The flaneur likes surprises, if they come in the form of kisses. Too often they came in the form of bites to the butt, which keeps him looking over his shoulder. In this story, he gets both.
By nature a contrarian, the flaneur walks facing traffic. He goes against the flow; he stubbornly insists on doing things his way. He doesn’t like crowds, so you won’t see him where the multitude manifests. He even turned down free tickets and a ride to the Woodstock Festival. Go figure… Like most born individualists, the flaneur likes to think of himself as extraordinary, but sometimes he suspects he is merely extra-ornery. His dislike of humans in groups is not misanthropic. He likes people — one on one — and he treats them with friendly respect. That is, everyone but hippies; their need to group is alien. He did not like them in the Sixties, he does not like them now.
His friends don’t understand. They saw hippies as harmless, hirsute wookies, babbling on anachronistically about peace and love, who sometimes showed up with the wide-eyed, reverential look of pilgrims come to drink at the source, asking directions to the Magic Meadow.
In his personal experience, hippies were arrogant, generally and specifically. He was living in Manhattan in the Sixties when their tribe invaded his neighborhood. An arrogant hippie chick went topless, riots followed, and the East Village — a rip-off realtor’s wet dream — was born. With summers off from good schools, and money from home, hippies sat on the sidewalks begging spare change and mocking him for rushing to work.
He resented their easy assumption of privilege, their playing at Boho life, when their secret, ultimate goal was a cushy top corporate job.
What the flaneur wouldn’t cop to was that, down deep, his attitude stemmed from his awareness of class distinctions in America — and in Woodstock. He believed that like sex, class was omnipresent at every level of society, although seldom acknowledged. The flaneur’s background was proudly working class.
Those familiar with hippie history and New Age fads remember the Harmonic Convergence of three decades ago. Summer, 1987: allegedly predicted by the Maya, a time when the portents in the heavens converged, and were to open a period of universal peace.
Festivities were held around the country at sacred spots — one of which was Woodstock’s Magic Meadow, owned, at the time, by the Woodstock Guild of Craftsmen.
As it happened, the flaneur was the Guild Program Director at the time, and one of his duties was to protect the meadow. It was considered a fragile environment, so there were to be no fires and no camping, by anyone, at any time.
In town, the word was out: thousands of New Agers would be camping at the Meadow illegally. Apparently the Town had no plans to stop them, no desire to, and no means. The flaneur. being conscientious, decided that if he couldn’t do his job, he could at least go see what was going on. Day was fading on the Green when he started the familiar mountain-climbing trudge up Rock City Road to the Meadow. All he could do was pray there were no emergencies. Fire engines would have a hard time getting through. Cars and vans with out of state plates were parked on both sides of the road down to the Rec field.
As he expected, most of the cars were new and expensive.
The stream of traffic was continuous. Engines strained, laughter floated from car windows on the night air. Lights came on in the houses he passed. In back yards grill masters were flipping burgers. He was hungry. Seriously ravenous.
To take his mind off his stomach, he tried to imagine the scene he would encounter in the Meadow. An orgiastic pagan feast from a Cecil B.DeMille extravaganza came to mind, before he reflected that New Agers were too young to have seen sexy Biblical epics.
He hopped across the brook that gurgles after a heavy rain and stood listening. It was almost quiet. Even the ubiquitous Rainbow tribe drums seemed muted. He had expected to encounter a wall of sound. He mounted the incline that led to the Meadow and stood gaping at the encampment that filled his vision. It was neat, orderly: an impromptu tent city, built by people who knew what they were doing. People who respected themselves and their environment. He strolled slowly past campfires from which delicious smells wafted, aware that a wide smile that rose from his long locked anarchist heart was taking possession of his face. His world was turned upside down, and something was released in him that felt like freedom.
He recalled something he’d read by Arthur Koestler, something (it had been a long time since he’d read it) about living in a tribe on one side of a mountain, and being scared of the tribe on the other side because they were unknown, and therefore, not human.
Something bit his butt. He looked and saw a child running into the laurel, rubbed the sore spot, laughed, and waited for the kiss.