Being a hippie without relegating yourself to the dregs of utter dirtbagness is kind of a tricky area. If you’re a guy in high school and completely surrounded by jocks and dogmatic straight-edgers, it’s fine to take a year or two off to dabble in acid and not be stressed out all the time. And if you’re a girl, you can pretty much go fully overboard with it for a while, provided you don’t start smelling like feet or phase into raver. The important thing in either case is to stay mindful of the time and hop the ferry back to decent society before you catch hep A at Bonnaroo and end up permanently stuck a filthy imbecile.
The best part of this cycle is when someone’s in the middle of their return conversion and figuring out which aspects of hippiedom to chuck and which to hold on to. Usually the first things to go are the most obvious and disgusting, but sometimes newly reformed aquarians get cold feet about the big change and hang on to the absolute worst pieces of their old selves as memorials to their troll-like former lifestyle. These hippie-keepsakes become even more revolting outside their original context, almost as if all the baggy cords and piecemeal spirituality have seeped in and taken refuge in that leftover patch of stringy brown beard.
Our graphic-design intern has for the past couple years been sporting just such a bad-vibe repository in the form of a full head of ratty, poo-ish mini-dreads. We tried dropping subtle hints to steer him in the right direction like shouting “One love!” and “Get rid of those fucking dreadlocks!” whenever he walked by, and eventually just started offering him money to lop them off. The pot got up to $500, but still he refused to let go. Then one morning he walked in looking about ten million times better and carrying a little plastic baggie containing what looked like a macramé turd. It was his last dread, a gift for us, and it smelled only faintly of six years’ worth of impacted dandruff.
Another friend of ours, despite having given up the stupid hair-bandanas and lazy boyfriend years ago, still persisted in using those ear candles that are supposed to suck the wax out. After showing her about 30 articles—half by fucking PhDs—proving that they’re a total crock, she finally agreed to give her ears a good old-fashioned swabbing. We were APPALLED by what came out of that dainty noggin: Two marble-size gobs of dark amber goo covered with a powdery white residue that broke off in flakes and smelled like that crease where the leg meets the ass after a five-mile run.
With these musky gems in hand and a week-old Band-Aid from an infected cut on our editorial assistant’s thumb to round out the set (it’s hard to tell from the picture, but the pad area is covered with a crusty, translucent yellow layer of pus a few millimeters thick), our two regular go-to guys set out to the roof to bring the Gross Jar back to where it started: Filled mostly with things that came out of people.
At some point in the month since its addition, March’s cow eye got comfy in its new setting and broke apart into a good hundred little black chunks, half of which settled to the swiftly growing layer of sediment at the bottom and the rest of which remained suspended in the liquid like a snowglobe from an abattoir. Neither the testicle casings nor any part of the roaches were anywhere to be seen, although it’s possible they had a hand in the Jar-water’s transition to a far more spring-y, pastel pink shade of gray.
After popping the lid and making the requisite “the smell’s so bad we have to flail around and press the lawn-mowing masks to our faces” gestures (getting pretty old), our staffers laid out April’s ingredients and got down to business. The Band-Aid floated briefly before folding in and sinking; likewise the earwax, which had dried up and crumbled in transit and dusted the surface of the water for a couple minutes then went under.
The dread got about halfway submerged before bobbing back up erect like one of those bayou trees (but hair) and looked like it was going to stay that way for good until our eagle-eyed photographer noticed little veins of tannish pink making their way up the stalk and pulling it down. Despite its proud and defiant buoyancy, the Jar had recognized ol’ Natty for the foul, tangled knot of misdirected idealism it really was, and was claiming it for its own.
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