Return of the Hippie Shirt – Gerald Locklin [1993]

Originally posted in October, 2011:

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Just read this brief tale today, a 20-year-later sequel to The Hippie Shirt. In that original story, Robert MacGregor, a 35 year old actuary, is befriended by a hitchhiking hippie who literally gives him the shirt off his back – which leads to the comic, if dramatic, dissolution of Bob’s life as lived then.

In this sequel, Bob is hitchhiking across America having spent the last 20 years hanging out in the summer with the Ojibuitske Eskimos and wintering with the Oaxicoatle Indians of the Andes. His reason? Because they wore similar shirts. At least that’s what he tells the two cops he meets whilst hitchhiking again all these years later, and who want to beat him up – like two decades ago – but are scared off when Bob convinces them they are being observed by satellites. It’s the best moment in this sweet revisit.

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Locklin is a fine poet in the great Bukowski tradition and I have always enjoyed reading his work. I’ve also used it in my teaching: I had the wonderful my son wants to ride the chairlift printed in a book I wrote on teaching and examining poetry, Poems in Your Pocket [Longman], and I have used his poems as stimulus for narrative transformations – he is such a superb storyteller, usually witty but so often punching the reader with the shock of sudden truths. Here’s an example from his book The Firebird Poems

a tyrant for our times

it’s in his novel ham on rye now,
but i remember bukowski telling
a long time ago
how his father used to beat him,
and when he’d turn to his mother for help,
she would intone, “the father is always right.”

i liked the way it sounded
and so, even though i don’t beat my kids,
i do like to tell them
“the father is always right.”

they tell me to get fucked.

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……I don’t get that many opportunities to post pictures of my own hippie shirt, back in the day…..

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