Back to School, Then and Now

by William Skink

Too young to wax nostalgic on the past, yet too old to be carefree. That is my plight as a late 30’s Gen-X’er.

For many Baby Boomers, waxing nostalgic casts a comforting glow that stands in stark contrast to the present predicament of economic insecurity and foreign threats that seem to permeate our fear-stoked landscape these days.

In the Indy this week it was a book review of Naked in the Woods: My Unexpected Years in a Hippie Commune, by Margaret Grundstein. My quick takeaway is this: communes in the late 60’s were great places for men to grow pot, exploit free love to have as much casual sex with hippie chicks as possible, and money-created divisions eventually destroys the ignorant idealism of youth.

At Last Best News, Ed Kemmick writes about his Oly-dimmed memories of Aber Days, an annual kegger in Missoula that kicked off the school year during the 70’s. Here is Kemmick describing those long-gone days:

Between 1972 and 1979, the years of the kegger, the world was a different place. It was all in black and white or washed-out Kodachrome, for one thing, and it was a world of almost primeval innocence, in the sense that bicycle helmets had not yet been invented, most cars didn’t have seatbelts and driving back to Missoula from Miller Creek after downing two or three gallons of Olympia beer was not considered wildly inappropriate.

Sounds like fun.

For me, college wasn’t a realm of primeval innocence. There was still the alcoholic rite of passage featuring binge drinking and more binge drinking, but the innocence of deferred consequences came to a crashing halt when my friend was hit and killed by a drunk motorist after a night of drinking in Lawrence, Kansas.

Now, at the ripe old age of (almost) 37, I look at the downtown Missoula topography where I fermented the last days of my higher education and shake my head.

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t have a lot of patience left for gun-toting gypsies with ferrets and alpacas traipsing through town. The link is to a Bozeman Chronicle article where “Tinker”, the self-described warrior-bard, offers some surprisingly insightful commentary on his fellow travelers:

“A lot of these travelers out here, they don’t deserve to be traveling,” he says, adding that many are into drugs and miss the point.

“The rainbows aren’t rainbows any more. The hippies aren’t hippies,” he says. “They’re hipsters and drainbows.”

Right on, Tinker. I agree.

When Tinker says drugs, he’s not talking about weed. He’s talking about drugs like Oxycodone, Meth and Spice. And then there’s the most destructive drug of them all: alcohol.

It’s the end of August, the end of summer. As I write this, students are flocking back to the Missoula valley to get educated and behave as carefree as possible. I hope they stay safe and enjoy the deferred responsibilities of adult hood for as long as possible.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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1 Response to Back to School, Then and Now

  1. Paul M says:

    During the 1950’s we boomers were treated to air raid drills, and communism was the great boogeyman of the day. Fear as a marketing tool worked then just as it works now. Other than that, kids drank beer at keggers and parties, some girls gave it up to some guys I knew, and music was indigestibly sweet at times. (Check out the song Norman, by Sue Thompson, which was the #3 hit in 1961.)

    I do think 11/22/63 kicked us in the ass, made us grow up.

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