Thursday, April 24, 2008


Subject G. and I sat in the dining room of her restored Victorian home in the historical district of town, surrounded by eclectic art, antique furniture and brightly colored walls, occasionally distracted by the demands for petting by her old yellow tomcat.

I first married in 1966 to a mathematician who was pretty straight. He was an extremely straight and narrow kind of guy. At one point, about a year into the marriage, I realized I did not want to be a housewife. I didn’t want to clean house every day, entertain his associates, and have babies. I realized there was something else going on. At that time I was in publishing and I decided, with my husband’s approval, to go to the school of visual arts in NY to study photography and graphic art. I had been an artist in high school, my friends had pretty much talked me out of that, talked me into going to law school -- [with art] I would never make money. I decided to do that, and that’s when it first really hit me, at the school of visual arts - we were making films in class, looking at graphic arts as a way to truly express your values. I was the straightest kid in the class going, yeah, uhhuh, yeah! I had never done drugs, I was totally straight. At that point, so much of what I had seen and felt while I was at school -- I met some people who were smoking marijuana and doing LSD and taking mushrooms, and I didn’t know if I wanted to relinquish control -- but ultimately, I got past that -- I would say ‘67 is where it really hit me between the eyes at school. I walked around with a camera slung across my shoulders, changed my mode of dress -- I had always been fascinated with antique clothing but really got into 30s clothes -- evolved ultimately. I did have to make a living since I was a single woman -- I went to Wall Street at that point, doing marketing for tax shelters and oil drilling funds. Pretty successful at it -- working for a big brokerage house -- pursuing my alternative lifestyle at night -- carrying my briefcase, getting on the subway every morning completely dolled up in my full douche regalia, going to work, and then on the weekends going to the Fillmore East and seeing the Grateful Dead. That lasted until ‘71. I was making a lot of money at that time, and I was single woman, maintaining an apartment in Brooklyn, maintaining a life style, and I didn’t see any way around it.

I finally got to the point where I was sick and tired of those asshole bosses, shaking their finger at me, telling me how it was, I finally just quit. I said, that’s it, I’m never working for anyone else again, I don’t give a crap about anybody ever paying my rent, I’ll figure it out. I went off to Europe for 6 weeks, and when I came back, I went to the Fashion Institute of Technology and studied clothing design. I did that off and on until ‘87. I made leather clothing, went to several boutique shows in NY, had clients in Tucson, Chicago, NY -- I did a lot of hand painted clothing, mostly deer skin and lamb suede. I ended up opening a store on Long Island, and did that for awhile -- and wearing what I considered the most beautiful clothes in the world, fashions from the 30s and 40s. I would get on the Long Island Railroad in some long silk dress with a little short fur jacket and a big hat, decked with jewelry -- at one point I finally realized that antique clothing was really my love, and I gave up the leather, closed the store for two months, painted it all white, bought all these beautiful antique clothes, and reopened the store as an antique clothing store. That was in ‘73. The man I was buying clothes from had stashed away all these huge dresses made out of these beautiful fabrics, and he had bundles and bundles of clothes, so he talked me into closing my store and moving my business into Manhattan and manufacturing clothing out of recycled dresses. We had ourselves a business called Garbo Garbs -- we made it at Bloomingdale’s. We had windows on Lexington Ave., the highlight of my career.

Then I met N--, and I couldn’t not go with him, so I gave Garbo Garbs back to my partner and moved to California. I made belly dancing costumes. We lived on top of Mt. St. Helena at Calistoga, and he was working in a vineyard. Baking bread -- it was fabulous. But we couldn’t afford to buy land. We knew we were doomed to be together for the rest of our lives, and we wanted to settle down, have a family, have a garden, do the do. Neither one of us wanted to go back to the city. He had escaped NY when he was 18, and the only time he ever came back was that one summer when he found me.

So we wandered the country in a van, looking for a place to live -- made it to Florida, wandered around until we came to Fayetteville AR in ‘75. We had met a woman in Madeira Beach FL -- she had run away from her husband but she had grown up here. She had bought a little motel in Madeira Beach and was making pottery. She was doing her hippie thing. Our basic plan was, we wanted to be in a university town, I wanted to open an antique clothing store, and N-- wanted to learn a trade. He was a window trimmer when he had been in NY as a kid, and he had worked in the vineyards in CA, and he was a fisherman, none of which translated to -- he’s seven younger than I am, so he didn’t go through the initial angst of having to leave the straight world. He graduated high school in ‘68. He was already there. He knew he was never going to fit into corporate America. So we didn’t have that issue on his life. I was the one who had to step through that door.

