A couple of weeks ago, I was enjoying a mango margarita at a party down the street, when I was approached from the side by a friendly, neighborhood hippy.

“You know, somewhere on your property, there is an uncut four karat diamond buried by a tree,” she said.

I blinked at Tanya, a woman I know who lives down the road from me. She was dressed warmly in multiple layers of hippy attire for the cool June evening. A pair of purple pants stuck out under a floral patterned skirt and slouched over a pair of Elven-styled shoes fastened by leather straps. A loose knit brown sweater hugged her shoulders.

I smiled. I like Tanya. She is in her early 40s and has long, sandy hair and blue eyes. She stands close to 5’2”, but would probably be closer to 5’4” if she stood a little straighter. Several years ago, she was in a car accident, which left her with a somewhat debilitating head injury. Once she told my husband over a couple of beers that her husband was cheating on her and that he and his girlfriend were plotting to kill her.

“A four karat diamond?” I repeated in a tone not unlike one I use with my children when they tell me they just saw a giraffe in the forest or that a monster named Brian drank all of the maple syrup in the pantry.

“Well,” she hesitated, “it’s either the four karat diamond or a crystal. I can’t remember if I buried the diamond with the iguana.”

“The iguana,” I repeated, taking a long draw from my cup and angling off from the group of neighbors with whom I had been discussing the housing market only moments before. “There’s an iguana buried next to my house?” At 9000 feet in the Rocky Mountains, I was somewhat amused by this thought.

“No, the iguana is buried at my old apartment down in Boulder. I just can’t remember if I put the diamond in the box with the iguana, or if it was the crystal. Whichever one it’s not is buried on your property. It will also be in a wooden box.”

I nodded as if everything was perfectly clear now. A few moments of silence passed between us. Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore.

“I’m sorry…why?”

“Because he was miserable in his cage – it was so obvious – so I used to let him roam freely around my apartment. It was the middle of winter and I accidentally left the window open and he got out. It was horrible. I found him frozen solid, huddled up against the building.”

I squinted at her.

“The iguana?”

She nodded somberly and pushed a strand of hair out of her eyes.

“No, I meant why did you bury a diamond—or a crystal—on my property?”

“I don’t know,” she began shaking her head. “Maybe it was a ‘put your money with your love’ thing? Derek and I wanted to buy that house and camped out there on the property border several times. We ended up not qualifying for the loan.”

“Oh.”

A few more moments of silence passed between us, but I couldn’t leave it alone.

“So, I gotta know. How did you get this diamond?” And what did it do to you to merit burial?, I completed in my head.

“Oh, this guy I knew gave it to me. He was part of the Rainbow People and we’d had a fling…he had several of these diamonds. He gave them out to a bunch of us. I wasn’t the only one.”

I nodded, imagining vividly the scene in which the Rainbow Man handed out diamonds to all of his hippy lovers. In my mind, they surrounded him in a forest glen with only the moon to light their faces.

I like hippies. That is to say, I don’t dislike them. Living where I do outside of Boulder, I have ample opportunity to comingle with the pagan unwashed. I even know a few by name: Marley. Moonbeam. Dharma. I don’t really know a Dharma, but I know of one. She and her life partner, Greg, live in an eclectically decorated apartment and have unusual friends. They are very funny.

In the small town just down the mountain pass from where I live, there are numerous hippies. It is a virtual hippy haven. When they are not crowded around a trashcan bonfire or on sofas on another hippy’s front porch, they congregate outside of a small diner called The Mercantile. “The Merc”, as it is known by locals, serves up home style vittles to the locals, as well as to a multitude of cyclists who make their way up the canyon trying to get away from the bustling metro-center of Boulder. The Merc offers things on its menu like burgers and jicama fajitas to their equally sweat-caked clientele and smells chronically of coffee and syrup no matter the time of day. It’s lovely. Truly. When Simon Smithson and Zara Potts came to visit recently, this is where we met. They called it “charming”.

I’m relatively content in my current lifestyle, but I imagine that if I wanted to reinvent myself and I had no ties, becoming a hippy would be reasonably attractive:

Certainly, I wouldn’t have to negotiate as much laundry as I currently do.

I could wear organically grown flowers in my hair without pretense.

I’ve never observed a hippy at the gym or jogging down the sidewalk, so I assume I could give up on the guilt I feel for not having a regular exercise program. This is not to say that hippies don’t exercise. As a matter of fact, hippies love kung fu. I love that hippies love kung fu.

I could be unabashedly and unapologetically polyamorous.

I could wear loose-fitting floral print cotton fabric paired with…other loose-fitting floral print cotton fabric.

I could throw myself full-time into causes I believe in and acquire a deep tan.

I could drink mate tea judiciously, eat hummus copiously and fart freely.

I could stop buying diapers for my one-year-old and let him just work it out naturally.

I could trade in my laptop for computer time at the public library where I would write free-style prose in between letters to my local members of Congress.

