly the way you look like nowadays my dear friend. *humming* "When you're going to San Francisco..." ;-) R.

Indie said...

Hi, R! No, I don't know who that is, just some little guy I was talking to. That's not my puppy either. :)
This photo is in 1987, three years before Tristan came along.