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Talkin' 'Bout My Generation

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One of the icons of my hippie youth, Graham Nash, was interviewed last week. They played some of the old Crosby, Stills & Nash songs we all sang back then, when we really believed that we could change the world.

Back then, after we'd sneaked in under-aged to the movie "Woodstock," my best friend and I took our guitars down to the kosher fish-and-chip shop in the Orthodox Jewish area of Manchester, England, where we grew up -- not that far, in fact, from Graham Nash. We sat in the rain singing Country Joe's "1, 2, 3, what are we fighting for?"  

I bought a purple velvet kaftan embroidered with mirrors in the shape of an Indian prayer mat. Back then half my clothes came from India and they all smelled of the sandalwood incense fog in my room. I wore my kaftan to a cousin's wedding to defy my grandmother.

By the time I'd moved to San Francisco, people were no longer wearing flowers in their hair. The hippies were gone, moved out to their houses in the hills. We demonstrated against the Iraq War but the marches grew smaller each year, even as the lines for the portapotties grew longer.

I think we didn't change the world because we are a flawed species. I've lost track of how many wars there have been in my lifetime, of the constant evidence of man's inhumanity to man. I am afraid half the world will always be on a diet while the other half is starving.


And, I admit, we tried to change the system from the inside and thus became a part of it. We all wanted that very, very fine house with two cats in the yard. We tried to give peace a chance, but we needed more than just love to pay the bills.

I never did make it to Marrakesh. And now Bob Dylan is on the cover of AARP magazine. I did wear my kaftan recently to a 1960s party; it's a little tight these days, but I swear it still smells of sandalwood.

With a Perspective, I'm Charmian Cohen.

Charmian Cohen is a technical writer with a masters in creative writing from San Francisco State University.

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