This summer has opened the door to America and its people, wonderful people. From coast to coast i traveled in the company of people from three sub cultures, lived in their worlds and been to their parties, oh what parties!
My hippy roots, long smothered by adulthood and other adventures came out in tie died glory. I went to the hippy Garden of Eden, the source, the primeval pool from which it sprang, the bus. No where could one find the real deal closer than on Ken Kesey’s Furthur, and the followers of the Grateful Dead, all which migrated to the Gathering of the Vibes. i was on the pilgrimage to Hippy Mecca riding on Ganesh, the sacred elephant God of the Hindus.
There i found the ones who had salvaged and cultivated the dreams of the 60’s. Few of us there had been around in that challenging era and those of us who had were treated as respected elders. I found community and family, joy and sharing, love of art and expression and profound love. I found a dedication to the lifestyle, the freedom and of course “the music” as the music of the Grateful Dead is called.
i found the lost young entrepreneur i had feared extinct. Hard working, industrial and clever travelers peddling their wares from festival to festival. i found children, oh so many, who loved clowns, ferries and my balloon animals and the loving people who cared for them like they held the future in their hands. I found music, so much good music not heard on MTV or commercial outlets.
In my trek across the West, i found the Old West, and the cultural icon that keeps it alive, the Cowboy. Again i found a covet of all old, and a love of the young. At the center point of all things Cowboy, we went to the Cody Wyoming Rodeo, my first one in decades. Not much had changed, the ritual and the traditions and the love of country thrives on today. The traditions are cradled in the hands of the young, the twelve year old girl calf roper, the junior bull riders and the very young, covered in arena mud chasing calves. Boots hats and bandanas proudly worn by every one of them.
Nothing says America like watching the chapped cowboy gallop around the arena with Old Glory shining in the setting sun over the Rocky Mountains. Chills ran up my spine and a tear in my eye as the Star Spangled Banner was sung by the entire crowd led by the western wobbling of a cowgirl vocalist. All the politics, current events and troubles faded away, i had no doubt where i was, i was in America.
the third defining American group i shared a path with is the biker, the lover of all things motorcycle. Again the roots stem from long ago, a time of change in America, post WWII. The returning veterans found a rigid world in the 50’s and those who did not fit really did not fit. Some banged bongos and wrote poetry some rode motorcycles. Like the rock festivals of yore, the motorcycle rallies were the breading ground of this culture. Sturgis is the motorcycle Mecca celebrating seventy four years this year. As a biker i had always heard the call but never made it until this year. It completed by American Saga.
Donning black leather and roaring down the road on a chrome wonder is the call of the wild to so many. Accountants, doctors and even yacht brokers shed their earthly drab world and ride. the biker cult has its rules, its camaraderie and its shared cultural history like the other two groups. There is a brotherhood of bikers, we all wave as we pass, stop to help downed bikers, honor those who have served our nation and love to ride in large packs. there is simply nothing like roaring down the road in a large group of bikes.
Often conflicting in the past, these groups have common DNA, the love of freedom, individualism and family. All have an inherent reverence for the past, living history. This brings an all too often forgotten respect for elders i found refreshing. The twenty something kid i told of seeing the Dead when Pig Pen (1971) was alive looked at me like i had attended the Last Supper.
In these seemingly patriarchal worlds a unique and secure even sacred place for women is found, a place steeped in history and brought to today. Women are the fastest growing motorcycle group in the country. Cowgirls flourish in a not so soft world and the hippy world has always been matriarchal. In these worlds women know their ground and stand it, always with un relenting respect.
So the American dream continues, freedom, family and sharing a good times along with bad. The Hippies, Bikers and Cowboys of the USA live life on their terms; maybe escaping reality but i think just cheating it a bit. Each will go home, go to work, pay taxes and survive in the modern world but each will have a window others do not get to look out, a window to a better world.