So we followed this path, going through Tennessee, the Carolinas -- we went to Eureka Springs first, and it was uh, no, not Eureka, too cool for us, we’re not so spiritual. We showed up on Dickson St. in Fayetteville and went, hmm, this looks like the place, and we haven’t left since. I opened Second Time Around.

Most of it was the anonymity of being in a city and having three friends and five friends and never really being intimate with anything -- not the earth, not people, barely yourself. You got up and you functioned. You created whatever aura you could to make yourself happy, but there’s this very big feeling of isolation, no matter what you’re doing. I grew up in a small town, but when I went to NY and got into the excitement of what the city had to offer, I had 12 years of it, got real juiced on it, took advantage of it as much as I could, but I was 30, and it was time to evolve into who I really wanted to be when I grew up. California was a groove, a wonderful place, very laid back. Napa Valley now is not what the valley was in the 70s. It depends on how far you want to buy into it -- it takes an incredible amount of money to maintain this very groovy lifestyle. We didn’t particularly want to do that. We had friends there very much like us, the only problem was that we couldn’t afford to do what we wanted to do, which was buy a piece of property, build a house -- even then, raw land was $25,000 an acre in the valley. We lived just below Mt. St. Helena on the Silverado Ranch -- I went from Brooklyn to the Silverado Ranch. It’s A Beautiful Day had lived there, and Taj Mahal lived there. We lived in a little cabin with wood heat and it was wow, this is it -- this is what N-- had promised me, come away with me darling this is what I’ll give you. We had a beautiful garden, and in the middle of our beautiful garden we had this bed -- he built me a four poster queen size bed with a big foam mattress, and we would lay out there at night and stare up at the stars, I mean, come on, it was perfect. And that was the adventure -- it was so spiritually satisfying. It was real, me hoeing the garden, or him splitting firewood, sitting by a roaring fire, making soup, sewing belly dancing costumes.

We were looking for cheaper real estate and something that would sustain us. Although we were hippies, we both came from middle class families, both of our fathers were in the jewelry business. His dad was a diamond cutter and my father was a watch maker, self supporting -- both Jewish -- anyway, the values we were raised with -- we wanted indoor plumbing and hot water. We lived the wood stove, but I wanted a toilet that flushed, and so to synthesize all it required that we actually work for a living, not ever being on the dole anywhere, and create our own world. So this proved to be the perfect place for it.

The first day we got here we walked into ROTC for lunch, and G-- M-- came over and said, hi, who are you, are you planning to live here, do you need a house to rent? I mean, the first day. We said, hey, this is a community. Another person said, we’re having pot luck tonight, come over, we’re going to play some music, come on over, meet some people. We knew we had arrived immediately. It took us awhile. Fortunately N-- got work, the guy we lived next door to was building dairy barns and he hired N-- on as a laborer, taught him how to lay stone and brick, he took it from there. The following April I had opened Second Time Around -- my parents and N--’s parents lent us money, and I flew to NY and went to my old partner and bought clothes, and he gave me the name of a rag house in KC and in Dallas and in St Louis, and I made those connections.

Then I got pregnant, and we bought a piece of property -- and it was like, here we are. I have a child -- she just graduated college. She’s more ambitious, straighter, than we are -- she drinks a little, but doesn’t do drugs at all. I smoked pot in front of her, and it wasn’t until she was about ten that we pretty much stopped smoking in front of her. She says some of her most amazing recollections were at the house we built out in the country. We had this big deck that wrapped around the house, and we would sit out there and roll joints at night -- we exposed her to stuff like that. We skinny dipped in the White River every day in the summertime. She learned to swim naked in the river, I nursed her when she was 3 months old in the river, so that she would have no fear of water. I would stand in the water, and N-- would throw her at me, and we’d put her under, bring her up. She never had a fear of water, in fact, she swam competitively. We ran around naked. To this day, she’s like, mom, dad, but then, she’ll get undressed in front of us, and she’ll say, don’t look, and it’s like, oh come on, like we’ve never seen your body, come on -- and there’s a part of her that’s very modest.