I could nurse my children openly and uncovered in public, as well as the children of my friends.

But there would be a darker side, too. I would have to force myself to like Reggae, which unlike Slade Ham’s recent experience with a world-class flag waver, might permanently bum me out. I once went to a reggae show in the back of a dirty restaurant in the heart of Boulder and aside from getting secondhand blitz-krieged by the bud cloud in there, I was cooked. Not only could I barely keep my eyes open after awhile from the repetitive rhythm, my knees were shot from repeatedly lifting them in the only reggae dance I know, which involves a sort of funky step not unlike an asynchronous military march. I spent the next 12 hours on somebody’s fully furnished porch waving away flies and some guy named Reefer who kept trying to gnaw on my arm.

I’m also not ready to give up Starbucks. While I’m not a regular there and will naturally gravitate toward the locally owned shop, I do occasionally find myself without a choice and before I know it I’m siphoning that brown mega-corp nectar through a straw like a half-crazed, sleep deprived mosquito. And everybody knows that if I were a hippy – a real hippy – that just couldn’t happen. Real hippies don’t go to Starbucks. They just don’t.

And then there is the body hair issue. It’s one thing to allow one’s leg and underarm hair to grow to the point of resembling a Silverback gorilla, but my face? I have eyebrows. I mean, I have eyebrows. And those little strays that sometimes pop out on my chin. Let’s just say that I am no stranger to tweezers and if I let my eyebrows unfurl across my face like a barbarian nautical flag, I’m just not sure I would be…OK…anymore. As a hippy, I assume that hypocrisy is carefully monitored by the clan, and if they caught me tweezing away at the mirror in the doorless, unisex bathroom – regardless of the fact that I could donate 6-inches of pit hair to Locks of Love – I would be done. Voted off the island. Washed away in a recycled rainwater sea.

In short, being a hippy looks easy to the outsider, but I’m not so sure it really is. People call hippies “slackers” or “lazy”, but I am beginning to suspect that the opposite is true. Modern culture blocks any effort that is less than heartfelt and the modern hippy often finds him or herself bracing against the waves that a counterculture life seems to attract, thus making life harder in the end.

In fact, every aspect of modern life is a blockade to the hippy. Certainly most restaurants don’t fit the dietary requirements. Transportation is limited to automobiles that rhyme with Schmolkswagen and that require regular maintenance and parts replacement due to an unspoken “circa 1965” clause. Hippy parents can find good, holistic education at certain institutions such as Waldorf, but places like Waldorf require money – money which, unless said hippy is a trust fund recipient, is entirely unattainable given the lack of top shelf jobs for people who refuse to shave or wear sleek, black pantsuits. Even entertainment is somewhat limited. Movie theaters are out as there are no hippy-approved snacks at the movie theater snack bar. Plus, they’re air-conditioned, which just seems, well, wrong as I don’t believe hippies mesh well with climate control. Simply put, a life decision to be a hippy is fundamentally a decision against being part of popular culture. This may be an obvious observation, but those who pull it off with any measure of success have my respect and fascination.

Tanya has managed it brilliantly in spite of a partially debilitating head injury.

Realizing that she has a special gift and that the trauma to her brain could very well at some point render further information gathering difficult, I pressed ahead with my interrogation.

“So, where did you bury it?” I asked, quickly adding that I would return it to her should it be found. A little too quickly, perhaps.

“I don’t remember exactly. It was a big tree.”

I nodded. There are hundreds of trees on my property.

“I think it was by the cabin,” she told me. “On the south side. Or maybe the west.”

“Was the tree to the south – or the west – of the cabin, or is that the position of the diamond – or crystal – in relation to the tree?”

“Both. Neither. I don’t really know.”

I nodded, crossing my arms and thinking about what it would take to dig a ring around every tree that fit that description. Surely there were at least a dozen. Or fifty. Clearly, she didn’t care. It was obvious she didn’t recognize or even want the value this could bring, having no doubt decided during her stint with the Rainbow People that American currency holds no power over her. But me, I would know just what to do with that money. Er, diamond. Or crystal. But I bet it was the diamond. Why else would she have said anything? I began making plans about how I would methodically start digging the next day at first light. Better yet, I could tell my 6-year-old that we were going on a treasure hunt and that there was actual treasure beneath one of the trees and that it was her goal to find it. I could bribe her with chocolate. Nilla Wafers. Or even just a non-scheduled private showing of Shrek. When she found it, I would take it straight to an appraiser. I might even stop at Starbucks along the way and wear a sleek, black pantsuit.

Man, I love hippies.

August 12, 2008

Mr. Statler and Mr. Waldorf

Shady Sunrise Retirement Home & Gardens
Room 22
Terrace Pass Road
Naples, Florida 34102

Dear Mr. Statler and Mr. Waldorf:

This letter is to serve notice of your eviction as residents of Shady Sunrise Retirement Home & Gardens.