Saturday, July 03, 2010

40 Years Ago...A Look Back

It was forty years ago this weekend, when I was a 19 years old boy, that I went to the Atlanta International Pop Festival with approximately 400,000 other hippies, including my summer love, Katie. That was a long time ago! I was a lot thinner and I had a lot more hair. Four of us drove there in my 1962 VW Beetle. It was hot as blazes and VW's did not have air conditioning. We left Louisville late at night so we would arrive there the next morning. We did that for two reasons. First, to escape the heat and take advantage of the cooler nighttime temperatures. The second, and most important reason, was that we were "longhairs" and traveling in the south was not always safe if you were a hippie. We figured that if we got to the festival without encountering southern "rednecks", there would be safety in numbers. When we arrived it was like dying and going to heaven. Being a hippie in the late 60's, early 70's was never completely safe. It's a myth to think that everyone who grew up in the 60's was a hippie. Hippies were a minority and people were not always tolerant of them. To arrive at a place where everyone had longhair was comforting. In our naivete we thought everyone with long hair was cool. I saw lots of great music and I smoked a lot of pot. Of course, that was normal in those days. Some of the biggest artists of the day were there. I saw Procol Harum, the Allman Brothers Band, BB King, the Chambers Brothers, Mountain, and Jimi Hendrix, who played the "Star Spangled Banner" on the 4th of July while fireworks exploded in the sky. I'm sure I saw others that have been forgotten in the mists of time. I can't remember everything I saw that weekend because it was very smoky, not to mention the LSD I also took while I was there. The really strange thing about that summer was that while I was doing all this hippie stuff, God was chasing me. The month following the Atlanta Pop Festival I entered a Franciscan community outside of Detroit, Michigan. Two years later I was a novice monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani. Now, 40 years down the road, I am married almost 36 years, I have two sons, one with a beautiful and wonderful six year old daughter, and another who will be a priest in approximately three years. What a long, strange trip it has been!

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