As far as drugs, her rationale is, I know how brain damaged you get smoking pot, so why would I want to do that? [laughs] I’ve said to her many times, you know you ought to smoke a joint and kick back, and she says, thanks anyway, mom, but... She drank one summer, between her junior and senior year. They had this big deal, a place they called safe spot, and they would go, had a designated driver -- I was the only adult who knew where safe spot was -- in case something ever happened, they wanted one adult who knew where they were. I became the designated adult. And those kids still come over here and hang with me -- they bring beers over - I’ve had kids come over and say, we’ve got this killer pot, you want to smoke some with us? You’ve got to try this shit. -- I don’t see anything wrong with it. The things that concerned me when I decided to have a kid -- I had taken LSD, is my kid going to come out totally warped. I mean the kid is so bright and so driven, and refutes all these horrible things in the media about -- I mean, I have never said to my child, did you do your homework? I never had to. I gave her the option in her life -- you are responsible for your own life - here is your choice, this path, or this path -- you choose, you do, I’ll help you.

I had a repressive mother, and all my life I was very resentful of the fact that she threw my art away and told me I would never make it. She should have seen that my father got up every morning whistling -- he was an artist, a watchmaker -- about the fact that he dropped out of law school and became a watchmaker. From dealing with a resentment toward that, and suddenly getting this incredible clarity on LSD, that there was more to life than the little ant going to work and coming back, going to work, coming back, etc. stash it away, money is so important -- I mean, it was a combination of my own hurt feelings, working out of that, and suddenly realizing that there was so much out there that didn’t have anything to do with commerce, and you only got to go around once, I didn’t care what anybody else said, it better be fun, dammit. That’s been my life -- I want to lay down every day and say thank you god that was a great day, and most days I can do that. You have to look at the big picture --human rights, environmental issues -- the fact that you yourself make a difference in the universe -- take responsibility for it. Every action that you take is karmic, on every level. If you impact one other person in the world and they in turn take responsibility, and acknowledge that what they do is karmic, they’ll impact somebody else, and constantly expand that base of knowing --

I always talk about these issues, usually on a one to one basis. Stuff like recycling and environmental issues, I’ll do whatever I can, whatever it takes. Petitions, signs, go out to talk to every person on this block and say, when it’s time to do the recycling, I want you to participate, and this is important... When we first moved here, everybody on this block was a bunch of old ladies -- it’s changed a lot in the 15 years we’ve lived here. But it was important for me to talk to everybody -- like, ok, we’re going to have recycling over here at IGA. If you want me to, I’ll take your stuff -- if you don’t and you want to do it, fine, but I think it’s important, so if you will separate, I’ll do this.

I prefer dealing with people on a one to one, but I’ll go and talk to the little old lady on the corner, it’s time to have a mammogram, they’re having cheap mammograms in Springdale -- if you need a ride, call me -- make an appointment.

At this very moment, there is a difference, in that I work in a new job, and it is for a big corporation. Now, the vice president, who is in charge of our office, is a guy I got high with for years, so he knows and I know -- I don’t know if anybody else knows. There are a couple of other people in the office that I would bet -- but we have never said -- I would never at this point feel free to say hey, you want to smoke a joint, come on over. I don’t know if that will change. About a week after I was hired -- I had no idea my friend worked for this company -- he came up from Little Rock and walked into the office, and said, what the hell are you doing here, and I said, I work here, what the hell are you doing here, and he said, oh, well, I’m vice president in charge of this office, and we both went, oh, ok. He turned around to the office manager and said do you have any idea how lucky you are that you have this woman working for you? It made everything different, immediately, for me, this tacit understanding that the broom wasn’t stuffed all the way up.

I’m not pessimistic [that our vision] will never come to pass - -I think it’s cyclical, I think the pendulum has swung the other way, that the generation of children that we have raised, when they get to be in their late 20s and early 30s will again pick it up and carry the banner and really impact -- so on that level I’m very optimistic. I truly believe our children know what’s really real, and as soon as they are ready to seize power, they’ll do it with a vengence. Not only did they have their parents’ idealism, but they have also been in the world and they’re working for Compac computers and ATT and ugly stuff, and they’re saying to themselves, as we said to ourselves in the 60s, hey wait a minute. It was foisted on us. They have chosen this. As we walked away from consumerism, they will too -- I truly believe they have our values in their guts and no matter what, when it gets really ugly they’re going to say fuck all this and walk away from it. Plus the economy is going to crash around us pretty quick -- Japan, it’s all going to come tumbling down here in a few years, and all these kids who make $70,000 are going to be out of work, and then what. They’re going to have to downsize their lives and find out what is really important to them, what they truly want, whether that brand new $50,000 car every other year is really important, or if putting food on their table and feeling a sense of self pride isn’t really more important.

