Pious Hippies Take It On The Chin

by | Dec 29, 2005

Paul Ford is a great writer. Evidence for this theory exists on his website. He’s also employed by Harper’s Magazine and he has a new novel out. Like I said, the guy can write.

Here’s something he wrote last fall that I find funny.

Back in 1995 Jerry Garcia died. I was just finishing up college at Alfred University in Alfred, New York. I never really cared about the Grateful Dead all that much. Some of the Dead’s music is okay if you don’t have anything better to listen to, like, say, silence, or the sound of flies buzzing. I don’t really have a problem with it, but I do have a problem with pious hippies. They get on my nerves in the same way that, say, Objectivists do. And I like all the stuff that hippies hate, like wearing solid colors, and living in a house that’s not made of corncobs, and Western medicine.

My roommate in college had the same problem with hippies that I did. So we decided to put together a one-hour radio program for the college radio station, WALF, about the assassination of Jerry Garcia, complete with commentary and analysis and a slowed-down, audio-processed, totally fake bootleg of the song Sugar Magnolia to which we added fake gunshots. We played it one night and our friends were amused.

This was the early days of the web, and I figured I might as well put up a few pages about our assassination theory with some audio clips and see what happened. What happened is that Jerry fans sent me long emails explaining how important Jerry was to the world and that my theory was insanity and should be removed from the Internet immediately. Sometimes people would ask to speak to my supervisor.

I’d always write back. I’d send a fake email from the Internet Management Council, an organization that does not exist, telling the complaining party that their Internet would be shut down from this day on. And then they’d write back even more full of burning rage, telling me that they were going to write the Internet Management Council as well and have my Internet revoked. Sometimes I’d let them in on the joke, reminding them that Jerry Garcia had been in close contact with Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters and wasn’t afraid of a good prank himself. They didn’t write back. I did it over and over, and I was happy.

I share Ford’s distlike of pious hippies, but I like Grateful Dead music. And I like hippies when they have a sense of humor and adventure.