These were the days of Viet Nam War protests, LSD, and Bob Dylan. Moratorium Days and Yellow bands on our arm. Peter, Paul, and Mary. Simon and Garfunkel. Bob Dylan or Country Joe and the Fish later led to John Denver and the Eagles. The closest thing I had to an idol or role model was my fake cousin, Randi, who wore headbands, braids, beads, and tie dye. I wanted desperately to be wearing full fledged hippie garb, but maintained my identity as a good Lutheran girl, who wandered off to walk on the edge whenever possible...but never too close to fall off.
At the time in New York City, hippies were seen as derelicts and suspected drug addicts. I suppose that could've been true or false, but the strung out hippie types that hung out, and sometimes slept, in the park at the corner did not a role model make. But it didn't keep me from wanting to be a peace sign waving, love declaring, tie dye wearing flower child.
I settled for carrying the pot or acid occasionally since the cops couldn't frisk a girl, but I'd never hold it for the whole night. I was always a nervous wreck and never did fully embrace the rebellious and daring habits they did. I'd hang out with them on the park bench, but rarely had the courage to climb the fence into the golf course and steal the carts for a joy ride, or build a campfire and get drunk only to be chased by a cop car and have to jump the 8 or 11 ft high fence hoping the dogs weren't going to nip me in the butt before I got to the top. I wanted to be considered part of the crowd so I took the now and again risks to prove my membership status in the group - but I didn't want to be arrested, in trouble, disappointing, or develop a bad reputation. It was a delicate balancing act to be accepted and seen as cool; while still maintaining the image and identity of a good Norwegian Lutheran girl with the right morals, grades, and image - and proudly hanging on to my virginity for as long as I could. Looking back, I now understand how deeply embedded these values were in me. At the time, I remember wondering if I was just a coward for not wanting to get busted or carry drugs. The truth is I never wanted to do the drugs. This doesn't mean I didn't, because I did. But not like most of them. It wasn't who I wanted to be. I wanted to be accepted, not arrested. I was a big baby nerd in disguise. It's embarrassing actually.
I lived between my cultural ideals of the anti-war movement and a Norwegian-Lutheran immigrant heritage. The peace and love generation I grew up in which included the music of the sixties; and the Lutheran girl who had generally good grades and went to Camp Koinonia with the pastor and youth group, happily singing Kumbayah shaped me. It was difficult to fully identify with the kids that hung out on the park bench because my ties to the Norwegian church group kids ran deep, their friendships went as far back as I could remember. We may have been church kids, but we weren't fundamentalist church kids. We still spiked the punch and broke the rules. We were Lutherans, not Christians as I came to understand other Christians only a few years later. Ironically, we'd all been friends so long that I never fell for the guys in this group - they were more like brothers and incestuous I wasn't. It just didn't feel right. We loved Jesus, got confirmed, went to church on Sunday, and when we were old enough, we all drank like fish and didn't dabble in drugs. A few of the guys - those who never left the neighborhood which also meant they never left the bar, died young. Ironically, many of the park bench crowd who often broke the law, were addicted to hard rock, and made a habit of illegal drugs came out the grown up side with ph.D's, Master's degrees, impressive resumes, and full lives. The Norwegians mostly died or were blue collar laborers. There were exceptions on both sides, of course, but the outcomes still astound me. I would never have guessed it. Thank God for AA's rise in popularity at that time. It saved many of their lives.
I, on the other hand, left Brooklyn as soon as I could for Manhattan. As coincidence would have it, this was the same time Saturday Night Fever was released. I left Brooklyn for Manhattan the very same summer the movie's lead character, Stephanie, faced the rejection and wrath of her Brooklyn neighborhood friends when they felt betrayed when she left to follow the same dream on the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge. Brooklyn and Manhattan were only steps away, but worlds apart. The timing of my escape from Brooklyn and the movie's identical storyline was a coincidence hard to ignore. John Travolta and friends had shot the movie on location all over my neighborhood that same summer. Our main activity that summer was driving around in the wee hours of the night to watch the filming. Although it was the peak of disco, we were Bay Ridge girls who refused to trade our flannel shirts and construction boots for platform heels and mousse. That was best left for girls from Bensonhurst, Staten Island, and New Jersey. A real Brooklyn girl didn't trade in tough and real, for ditz and glitter. We had our priorities - and our Brooklyn values. We thought it was bizarre that a major motion picture featuring the recent disco craze was being filmed in the very neighborhood that the teens didn't succumb to this current fad. But the disco crowd lived in the neighborhoods all around us nonetheless, making finding extras a breeze for the film's producers.
Bay Ridge teens were camping and Joe Walsh, not DJ's and BeeGees. Years later, my Manhattan roomate's boyfriend, Steve Borton, described my roomate and I as, "Pick up truck, not Porsche." That about covers it. Little did we know how prophetic those words were.
We followed Joe Walsh wherever he played, and whoever he played with. We went to every show the James Gang or Barnstorm performed. We never missed a show if it was within travel distance. My guess is those bands would recognize our young faces still - but certainly not today's over 50 exterior.
I traded Puff the Magic Dragon for Walk Away; the Sound of Silence for the sound of slide (guitar). The worst part about it was...I didn't really like it, but never admitted it. Electric, hard rock was nerve wracking, and I never did adjust. But I tried like hell and acted as if...to maintain a cool front.
Chances are I never pulled it off, but I fooled myself into thinking I did back then. I never felt like I fit in that crowd, except with my boyfriend Billy and his best friend, Vinny. They became my family and shaped much of who I later became - even though I soon left them and the Brooklyn streets for a chance at my dreams far away from that park bench corner.
Years later I learned the very same clubhouse and golf course where we'd jump the fence and get chased by cops is the very same golf course that Tiger Woods first learned to play golf on. His father taught him how to swing a club on that green when he was just a little tyke. Who knew.