The generation who is now in their mid-30s were raised by the generation just older than us, and that generation grew up in the 50s, and they’re very straight. Most of my cousins are at least a generation older than I am, and their kids in their 30s are the young excutives and young bulls, and they’re just out there, building quarter-million dollar homes, buying BMWs, -- I don’t buy anything new if I can help it. My concept of consumerism is, if you can find it used, it’s better. It’s recycling, dammit. The real deal. I do that as much as I possibly can.

I think the reason I haven’t left here is that I have found the greatest concentration of people of like mind here, and a whole lot very crazy people that make me feel normal - you’re allowed to be eccentric, even encouraged -- You don’t need a whole lot of money to live reasonably well here, so that craving for money, that desire, lessens. You can maintain a pretty decent lifestyle -- my friends in the city laugh at what it costs us to live here - the mortgage is $450 a month. It doesn’t matter - we could scrape together enough money no matter what to keep this house -- I can walk anywhere I want, I really don’t even need a car -- if it came down to it, I could grow a garden, raise vegetables -- I can survive here, easily. We have squeezed through several economic situations in this area and came through it with a very pleasant life. We still play with our friends -- instead of going out to eat, everybody has a pot luck. Everybody brings food, we party, play cards, listen to music, dance -- life is wonderful. You can have everything, as long as you can have the things that are important, the sense of community, the sense that you’re not tearing out each other’s guts to survive, no matter what. A lot of us talk about, and when we’re old, this is what we’re doing... I have a bunch of friends who bought land up on Beaver Lake -- there is a whole community being created of people who, in their late 40s and early 50s, that when it’s time, they’re all going to live together, farm together, take care of one another until we’re all dead, and then pass it on to our kids. It’s an old folks commune. We talk about it a lot, about when we get too old and feeble to take care of ourselves, do you want to be in a nursing home, or do you want to live with a bunch of friends, share the cooking and cleaning, and nursing, pool the Social Security, play bridge every Sunday night, live out our days then the way we’ve lived out our days. Say every day, god that was good. What more could you want? We’ve talked about lining up the rocking chairs, rolling joints, and passing the joints up and down -- I’ve told everybody that for my 70th birthday I want a walker so that I can go hear the Cate Brothers and still dance, cause they’ll still be playing.

This is a regional community. I have friends who live out on the Buffalo River -- we play with people out there, we have friends in Little Rock. I had a T’ai Chi teacher who lives in Boulder, and he said that this is one of the high places on the earth, that there was an energy here that made magic, and that was why he came back here and taught so much, because the earth had magic here. There is a peace, and when you walk down the street, people say “Hi” to you - -when you drive down the road and you pass a car, you wave -- or give the peace sign -- it’s an acknowledgment.

My nephew is thinking of moving here, and I told him, I walked into Wal-Mart the other day to buy some shrimp, and I had this conversation with this guy behind the counter, about travel. Out of the clear blue, very deeply satisfying, a wonderful conversation. We thanked each other.

I mean, I greet people every day with a hug and a kiss. Where else in this country do you greet people that way? There are people I’m friends with that it’s like, no no, not over the counter, I want full body contact -- come mere. I want to feel that energy, I want that body in my arms. friends. that full body contact, you don’t get that many places. you can’t see that in Chicago -- full body contact? That is a very fulfilling thing to me on a spiritual level, having physical contact with people -- I don’t know how I would have evolved any place else. There is no way of knowing that. But the people I am friends with would say about me, she’s always there with a hug -- if something is bad for them, I will put my body on theirs and give them my energy, plug into this. And when I’m having a bad day, that is the best thing in the world, when somebody just puts their body right there and says, hey, have some --zzzzt. Even if it’s just for a few minutes. I try to get it and give it as much as I can.

I go an exercise class, called NIA, neuro-intramuscular something - it’s a combination of yoga, tai chi, karate, dancing, breathing, laughing. I feel I’ve been blessed -- I tried to not put my own prejudice in the way, tried to step out -- I’ve tried to find the right thing to do. I have a sister three years younger than me, but she missed the whole thing. And her son is 28 yrs old, and he doesn’t have one clue - my sister never gave him the responsibility to figure it out. My kid, it was like from the time she was born, hey, you make your decisions, if they’re really bad, I’ll stop you -- and she’s got incredible values. I just say, darlin’ whatever makes you happy makes me happy, as long as you get up every morning with a song in your heart and pay your own goddamn way! Made dean’s list with 19 hours -- twice in one year...

No comments: