When writing about the past, the hardest thing to convey is context. People tend to apply today’s environment to what happened decades ago. Which can take a lot of the lead out of the storytelling pencil.
At the height of the counterculture in the early 1970s there was a real feeling of living subterranean. No one had a TV or read the newspapers. News came from a network of underground publications. Every major city or radical community had one. Bloomington’s was the Common Sense which I picked up religiously. I would go to the periodical reading room at the library to read the others.
There was a lack of urgency in getting news this way. Contributing reporters took advantage of seven day production schedules to write cogent articles. A couple of weeks later the out-of-town issues would eventually hit the IU library. Reading a well thought-out piece three weeks old seemed just as valuable as getting the news I needed to know NOW!
There was also a lot of absurdist humor in these papers. The Common Sense’s musical editor reviewed the movie Woodstock. Having attended, he thought the film didn’t begin to capture how boring the whole thing had been. He also observed that Alvin Lee’s facial expressions during his guitar solo were like those of an adolescent learning to masturbate.
The Common Sense ran a cartoon once mimicking the proliferation of ads for the new feminine hygiene products. Two girlfriends were chatting when one confided that her boyfriend said she did not smell fresh. Her bestie consoled her. “Oh honey, don’t worry about it. My boyfriend once told me my vagina smelled like the Holland Tunnel. Just try Summer’s Eve.”
The Los Angeles Free Press did a feature on their typical readers’ daily diaries. One was the zealous hour-by-hour, hectic recount of what a Women’s Libber might be doing. Another was how a spaced-out tie-dye freak organized his confused day. Then there was the junkie’s:
8:00 am – Wake Up
8:15 am – Shoot Up
9:00 am –
10:00 am –
11:00 am –
12:00 pm –
1:00 pm –
2:00 pm –
3:00 pm –
4:00 pm –
5:00 pm –
Growing up with three brothers I kept abreast of all sports and was an avid fan. In the late 60’s, however, I was completely divorced from that. Walking through the Union Building one autumn day the World Series was on in the community room. I stopped to watch for a minute and was shocked to see the Tigers were playing. Detroit hadn’t been to a Series in 30 years. I’d never thought of them as even being a contender.
In the days of the counterculture, the world seemed to be turned upside down. And I loved it.
Making fun of various institutions often betrays a longing to be a part of that institution. This was not the case with egg nog. It had all the caché of overstuffed club chairs and Christmases in Connecticut. No one I knew wanted that. There was fertile ground for a bunch of radical hippie fairies to take on a Republican Country Club mainstay.
The 1971 party was such a hit it became an annual event for the next seven years. Each one was unique and au courant which was reflected in the invitations. The event was never in the same venue twice. The first two parties were held in Bloomington, the next five in San Francisco. To add instant legendary status to the fete, the 1972 invitation included the tag line “Since 1971.”
An additional contradiction addressed with the first egg nog party was that, traditionally, it had such a disgusting taste. That was remedied by concocting a special blend of french vanilla ice cream, raw eggs, sugar, heavy cream and rum. For an extra kick, a few bottles of 151 Rum were thrown in.
Ingredients were measured in gallons, flats, and pounds then mixed in batches to be added to our punch bowl: a large Rubbermaid trash barrel set in a bath tub of ice water. A dash of one can of nutmeg topped off this sure recipe for fun. And projectile vomiting.
The confection was so delicious guests downed them like milkshakes. Until the delayed double whammy of impaired speech and abandoned motor skills set in. Revelers became dizzy and passed out. They would be found the next morning in the lawn, on the back steps or at the curb. Pompeii-like victims collapsed in the hallway making desperate reaches for the front door knob. As if anyone would want to escape this inebriated nightmare.
Another day-after discovery was the vomit. It would be everywhere. The year the party was held at Jones Street the radiators were caked in it. It took months to clean up that blob.
Ahh, for the good times.
Fifty years ago this month I participated in the first gay pride parade in Chicago. There I was with my buddies fighting for every inch of sand, trudging through the bloodied surf of Omaha Beach, explosions surrounding us—-whoops, reminiscences of the wrong brunch of hyper-sentimentalized old warrior dudes.
We were about a hundred that day who were essentially staking our territory, making our presence known. The other main objective was just to survive the march because we were only 10 miles from Cicero where white supremacists and Neo-Nazis loved to leave their mark on peaceful demonstrators. Plus, there were the memories of the police riot at the ’68 Democratic Convention…
By today’s standards it was a rather colorless display. If you overlook my long blonde mane and the micro-mini red hot pants I wore that barely contained my Johnson. But we did it and look what happened.
With that I’d like to wish every letter of the alphabet, as well as all of the plural pronouns (especially the “them thars”), a Happy Pride Month.
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