Got back to Jersey yesterday, in time for a two day weekend music festival our town throws every summer like a mini-Woodstock, with even a few headliners among the local bands (the "old"—his term—singer/songwriter Jonathan Edwards, and Marshall Crenshaw).
There's plenty of terrific local musical talent too, some well known at least in this past of Jersey and some not, but all proficient and each different from the other so there's enough variety to find something you dig.
People spread out on a grassy hillside in the local park, the bandstand set up at the bottom of it. They picnic on home cooked food or what they buy here and have coolers of beer and wine and soda. The little kids run around while the teenagers hover at the edges or stroll the pathways between booths with art and food and clothes and massage, etc. and face painting for the little kids as well as those blow up slides etc.
But the thing that hit me about the connection to the summers of '67 and '69, is the peaceful and all inclusive vibe. Our town is known for its population of gay couples, many with kids, and of mixed race couples (although we all know those old concepts of "race" are outdated by now).
But the big difference is, 1967 was the year the Supreme Court finally struck down the last state laws prohibiting marriage between the "races." Now here were all these mixed couples, most of them perfectly "middle-class" suburbanites, just like most of the other couples in this town, including the "gay" ones.
Back in the late '60s not only were couples like these rare, so much so most people wouldn't have even known any, but their acceptance was even rarer. Now here they are with their beautiful children, and a president who represents the child of a mixed race marriage to look up to.
We just have to get to the same place legally for the "gay" couples, where they too can get married anywhere in this country and have the same rights as the rest of us.
Another difference between the late '60s and now—around here at least—is in a lot of the families I know the woman is the main earner. A lot of the men work but at jobs where they don't make as much as their wives, and some of the husbands stay home and raise the kids (some out of necessity since they've been laid off, but nonetheless).
Back in the late '60s that also would have been rare, the whole concept of equality between the genders was still a novel idea for many if not most in this country, including among the hippies of those days. Now here we are, my friend Chris, a ruggedly handsome man in his forties who coaches all kinds of sports for his sons' teams and has for years, a total sports fan and ex-athlete himself, with earrings in both ears, a wife who is a lawyer and makes a lot more than him (though like many here also, she works in New York for the city's poor and oppressed).
And while Chris and I are talking in front of a booth run by poet Jerome Rothenberg's son and daughter-in-law (with a beautiful slim book of three poems by Jerry illustrated by her for sale at their booth among other art objects she created, while the poet, his son tells me, vacations with his wife in Ireland), I notice a beautiful skinny little "black" girl who looks to be about thirteen and reminds me of my first true love, strolling by holding hands with her boyfriend, a skinny cute "white" boy about the same age, and it brings a big smile to my face and makes me want to shout THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to all the folks who let go of the old prejudices and fears and "beliefs" to make it possible for people of all "races" and creeds, as they used to say, as well as genders, to love each other openly, without fear of jail or harassment or any kind of violent or oppressive reaction.
Now that makes this year here feel a lot like a real "summer of love."