Hippies still roam free, on this one day, in this one place.
I spent a lot of time with hippies with I was a young(er!) man, in many parts of the American West, primarily Missoula, Mont. I was even a bit of a hair farmer myself in those days. But these were modern hippies, who mimic the affectations of hippiedom — pot smoking and earnest sanctimony — without really feeling it in their bones.
Yesterday, though, I went to see what is one of the last vestiges of true dirty hippiedom in this nation of ours: The Fremont Solstice Parade, an annual bacchanalia in the Fremont district of Seattle.
The great strength of the parade lies in the central rule that governs participation: No written words. That means no advertisements of any kind, in or around the parade, but also no explicit messages, political or otherwise.
Plenty of folks have messages to convey, of course, but they do it through art — delightful, hilarious, charmingly homemade public art: enormous floats with pinwheels or wedding cakes or tiki bars, giant cardboard robots, naked (but painted!) people on bikes and stilts, marching bands, bubble blowers, musicians, belly dancers … the mind it boggles. Check out the pictures on Flickr.
Nobody, it must be said, beats the dirty hippie types when it comes to public, ecstatic, unselfconscious celebration of life and love and nature.
Sadly, though, in between celebrations they use words.
Of particular annoyance: Hippiedom includes a kind of quaint pagan environmentalism I would find endearing if I didn’t still see vestiges of it alive and well around me. I’m talking about an environmentalism hostile to cities, to technology, to modernity itself, one that pines for a mythical past when smelly, scantily clad humans danced around the maypole, screwed, ate roots and berries, and lived in harmony with the earth. I find it almost too silly to argue with (though I appreciate biodiversivist’s valiant attempt).
But the parade … it prohibits the words. It is joyous, wordless hippiedom. The best of all worlds.
(In case you’re wondering, the picture above is of the earth, trailed by a folk band singing “This Land Is Your Land.” Really.)