Tuesday, May 09, 2006

You Want to Go Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Sometimes working the front desk of the library is not unlike tending bar. Today, for instance, I hung out with another one of my favorite Library All-Stars, a guy who is in some sense the Norm Peterson of this "Cheers"-like establishment if I were the Woody Boyd pulling the taps.

This patron fits many if not most of the stereotypes one might associate with the Aging Hippie. He's kind of a scraggly dude who wears flip-flops ten months of the year, and he cultivates an intense interest in music (and possibly other products) best described as "psychedelic." He also employs an impressive, if dated, array of descriptive terms when explaining the qualities he appreciates about music, art, TV shows, movies, or humans. Some favorites include the aforementioned and extremely versatile "psychedelic." "Smokin'" usually refers to a guitar solo or a woman. "Blow-away" works for songs or books. "Cold-blooded" is useful for guitar solos, women, 1960s rock concert posters, or hot surfing videos.

The Aging Hippie spends most of his time in the library at our front counter chatting with one of my co-workers or me about any of the subjects mentioned above, with occasional forays into politics, religion or philosophy. (That is, until he discovered www.youtube.com. For the past couple of weeks he's been increasingly drawn to our relatively powerful internet computers to peruse those vast archives for obscure psychedelic rock performances and big-wave surfing videos.)

In his mellow, peace-loving, drug-addled drawl, the Aging Hippie espouses the virtues of obscure bands or fascinating Japanese movies in lengthy detail. When he really gets going, these monologues segue into rambling harangues about the state of the nation or humanity during which my friend will often bring himself to the verge of tears. While he may start out describing the beauty of a psychedelic guitar solo, within five to ten minutes he could easily be emotionally lashing the Bush administration for, among other things, making those smokin' guitar solos far less possible in this cruel world.

A couple of months ago, two of our employees violently took issue with another patron's political views during an originally friendly, bartender-like chat at the counter. When the conversation turned to the war in Iraq, our patron humbly suggested that he could still be a patriotic American while disagreeing with this President's war policies. In a dramatically un-library-like display, one of our librarians and our Computer Nazi literally shouted this patron out of the building in their spittle-fueled rage. While they were both forced to later apologize to this guy who repeatedly insisted to me, "I'm a moderate! All I said was I disagreed with Bush," a definite chilling effect on discourse at the counter was felt.

Luckily the Aging Hippie is immune (or otherwise oblivious) to such threats. When I quietly mentioned that I attended an anti-Bush protest at a nearby college last weekend, he was almost immediately brought to tears of righteous joy. He praised me and my protesting friends for doing our small part to save the country, and when he found out we drove up there in a hybrid vehicle I thought his sincere weeping might even rouse the security guard. The whole story prompted such an excoriating diatribe by the A.H. that I thought it would peel the formica off the desk of my fellow employee who shouted our other patron right out the door not so long ago. Instead, she had to sit there quietly about six feet away while my hippie friend unloaded the detritus of lord knows how many bad acid trips on his way to repeatedly and creatively cursing the Bush family name.

While my protester friends and I had to stand tightly packed within a proscribed "Free Speech Zone" in order to demonstrate against the President last weekend, I definitely felt the cool, slightly cannabis-scented wind of freedom in the library on this day. My hippie friend let loose a stream of raging invective that was interrupted periodically by small children trying to check out their books; meanwhile, "This Land Is Your Land" played on the jukebox in my mind.


Blogger Adjective Queen said...

Absolutely righteous, dude.

8:34 AM  

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