Where Were You in '64?
The endless stream of editorials on the death of Mario Savio has only now begun to wane, but for a few weeks, every news agency editor in America was counting off the seconds to the boomer eulogy: "Here we go ... 3, 2, 1, and ... cue the boomer." Our nation's middle-aged population eagerly checked in with their passionate contributions to the genre, words gushing from a generation who not only stood up to be heard in their youth, but who have continued to be heard ever since for reasons that often escape the rest of us.
Nothing against Savio, of course. His contribution to civil rights was long overdue and changed the course of history. Inside UC Berkeley's Sather Gate that fateful December day, 796 students were arrested in the name of free speech and peaceable assembly. But what of those who were too young for campus enrollment at the time? Should we not deserve our own heartfelt editorials recalling the civil impediments of yesteryear? Doesn't this cataclysmic event also demand resurrection from our memories?
For instance, in December 1964 I was 4 years old, filled with fresh ideas and youthful zest, yet also hopelessly lost inside an apartment building in Denver, Colo. The vacation with my family had gone sour. What was initially an adventure beyond the realm -- a safari to uncharted exotica outside the back yard! -- was now a desperate fight for survival.
I had been denied participation in the older children's softball game. They had shed me like a dirty shoe on the street, and now I had returned to our family friends' apartment building to ponder my immediate future. Much like the students of Berkeley, demanding their right to march and petition, I stood alone in the empty hallway, combating the harsh reality of my predicament, begging the opportunity to be heard, as the shadow of the LBJ administration loomed overhead.
While university students wrestled to open up the closed-door policies of the chancellor's office, I too was engaged in a plea for admission through the door -- the mysterious door from which I had emerged only moments before. But which door was it? Behind me, a row of apartment doors stretched into the azure distance, an endless series of options representing both the bountiful opportunity of Johnson's Great Society, and also the profound fear of failing, of choosing the path that leads to unhealthy and unproductive results -- such as getting one's head bashed in by campus police. As the students' first impulse that day in 1964 was to let their emotions drive their behavior, I also acted quickly.
A man left his loud television to answer a knock on his apartment door, wearing a T-shirt and shorts. I stood before him, a small boy, face wrought with concern, a child denied his basic, unalienable rights. The man demanded an explanation, an address. Being unashamed of my stature as an American, I correctly informed him of the easiest location where I could be contacted -- a roadside bar/pig farm/post office/grocery story/dance hall in Montana, where our family received mail. Unconsciously -- or perhaps knowingly -- representing the middle-class opinion of the "younger generation," he slammed the door in my face.
Faced with a similar dilemma, Mario Savio saw no recourse. He crawled onto the hood of a car, grabbed a microphone, and galvanized a generation. I, too, screamed bloody murder, galvanizing the alert ears of my sister, and was soon accorded the humanitarian privilege of reuniting with relatives and enjoying lunch.
Even if you weren't at Berkeley, 1964 was a tough year.
Faithful fans of Manny the Hippie, aka Micah Papp, wonder boy of David Letterman's visit to the city, already know that the skate rat-turned-celebrity was thrown in the clink in Ohio last month for pot trafficking. And these same fans will also be aware that Papp is threatening to write his life opus while serving his 18 months behind bars. But what the rest of us wonder -- yea, hunger for -- is the official Home Page for Manny the Hippie. Fret no further:
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By Jack Boulware