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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Clones & Hippies

Perhaps it was that everyone at the prison where I spent today offering insurance to state employees—everyone except the guards in their uniforms and the offenders in the orange shirts and pants—was dressed differently, from dresses to jeans, dress shirts to sweatshirts. Each expressed his or her own individuality. More than likely it was the five men at a table where I had a late lunch. Each wore dark slacks, a starched, long-sleeved white shirt, and a very conservative tie. My Lord! Long sleeve shirts when it was 96 F outside! They looked like five clones of Roger the Fop!

I don’t even wear long-sleeved shirts in winter, much less in 90+ heat. And although I wear a tie “to work,” I always remember what a professor in the school of Social Work said: “Ties are the nooses the powers-that-be put around the necks of middle-class men to remind them that they can be lynched at any moment.”

Whatever the stimulation, my thoughts drifted back almost 40 years to the summer of 1967. I had spent six weeks in ROTC summer camp at Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. After that exhausting experience, I drove—although I don’t recall the drive; I may have slept through it—to Washington, D.C., where my friend Su, the betrothed of my friend, Mike, had spent the summer as an intern with National Geographic. Su was ending her internship, just as I was ending my summer camp experience, and she had offered to show me D.C. in return for a ride back to Louisville.

I had difficulty finding the apartment complex where Su had lived that summer: an expressway blocked the street that led to the high rise apartment complex. That same expressway separated Su's apartment high rise from another on the other side of it. That other apartment/office complex was, a few years later, to become know around the world. It was called Watergate.

When I arrived at Su’s apartment, I discovered that she had made arrangements for me to be let into her apartment, where I crashed on the couch. I’ll write more about that week in Washington with Su in a future blog.

What I want to talk about in this post begins with times we drove past the State Department complex. Walking up and down the sidewalk, in and out of the building, were all of these men in almost identical 3-piece grey suits, with short, military-style haircuts, carrying identical attaché cases. They looked like a bunch of clones! I said as much to Su, who replied that they were clones and that it was the only way to rise in the Washington bureaucracy.

Now, I had just spent six weeks wearing army fatigues and could not understand why anyone would wear a uniform, even if the color of the ties were a bit different, when one did not have to wear a uniform!

Su and I spent a good four days in Washington, seeing the sights as I learned my way around. (I’m glad I did learn my way around; 18 months later, after I was commissioned as an army officer, my second post was with the Military District of Washington).

We planned to leave for Louisville on Saturday morning, but something happened—I can’t remember what—and we left D.C. at midnight Friday. Su suggested that we take a “shortcut” though Georgetown, where we had spent a great afternoon and evening a couple of days earlier. (I’ll never forget the jazz club where we spent three hours listening to some of the best live music I have ever encountered).

When we got to Georgetown we found that our “shortcut” didn’t save us any time. We encountered a people jam: the streets were packed with people and almost all of them were hippies. Jeans, tied-dyed and madras shirts, long hair and sandals, were everywhere. I drove my car at a snail’s pace through the crowds that literally were packed shoulder-to-shoulder from sidewalk to sidewalk across the streets. I had never seen so many hippies in one place in my life!

“Where did they all come from?” I asked Su.

“You remember all those guys we saw in the 3-piece suits outside the State Department?” Su responded.

“Sure”

“Well, on weekends they hang up their 3-piece suits, get into their jeans and sandals, and put on wigs to cover up their short hair, and go out and pretend they are really human beings and not robots.”

It’s a shame that people renounced their individuality to fit in with their jobs back in 1967. It is a greater shame that succeeding generations continue to do so.

12 comments:

  1. Hey, Nick, just dropping by to say HI, and hope you are well.
    Take care, Meow

    ReplyDelete
  2. Amazing what we would find if we stripped off the outer layer of the person next to us, huh. Course, that might get us arrested...

    ReplyDelete
  3. "Plastic hippies," I remember them.

    I started life as a corporate drone, and was able to escape. I hope they got out, too.

    I wonder how many people really want to be free? I'm thinking the number is probably pretty small, and shrinking.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oh Dear God it's that dancing cat again!!

    Anyway, I'm just dropping by to say I'm here in my office working in my corporate job, but I'm not wearing socks today.

    Power to the people!

    ReplyDelete
  5. It's funny that you wrote about this. I was talking to my friend about when I used to work in an office. I wore a lot of business suit dresses all the time. I used to come home feeling sticky and crinkled up. I would immediately rush to my bedroom and change into my pajamas----at 6pm in the fricken evening!!!!!!!! On weekends, nothing but an old pair of Levi's and a t-shirt. People never recognized me when I was out of the office.

    Now that I work from home, I am dress-casual, but I don't think I will ever put on a suit dress again---ever!

    It's almost like a prison, so I can totally see these guys becoming hippies.

    ReplyDelete
  6. ex-Louisville Guy Retired in TucsonWednesday, August 02, 2006 4:10:00 PM

    “Ties are the nooses the powers-that-be put around the necks of middle-class men to remind them that they can be lynched at any moment.”

    I LOVE it!

    ReplyDelete
  7. MEOW: I’m hanging on by the ends of my claws!


    SONSON: Somehow I think if we were stripped of our facades, we’d all be much more alike than we’d want to admit.


    THOMAS: I doubt that folks really understand what freedom is. If they did, they’d realize that 99.9% behave as if we were slaves.


    LIMPY: Have you spoken with Meow about your fixation on her dancing cat?

    I seldom wear socks myself—only when the type of shoes/boots require them. Same with underwear!


    DEB: I think you have hit on something important. Many of us dress to impress—or at least to observe some form of dress code that we have no input into. When we are really free to be who we are, we usually wear what’s comfortable. I enjoy being nude inside my house; I would also probably enjoy be nude outside my house, if it were socially acceptable, which it ain’t where I live.


    EX-LOUISVILLE GUY: I would expect you to identify with it. How’s retirement going?

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  8. Yep - too many clones still in DC and maybe not enough hippies nowadays. ec

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  9. Have you seen or talked to Su since Mike died?

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  10. MREDDIE: I agree! Still too many idiots—I mean, “clones”—in D.C. And too few real hippies everywhere!


    AZSONOFAGUN: I didn’t learn about Mike’s tragically young death until about 6 months after he died. By that time Su had already left Kentucky to I never learned where.

    ReplyDelete
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