Summer of Love (event)
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It is the middle of August, in the year 2012. Depending on how you count "summer", my summer is half or almost over. Here in Montana, the first frost might come in early September. And of course, in an oft-repeated comment, time seems to be going faster. It seems that summer has just started. It seems that spring has just started.
But I am not here just to complain about how boring my life is. I am using this information about the slow crawl of my own life for context on the Summer of Love. Because even more than being about Love, the summer of 1967, the year of 1967, was about change. I was born in 1979, but from all the accounts I heard, things were just as sudden and dramatic as any montage scene in a movie could make it out to be.
My mother tells me that a year or two previously, her town had one movie theater, a sleepy small town movie theater a la The Last Picture Show, where the children would go down to see cartoons for a nickel, with an usher who would quickly shush any children who giggled too much. And then sometime around 1967, the previously staid owners decided the best way to boost business would be to attach a head shop to the theater. And pretty soon the kids were allowed to hang out in the movie theater laughing and smoking while watching the film Woodstock over and over (with that particular film meaning that perhaps the cultural 1967 and the chronological 1967 were not the same thing, in this particular location.
But there was a time when our culture changed very rapidly. When things that today all of us take for granted appeared on the scene very suddenly. The music, for most people, stands out the most: can we imagine a world without not just the searing psychedelic music of Jimi Hendrix, but without a host of soul and pop songs? But music wasn't all of it: there was a time when the thought of girls wearing jeans to school was considered to be quite outrageous, and once again, this (along with many other fashion and lifestyle choices) was something that changed quite suddenly. The number of lifestyle and cultural changes that happened are quite numerous, and are not confined to the stereotypical rebellion against authority. Today, everyone, from the radical performance artist to the grumpiest old man playing golf, owes something to a shift in attitudes that took place over perhaps 16 weeks, four decades ago.
Which brings us back to the summer of 2012. Perhaps it is because I am older, perhaps it is because the country has turned more boring, but things seem to be moving so slowly. Personally, I look at the empty mason jar on my counter, think about putting it somewhere else, like I have every day for the past three months, and then forget it for another week. Nationally...well, what do we have that is boosting our culture forwards? A new flavor of Pringles? A pop song that isn't even memorably stupid? Phones that can do even more than the phones we had last year? Call me cynical, but none of the things going on right now count as Breaking On Through, to the Other Side, whatever that might be.
Perhaps my perception of both the past and present is distorted, perhaps things were moving so fast then, and aren't moving so slowly now. But seeing things creep by so slowly now, it is incredible to think there was a brief period when everything that people expected was turned on its head.