Yes, I still have a big pile of tie-dyed shirts. They are decades old. Same with my jeans.
Here's the thing: nowadays some of the new ones look older than the old ones. They are marketed as "vintage" and they are Exhibit A when discussing what has gone so terribly wrong in this country. Time was, money was tight, and new clothes were a precious commodity.
I remember when I pestered my mother for a pair of bell-bottom jeans. They were ugly enough brand new – my father derisively called me "Barnacle Bill" – but the crap really hit the fan when I tried to bleach them and ruined the brand new electric washing machine, which continued leaving blue stains on anything that was washed in it, for a very long time.
Then I ripped them all over and cut holes in the worst places, the revealing places. I honestly thought they would look good on me. My mother nearly killed me, although it wasn't nearly as bad as the time I decided to make tie-dyed T-shirts in the living room.
Recently I decided to break out some of my old stuff. I wore the jeans out once and someone said, "Oh did you get them at JC Penny? They are on sale this week." How do you explain the precious memories a pair of treasured old pants carries? The stain from the first time I . . . well never mind. Suffice it to say there were still scrambled eggs from 1968 on one of the thighs.
The next day I put one of my old tie-dyed t-shirts.
I soon realized, though, that I'm not as svelte as I used to be. Put another way, I looked like a giant half-orange, half-lime creature from Sesame Street that never made it past the first open casting call. Instead of looking cool, I looked like a giant stuffed parrot.
This led me to ponder one of life's great mysteries: what was going on in our minds when we were hippies? How could we possibly believe orange and lime were tasteful colors to build a wardrobe around? And why did we keep dropping wet eggs on our laps?
I was walking out the door when Karen intercepted me.
"What's that smell?"
"Oh, you mean the patchouli oil? It's an ancient Tibetan fragrance that promotes inner peace," I told her.
"Then why am I so angry?" Karen asked. "Because it's making me sick, that's why!"
Meanwhile our dog Cocobelle was barking hysterically at me. "She thinks you are a giant, ugly parrot," Karen said.
"You're going to wear that ridiculous costume out in public?"
One thing about Karen. She really knows how to get inside my aura. "It's not a costume," I explained, gently. A whole subculture exists, of which I was at the forefront, I explained, and millions of people after me embraced this lifestyle, replete with this "costume," as she so derisively called it. Besides, we were having Italian food and I had to go pick it up.
"You sit in the car. I'll get the pizza," she ordered.
"OK," I said, "I want pepperoni on mine. It promotes sexual healing." I winked. She rolled her eyes. "And mushrooms!" I added, excitedly.
We went to pick up the pie. I was just sitting there, content in my aura, feeling the vibes, going with the flow, and basically digging my head when she came out carrying the pizza.
"The guy wanted to know why there was clown in my car," she said.
I was so upset I had to chant for a couple minutes, cross my legs, recite a couple mantras, and put on sitar music.
She just doesn't get it and she never will. It's because she's square, and I'm cool. That's why we live in in Northwest Woods – it reminds me of the Tibetan Rain Forest. That's why I put pepperoni on pizza - to open the doors of perception. It's like a free ticket to the cosmos, a magic carpet to the mind.
The next day I got up early, put the same clothes on, and ventured into the public. "I am cool! I am a child of Woodstock!" It was a bit chilly, though. "Damn," I said forlornly. "I wish I had my poncho."
Rick Murphy is a six-time winner of the New York Press Association Best Column award as well as the winner of first place awards from the National Newspaper Association and the Suburban Newspaper Association of America and a two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee.