Recipe for An 80’s Slacker
What ingredients go into a slacker cake? My daughter wants to know and my challenge is to explain and make it sound unappealing.
Its possible that slackers as we know them are a phenomena unique to the last few decades. Humans have always had the capacity to write poetry, avoid commitment and otherwise imagine shapes in passing clouds. However, sixties counterculture gave youth permission to wander, dream, question authority and generally loll about. Myself, I was born during the presidency of JFK and remember watching on a black and white analog TV, Neil Armstrong step onto the surface of the moon.
My kid’s Grandpa was a professor in a Midwest college town. One day a friend and I hopped on our bikes to check out something going on downtown. A demo was happening and we were on the fringe of a few hundred students protesting on the campus quad. On the far side of the field a phalanx of small town cops waited. I don’t recall a canister being discharged but our eyes began to water so my friend and I split.
So yeah, although was I sort of tear gassed in the sixties I was too young to have been a real hippie. My seventies post hippy friends and I sported most of the trappings. Bell-bottoms. Long hair and headbands. Patchouli incense. Consulting the I Ching. Semi-vegetarianism. Zap commix magazines. Rock music. To us the enlightened it was clear that most seventies rock sucked. Sixties music rules, ok I’m about to go on a rant here, real counterculture rock and roll was and is a revelation. Today’s hipsters should understand that their culture, especially anything that smacks of the idealistic is basically a rehash. Already been done. Except for the digital technology part. That’s new.
I remember carefully studying a copy of the original Last Whole Earth Catalog with its articles about and ads for camping gear, alternative energy, gardening stuff, do it yourself chicken coops, how to construct a sweat lodge, recycling, travel, crystal therapy, far out poetry and much more. In the lower right hand corner of every other page there was a serial adventure of a hippy couple, D.R. and Estelle, wandering the land in a VW bus. Mind blowing, to an impressionable adolescent the many wondrous and better ways to live. Confession: I, in 2013, have a chicken coop in my backyard and we use chicken poop to fertilize our vegetable gardens.
Confusing too, with multiple possible paths to wander upon. By the mid-seventies it was a bit open-ended as to what it all meant. In high school a group of us came up with the idea of starting an alternative newspaper. We held council in the living room of an older sibling’s place, sitting in a circle. I think there was a “rapping stick” passed around as we shared ideas. What was the inspired name for our proposed publication, you ask? That the bossy chick that put herself in charge insisted on? “The Rainbow Express.” Yet, somehow I never went on assignment to interview the groovy gypsy woman who read Tarot cards in the back of the local head shop. And The Rainbow Express never left the station.
All recipes for a slacker will result in a soft in the middle, chewy, half-baked concoction. Slackers mostly haven’t been well mixed; their dough hasn’t properly risen and they need more time in the oven. Crusty on the outside but like a disappointing pancake have runny batter in their core.
American counterculture is a huge stone cast into the pond and the ripples and waves continue to echo. For a young person circa 1978 it meant permission to dream and seek the correct path. Whatever that might be.
Thankfully about mid-decade or so new wave music arrived, we ditched our bellbottoms for straight leg jeans, ripped our t-shirts, cut our hair short and dived into mosh pits. The new wave delivered us from the muddled mumblings of post hippy sensibilities, raised a fist in the air and generally shook things up. I remember spinning Elvis Costello and Clash records and thinking: “Whoa! What the hell is this?!”
Ok daughter of mine; in a nugget or possibly nougat that was the zeitgeist of the times that helped, for a time, diverted your Dad from the true path. What else went into the slacker mixing bowl you ask? Hard to say, because each slacker is similar and yet distinct. No question a common ingredient is youthful restlessness, the unsettled, muddy kind of thinking that caused me to in the summer of 1980 pack up my 67 Mustang automobile, quit the rust belt city of my youth and head up to the grand city of the Upper Midwest, Minneapolis.
Next: Early Slacker Jobs I had in Minneapolis