A Sunday afternoon in the summer of ’75
One of my most prized possessions in life is a black and white photo of about 35 hippies, of which I am one, sitting on or standing in front of a fence with an open field in the background. It was taken on a farm in Summerfield in 1975, back when Summerfield still had farms and open fields, prior to becoming Yuppie Paradise. To me it is the perfect snapshot of the era, capturing the essence of what hippies did on a Sunday afternoon – play acoustic music on the back porch, pitch horseshoes, drink cheap beer, listen to Bob Wills and the Seldom Scene and Little Feat, smile John Prine smiles. It is at once a thousand light years ago and the day before yesterday, both frozen in time and timeless, a portrait of a forgotten era and a period that will live in perpetuity. The framed, blown-up photo hangs on my downtown office wall, adjacent to the Dusty Dunn Ballroom, high atop Ritchy Towers, in the heart of historic Hamburger Square, where all dreams come true, albeit some more slowly than others. Quite often I’ll play “Find the Hippie” with visitors, and it generally takes them three or four guesses to find me. I even give them a hint: “I’m the one with the long hair and beard,” which, of course, narrows it down to the menfolk. I get accused of living in the past every now and then, and to some extent it’s true. While it would be a lie to say I wouldn’t change a thing, most of it I honestly don’t regret. It’s the path I chose and, after a few circuitous twists and harrowing turns, it has led me to a rather pleasant station in life. It takes what it takes, and it took my coming of age in that turbulent time to appreciate the serenity I have now. As I approach my seventh decade, I am able to look back at most of those sunsets with fondness and more than a touch of gratitude. If, as Garth Brooks might say, tomorrow never comes, I’ll leave with a boatload of fine yesterdays. Last week after my little weekly half hour sitting in with Dusty, I took my guest over to my memento-filled office to play “Find the Hippie.” Typically, it took her three guesses to pinpoint yours truly. I started pointing out some of the folks, mentioning what they went on to do with their lives, and it dawned on me that we ran the gamut, winding up virtually across the spectrum in terms of occupations, families, accomplishments, pursuits of happiness, etc. Of the 35 or so, I’m glad to say that about half of us have remained close, another dozen or so will surface occasionally, and five or six fell off the face of the earth. Three that I know of died early – one in a house fire, one committed suicide and one drank himself to death. On the high end of the success scale, one is an executive with Pepsi, one a professor at UNCW, one a real estate semi-mogul, one a software developer, and a couple own small businesses. But most of us are somewhere in the middle: four or five musicians, a painting contractor, a teacher, a couple of store managers, a farmer, a graphic artist. We’re dads and granddads, moms and grandmoms, caregivers, legal guardians, aunts and uncles, housewives, working stiffs, early retirees, good neighbors. Like the rest of the class of ’57 we had our dreams; some came true, some didn’t, and some are still works in progress. I’d like to think that the spiel I used to say on the radio, that I repeated above, about Hamburger Square is true. That corner has become my metaphor for dreams, and I continue to believe that they all come true, but with the disclaimer “some more slowly than others.” If we create our own reality, which I tend to think we do, then it follows that whatever you perceive as “reality” is, in fact, your reality. If you think that life sucks and then you die, then it does and you do. But, on the other hand, if you believe in the essential goodness of mankind and that treating others with compassion and respect is imperative, then you will be rewarded in kind. And, no, I haven’t read The Secret; these are things I’ve believed since before that picture was made. I have fallen far short of my goals and have failed to live up to my ideals many times, but the point is: I never gave up. I trudged onward, fought off the demons, lived in the moment, kept my sense of humor, suited up and showed up. So, no, I don’t live in the past. But I do cherish it.
Ogi may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, heard Tuesdays at 9:30 a.m. on “The Dusty Dunn Show” on WGOS 1070 AM, and seen on “Triad Today” Fridays at 6:30 a.m. on ABC 45 and Sundays at 10 p.m. on WMYV 48.