May 19, 2011 —
As I prepare to set out on a journey of 10,000 miles with my 20-year-old daughter, I am also being swept back in time by a group of people I have not seen in 40 years. As a result, I am dangling in a kind of suspended animation between the past and the future. It may be that we all live this way every day without awareness; but right now I am aware.
The time machine that has a hold on me is a result of that notorious time-waster, Facebook. Its chief time-traveler is a group called “Greenwich Village Kids 1960s.” The group has existed for a while, but only recently have the updates on it been occurring hourly. A kind of tornadic energy has grabbed us all and flung us deeply into a past that never really passed for many of us. As Faulkner said in “Requiem for a Nun,” “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
I’m not sure how this sudden surge of interest occurred. Until last Thursday, it had been more than a year since anyone posted on the page. Some site visitors suggest Facebook itself manipulated us by sending unsolicited email updates. It’s a little unsettling to think a corporate entity has manipulated a group of former counter-culturists but really, who are we kidding? Much of our counter-culture energy was sapped long ago by the culture we created for ourselves.
Recently, the flood of memories became something more than sentimental reminiscences about hairstyles (or lack of same), guitars and favorite hangouts when a quasi-leader of the discussion suggested we were ignoring the “300-pound pink elephant sitting in our collective living-room.” He was talking about the drug culture that did “far more damage to us and to society than we ever admit.”
That was a posting that drew a lot of attention from those of us who had lost friends, siblings and parents to that side of the ’60s culture. It prompted me to break the news to many of my brother Chris’s death as a victim of that drug culture. Indeed, most of the people missing to the group are missing as a result of drugs or the virus that post-dated our sexual revolution, AIDS.
One member of the group, the writer Lisa Cunningham, suggested that the world of Greenwich Village in the ’60s was not to be “conflated” with the “extreme change” going on in the world at the time. But as children in Greenwich Village we were exposed to these extremes directly, with large anti-war demonstrations and violent episodes such as the accidental explosion of a townhouse on West 11th Street by members of SDS, and with the vibrant and expressive artists and writers in our everyday lives. We became uniquely attuned to the extremes of the culture at that time. Ultimately, Lisa Cunningham writes, “we are creating” (on the Facebook page) “a portrait of an explosive (and important) moment in modern history, an epicenter of American culture in Greenwich Village that echoed around the world in the ’60s—through the eyes of children.” It sounds to me like the perfect storm of energy needed to create something useful out of all this living.
In the meantime, I am packing my bags for the future and saddling up the Prius for a dream trip across the USA with my daughter. I will take my Facebook updates with me, thanks to modern technology, but I will be posting about the present, instead of the past.