Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Hippie Tipping Point

Hello and greetings from Asheville, North Carolina. Don't worry, I have no intention of turning this into a "here's what's going on in my life blog." Even if I wanted to, that's probably not an option now, as I broke my wife's camera yesterday so there's no way for me to post uninteresting pictures from our travels.

So there are a lot of hippies in Asheville. All kinds of hippies. There are also lots of old retirees here with their gated communities and Tommy Bahama shirts. It's kind of interesting to watch them coexist. It's like Florida and Vermont spent one special night together and Asheville is the result.

Anyway, all of the incense and hacky sack got me thinking about when a city goes from being "hippie friendly" to "a hippie town." I'm pretty convinced that Asheville is the latter. I'm not really sure what pushed Asheville over this hippie threshold (I'll probably need Malcolm Gladwell's help for that) but here's what I've come up with so far:

There are three different generations of hippies here - not counting young children or animals:

1. Credit Card Hippies - Generally 18-29. Loading their canvas shopping bags in the back of their dad's SUV. They recycle, they are politically active, and they wear a North Face fleece over their thrift store t-shirt. They also have an old Phish bumper sticker on the back of their car. Once the phish sticker peels off, they've probably moved into the next category.

2. Whole Foods Hippies - 30 - 49. They were probably Credit Card Hippies at one point but have grown out of that phase. As the name suggests, they are big into organic food and probably bike to work (but only when the weather permits). Their baby strollers are made out of organic or recycled products and they park them in front of the local coffee shop.

Tangent - That's another thing...I can't find a damn Starbucks in this town. Are they too hippie for Starbucks or something? This is a clear sign that you have gone from hippie friendly to hippie town.

3. Original Hippies - 49 - ?. These people were hippies back before being green was something that companies could capitalize on. They compost and garden and have children with interesting names. I've noticed that these original hippies can be on either end of the skincare spectrum. My dermatologist (circa 1994) had a poster about how skincare today would determine what you looked like when you got older. So anyway there was a picture of a 50-something Plains Indian woman with a face like an old catcher's mitt and then a 90-something year old monk with the best skin ever. Anyway, these original hippies either have the best skin ever and look super healthy (like the monk) or they look like they have spent their entire lives outside and are completely weathered (the Indian woman). There are never any original hippies in between.

So I guess if you have all three types of hippies in your town, then you are not just hippie friendly, but are actually a hippie town. Oh, a couple other things that I noticed about Asheville that could have tipped them toward hippieville:

1. There was an actual hippie drum circle in the city park on Friday. I'm not kidding. Honestly, could you play to the hippie stereotype anymore?

2. It was impossible to tell the difference between the homeless hippies and the other hippies. We couldn't tell if we were in a bad neighborhood or not. This is a telltale sign.

Okay, that's all I've got. If you've ever spent time in a hippie town and have something to add, feel free to post comments.


Amanda said...

I'm currently living in a 'hippie-friendly plus' sort of place. (Champaign-Urbana, IL). It's very common to see people bike or skate to work, and the public transit is fantastic. There are several organic type markets, and the farmer's market is popular. There are people who generally look like hippies, and there are lots and lots of hipsters. (aside: hipster olympics:

But there's a starbuck's on every corner, and more than half the people who participate in some of the organic buying bike riding activities are not hippies OR hipsters.

This place is crazy.

Al Iverson said...

What if I like Whole Foods but don't have the bicycle?

Nate Romance said...

Al - I'm pretty sure your affinity for steak and bacon disqualify you from all of the hippie categories.

Also, since you live in the big city, you can substitute public transportation for bicycle.

Kim said...

Where does the fashion eyewear / indy rock hippie fit into the equation? Or is this a whole different category. Can you please blog about this. Fashion eyewear is the key to success up here in Minneapolis

Nate Romance said...

Kim - One of my pet peeves is people using big words to describe little problems. Sports team loses and it's a tragedy. Traffic was a disaster.

That said, I'll go ahead and break one of my own rules and say that fashion eyewear in the Minneapolis area has reached epidemic proportions.

It's to the point now where I feel cheated if I meet someone from Minneapolis and they aren't wearing fashion eyewear.

Anonymous said...

I lived in Boulder (hippie capital of the US) and had my fair share of trustafarians beg for money on Pearl Street then hop in their Range Rover and drive off. If you're not a meat-shunning, subaru-driving liberal, you're definitely "out." In many ways, hippie towns can have a more close-minded attitude than hippie-friendly towns.

P.S. Nate, I beg you not to use "pet peeve" on your blog again.

Nate Romance said...

To the last anonymous poster - can you give me something that I can use to express a pet peeve? I'll just go with 'stuff that bothers me more than Ann Curry' until I hear from you. Also, is my use of 'pet peeve' one of your pet peeves? That just blew my mind.