My daughter and I enjoy taking day trips; we’ve done it most every place we’ve lived. One of the reasons is that across the USA, usually within an easy drive there are little pockets of other cultures. Any of you who’ve travelled here know that. Of course, in the big cities you can usually find a Chinatown, and everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. New Orleans has Mardi Gras. But throughout the country, depending on which immigrants predominantly settled the region and which small other groups of immigrants came you find some times surprising communities that celebrate ‘old world’ cultures.
In Florida my Dad worked the shrimp boats operated mostly by Greeks in one area. There are now enclaves of Viet Namese refugees along the Gulf Coast. In Texas and Colorado there are communities that make much of Germanic heritage, Pig farming and Sausage production are often mainstays of those local economies, and they tend to attract tourists in the Fall (sometimes spring) with ‘Beer Fests’ featuring products of local microbreweries. Wyoming, Montana and Idaho all have Bosque communities that keep their language and customs alive.
Perhaps one of the most interesting subcultures and one of the most ubiquitous---often popping up in unexpected places is 60’s throwbacks, Hippies---the heirs to the beat generation. In Laramie, Wyoming my favorite little specialty store which sold herbs and spices in bulk, had a very 60’s feel. The owner, Vince, looked it with his grey mutton chops facial hair. I’d guess at least one city or town in every state has some remnant of those days---a restaurant, natural foods store or ‘head shop’.
So yesterday we drove up to Abiquiu. After a quick look at the village itself, revealing a closed for Sunday bookstore that looked interesting, we went down to the general store on the main road.
This place, like such stores everywhere boasts an interesting mix of merchandise. In a separate post I included a photo of their little café corner. I absolutely expected the wall of books and entire postcard rack about and featuring the art of Georgia O’Keefe. She’s probably the most famous resident the area ever had. What surprised me was the post cards with quotes from ‘Beat’ author Jack Kerouac, and transitional (Beat to Hippy eras) poet Alan Ginsberg. I’d known there’d been a bit of a Hippie/artist/intellectual refugee flow to the Santa Fe area in early 70’s because my first husband had been part of it during one of our estrangements and our reconciliation is what first brought me to New Mexico in 1974.
But Abiquiu is off the beaten path, with mostly only the main road being paved even. Clearly a sufficient number of those that came, whether actual hippies or just artists/intellectuals, were able to actually adapt to rural life and stay, but some parts of their old lives they clearly can’t forego—like the New York Times. This little general store on this lonesome stretch of state highway 84 had a stack of them for sale. I chuckled to myself, because in all likelihood I will someday buy a copy of the Sunday Times there, so I can once again read the book review and the Arts section as I did faithfully every week in my youth. And no-one will bat an eye---my style of dressing, long straight hair and lack of makeup probably cue people to recognize me as ‘one of them’.
In fact even here in Cuba, I’ve been ‘made’. The first time I went to the grocery store, an Indian pan handler approached me in the parking lot, remarking how helpful and welcoming he was to the ‘Rainbow Tribe’ when they were here a while back. It’s kind of amusing, I didn’t make it to Woodstock, while I lived in several small communal houses over the years I never joined a commune and don’t really trust or feel comfortable in large ‘organizations’ of any kind regardless of espoused values, I do indeed have some 'Bohemian/Beat/Hippie' values and tastes and I guess it shows.