A Chance to Dance

28 Oct

headbangerfWhen you have one dead foot and one too-alive leg, watching me dance is a visual oddity, but just attempting it is even sillier.  I didn’t care, I was in Greenwich Village, NYC for the first time in many a decade and so far, I hadn’t been lost or stolen.

I was dancing like a loon to music I love  from an exceptionable band called “james”.    Yet it was here in “the Village”  I had come of age in an era of change and confusion.  The 1960s.

Let me tell you of those “daze”.  Incredible music poured out of every living person who made the journey to Washington Square Park where we’d take off our dirty sandals, sit in circles, and try to bogart that joint.  Yes, we really did sit in circles and laugh at our hands while eating giant bags of potato chips.  It was a time of an illegal war we felt compelled to march against, and when everyone was done making their signs “Make love not war” and other originals, we’d set out to block traffic so our cause would hopefully make the 6 o’clock news.  It did.  Here’s a sample:

“Well Mr and Mrs America, today in New York City the communist hippies and folk crazies made their way downtown to ruin everyone’s day by proclaiming Viet Nam was illegal and immoral.  These kids had no shoes!  How can you take them seriously without any shoes??  Many pedestrians spit and shouted patriotic slogans.  “You red commie punks, you’re ruining the nuclear family of this great country…!!” and so forth, you get the gist.  We were not welcome.  We didn’t care.  Someone had to speak out.  I’d say we were arrested almost every time we set out, held overnight sometimes but never kept longer than a day.  Something for show I guess.

Once back home in New Jersey we’d drag ourselves to college or work, always trying to recruit people to our cause,  and  in my case catch holy hell from the parents.  I dropped out of school and my only job was “to belong”.  We did come to be quite successful, as one month our march on the Pentagon accommodated over 200,000 people spread out all over Washington.  I was probably too young (14-15) and all my friends were older, so I absorbed all I could and eventually learned to pronounce Viet Nam correctly.  For me, as for any teen running away from that awful “establishment” (whatever that was) I just wanted to be cool, to be accepted, to be heard.  I smoked pot because my boyfriend did.  I  wore old torn jeans because that was the uniform.  Actually, I developed a sense of ethics during those years and tried to keep them all my life.  It was not time wasted.

People didn’t have much then, but shared anyway.  Clothes were passed down, food was an art at acquiring, and during all this the new music flowed out into the streets and struck deep into our souls.  Sidewalk artists made a modest sum doing tourists’ quick-sketches, which the straights just loved.  “Look Mable, it an original hippie drawing!  Maybe I should wipe it down before bringing it home.”  They were serious, we were so different we were thought of as alien viruses who had too much sex – in the daytime!  You bet we did.

Sometimes construction workers would wolf-whistle and demand “free love” which was one of our mottoes they truly misunderstood, but we were peaceful tribes with flowers behind our ears and genuine love for everyone.  It was rarely understood by the average tourist, Mr and Mrs Joe Straight.  Of course, they hardly noticed that it was their own children they were mocking, so we knew we were free to carry on with no restrictions, no restraints, just the arrogance of our perfect youth.

I’ll end this by saying that, at 14-15 years young I stayed at Lou Reed’s crash pad 2 days, once hot summer night had met Bob Dylan who bought me a pack of Camels at Rienzi’s Café (.35 cents in the machine) and met more incredible, talented,  visionary people than the collective years of my edgy life.  Looking back with the unfiltered, perfect clarity of logic, I realize I could’ve and should’ve become forever lost in this miasma of both good and evil in which I followed the more wise of us.  I know these friends protected the eager young novice.

Would I do it all again?  Just as I let myself dance wildly at the “james band” concert, if I’m reincarnated I hereby give myself permission to repeat each and every episode of that glorious experiment of “letting my freak flag fly” in a magical land called the Village.

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