69. Super Star for a Day

Published on 7 June 2024 at 21:16

© 2024 Robert Sickles

There was a day at the office when we were supposed to show everyone pictures of ourselves when we were younger and brag about our adventures and misdeeds. Kind of like what I do now in this story blog.  I don’t know where that came from; is it like something people do in offices?  It seemed like an odd way of “getting to know all about you.”  I felt sorry in a way for the younger ones who hadn’t had many experiences. And for the guy who was barely holding his life together now after losing it all in a series of failures. And sadder still for the older woman who hadn’t done anything nor changed much for decades. She showed an old yellowed Polaroid of herself from 40 years earlier. Same hairstyle, same dress, same job.  It came off a little flat during the “Share Your Crazy Past” event.

By then I was a barbered, shaven, Dockers-wearing, Buick-driving, married, suburban dude, even accused of being a Yuppie more than once. I kept a low profile, working by myself in an office on the lower level. It was hard for me to mix socially—I had a long commute and I was not inclined to join anyone after hours for a drink or whatever. I suppose I was seen as aloof or antisocial. But when I showed a couple of photos of myself from 25 years earlier, some people’s imagination took off, thinking I was way more interesting. They all had a different point of view and made different assumptions.

The young guy who worked the loading dock was a musician with a rock band. I think they played tributes to 60’s and 70’s legends. He looked at my photo and saw my long hair and patched blue jeans and jumped on the idea that I was once in the vanguard, the hippest of hippies, and asked about the music of “my day.” “Did you ever hang out with anyone super cool, like Jimi Hendrix or Janis Joplin?  Man, it must have been so amazing to be around back then. I bet you were at Woodstock, right? And Haight Ashbury… just to think of being at the Fillmore to see the Jefferson Airplane, the Byrds, the Doors, the Who! Man, oh Man, you rock, Sickles!”

The warehouse fellow, speaking from his perspective as one who probably had run-ins with law enforcement in his youth, took one look at my photos and sniffed, “I bet you saw the inside of a patrol car more than you wanted. Used to be the cops really hassled the long-hairs where I came from.”

The hotshot salesman, a midlife-crisis-sportscar-pot-enthusiast, took one look at my photo and glommed onto the idea that I must have had world class experiences in mind-altering substances. My head spun when he let loose with his fast-pitch, “I’m talkin’ Timothy Leary, Carlos Castaneda. Crazy, crazy stuff, right? I’ll bet you tried everything. Mushrooms, peyote? Did you ever go down to South America and do ayahuasca? Jeez, I hear it makes you so sick, but then so high! I always wanted to take something wild and go big, a peak experience thing, you know, like bungy jumping in New Zealand or hang gliding over Victoria Falls. Maybe go for one of those zero-G flights. Ever do anything like that? Holy cow, Sickles. We should go for a beer sometime. Man, I want to pick your brain.”

The conservative woman in bookkeeping automatically took me to have been a member of a Godless cult commune. “The peace sign is a Satanic emblem, you know. Charles Manson was awful, wasn’t he? God will punish the wicked. Your poor mother and father! I can only hope you have changed for the better. If you and your family don’t belong to a church, I’d be happy to introduce you to Pastor Mike.”

One person in the office who usually had something to say about political news squinted at the photos and said, “So you were an advocate of peace, I hope. There was so much going on in the country toward ending the war and fighting for justice. Did you march in the big protests and attend any speeches by the great ones—Hoffman, Davis, King?  Some of them swung through Seattle. I think you would have been there, for sure.”

Finally, I heard from a quiet man who grew wistful. Before coming home and marrying his one and only, he spent the years of his youth on overseas active duty in the military. He confessed that he’d always been jealous of the uninhibited kids of the 60’s, free to enjoy the Revolution of Love. He looked at the photo of me and my friends and had to know if I’d ever had a harem of hippie chicks… like, was I some kind of “guru of free love?”

This all was completely unexpected, a little unnerving. But for a short time, my “cred,” my social status, went from non-entity to rock star.

Well now, y’all… were any of those nice folks in my office on the right track about me? Do you want me to tell you how I answered their questions? Or would you rather guess? 

When it comes to equivocation, some cultures are masters of the art. The Hindus express it with a head wobble, and Aussies like to say “yeah, nah.”

Here… this demonstrates what I’m talking about: (I don’t know what this dude is doing with his fingers. I hope it’s a “hand shrug” and not something obscene.)

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Rosa McBride
6 days ago

What a crazy wild dude you were! 😍

Dee Rincon
6 days ago

Bob or should I say
hi to the hippest, cult thriving, guru, peace maker, rock musician, druggie, craziest and wildest school mate the faked me out. Got a thrill from this article. We do tend to pigeon hole people into believing what they look like is what they are. Just because long-hair was a trend doesn't mean we follow what else goes with it. I was a bit shocked when I saw your long hair. I think after being conditioned for many years, we like to shall I call it rebel or just get uninhibited? Now I am curious, what wild things did you do during your long-haired adventure? I like the second picture of you. You look good in long hair.

6 days ago

Wow Roberto...I had no idea you had so many personalities. Sounds to me like a life well lived.