Monday, May 08, 2006

Hootenannys and Hippies

Guys with guitars are cool. I once knew a guy, Phil, who had a halo of hair like Bob Dylan, and who always walked around with a guitar case slung over his shoulder. Occasionally there was even a guitar in the case, but he didn’t play it. He didn’t know how to play it, in fact. It was just a prop to attract girls. And it worked. Because guys with guitars are cool.

On Friday night, two guys, each armed with a guitar, came over to our house. They were cool. What was even cooler was that they knew how to play their guitars very well, and did. A bunch of other people came too, possibly attracted by the offer of free food, but they stuck around to hear the guitars. Matt played one of them, and Jeremy played the other, and they sang together on our back porch until the wee hours of the morning, harmonizing beautifully on some old hymns, some original songs, some old Beatles and Neil Young tunes, and some new tunes from Radiohead and The Shins. It was great. I love live music. I particularly love live music played on my back porch by people who can play it well.

For a while there I held Matt’s guitar. Just held it, you know, and looked meaningfully at Kate. I put it in the case and slung it over my shoulder. I don’t think she noticed.

On Sunday we had several scruffy looking psychedelicized neo-hippies over for lunch after church. I like neo-hippies, too, and their desire to live off the land, man, and dig the earth, not literally, but metaphorically dig it (you dig?), and eat organically and holistically and consume soybean products. They are admirable, if not totally comprehensible. I hate soybean products. They make motor oil out of soybeans, and I can taste motor oil in every tofu-laced dish I’ve ever had. Think about it, you vegans.

But it was fun. One guy wants to hop freight trains this summer, like Woody Guthrie. He knows the Lord, and he’s bound for glory, and I’m intrigued by how radically different his vision is from what I normally encounter in Westerville, which typically involves the kids growing up and leaving home, and the empty nester parents moving into a 7-bedroom, 5,000 square foot McMansion on the lake. Three of the neo-hippies were painters. As in artists. They work at places like the Barnes and Noble coffee shop, but they honestly don’t care. They eat tofu and they paint pictures. Good for them.

I sometimes wonder what our neighbors must think of this. I don’t think all that long about it, but it does cross my mind. They are out there on their lawns, criss-crossing back and forth, mowing the same grass that they mowed the day before, but this time at a 90-degree angle to create a wondrous crosshatched effect that must look fabulous from a helicopter or hot air balloon, and we are inside entertaining people who want to play hobo on freight trains. It makes me chuckle. They are into grub control, and buy specially marked bags of Ortho Weed ‘n Feed to deal with the pesky little buggers. Our grub control consists of making sure that we have enough food for the descending hordes. And if we don’t, then the hordes share with one another, and don’t think anything of it.

I think I may be reverting to second hippiehood, this time without some of the previous accoutrements. I’m thinking about buying a guitar. I’m thinking about becoming a coffee snob, like many of my friends, and working up the courage to speak about the winy acidity of Tanzanian dark roast, or the hint of fruitiness (right now I detect more than a hint when I hear this kind of talk) in Ethiopian coffees. I’m thinking about listening to Woody Guthrie, and I’m fairly certain we won’t buy a 5,000 square foot McMansion when Rachel leaves home.

I’d like to be more generous and less concerned about stuff, as in material, tangible stuff. And I’d still like to be able to send my two kids to college at the same time, which should still require about $40K - $60K per year on top of our normal living expenses. I’m not always sure how to put all of that together, and I can’t help but note that the neo-hippies have no children. Maybe I’ll put in a crop of soybeans in the back yard, and try to raise money that way. There’s got to a bull market for any fuel that costs less than $3 per gallon. Plus you can make fake burgers out of it.


mg said...

we must fit into the neo-hippy group. i was overlooking my lawn yesterday which we don't use any fertilizer or pesticides on. i only mow it once a week with a push (non-motorized) mower. and you know what? i think it looks pretty good.

sure, i don't spend all weekend sculpting it like some people. but i'm thankful for it, and i'm thankful that my daughter, wife and i can walk or lay on the grass and just enjoy the day.

i guess it's the simple things in life that matter...

go get a guitar andy! and learn to play it if you haven't already. i'd be curious to hear the songs you would write (or cover).

Anonymous said...

Andy...wish I was there on your back porch...wish your back porch were closer to mine.
By the way...I make tofu taste like Bob Dylan makes music sound.
Dig it.

chelsea said...

i love your blog. i often wish though that i was talking to you so i could argue with you and laugh with you.
chris and i have mentioned before that we'd love to know you and kate better. maybe after phoenix is born and we get into a groove we could have a little neo-hippy gathering in our back yard. (where incidently we don't use chemicals or pull weeds. not because we're environmentally conscious...we're just terribly lazy. we might be those neighbors that bring down the price of all the other houses. yikes.)

Andy Whitman said...

Hi Chelsea, you neo-hippy, you.

We'd love to get together with you and Chris. In the meantime, I'm praying for your sanity as you endure bedrest, and I'm praying for the healthy delivery of young Phoenix. How exciting. Hang in there.

danthress said...

Glad you had a great turnout!