When I was wandering through the aisles at this year's San Diego Comicon, Jon Kroll and Dave Bohn practically jumped out of the Ape Entertainment booth and tackled me as I walked past. They loved their comic so much, and were so excited to share it, that I had to buy a copy. Unfortunately, I also promised them a review which I'm only now getting to for our site.
I feel bad about being so slow, because I really enjoyed this book. The cover gives you a good idea of why this comic is so fun and funny – a kid is lucky enough to be in a hot tub sharing a joint with two beautiful and naked girls who obviously are ready to have sex with him. What is the kid's reaction to being in this situation that would be heaven for most teen-agers? "Wish I had a TV."
That kind of humor is typical for this book. Lots of the fun of this comic comes from the idea that a hippie paradise is a completely crazy place to raise a kid. In this age long before AIDS, there's lots of casual sex and drugs, plenty of casual nudity and a pretty complete lack of what we would recognize as realistic rules. And sometimes that kind of world can be pretty damn frustrating for a kid.
There's a constant undercurrent to this book that a hippie lifestyle is just as crazy and frustrating as your typical bourgeois middle-class life. The rules and rituals that a hippy kid has to live with are just as bizarre as the ones that most of us grew up with, the families are just as dysfunctional, and the people just as weird.
The problem isn't just that hippie parents often gave their kids names that actually are nouns – Kroll and Bonn do a funny strip about Jon's friends who had bizarre names like Carrot, Ocean Oracle or Candle. (Can you imagine going through life with a first name like Radish?)
The problem is that the world they live in is just wacky. In "The Parents Guide to Raising a Hippy Kid", we learn such important lessons as:
- Teaching them about things like bad acid, crabs and fire robs them of the experience of figuring things out for themselves.
- Teach your kids to roll a good joint. They won't always have a bong around, and nothing ruins a good buzz more than ash leaking down the side of a spliff.
- If your open-minded parenting leads to a profanity-laced tirade about feeling abandoned, don't take it personally. They're just acting out like all kids do.
The book is full of crazy stories about growing up as a hippy kid. The story of a kid's first acid trip, in which he seems to encounter an angry talking sheep, a tsunami, a devastating car crash, and a dizzying canoe ride, is vivid and exciting. The story of a field trip to see the Grateful Dead in San Francisco is a fun road trip into the Haight, where hippies were in wide abundance and the drugs were great. And the story of trouble making hippy kid Carrot, who seemed to love to play pranks and make trouble, was funny and even a bit poignant – as it was clear that the hippie lifestyle had thoroughly messed up Carrot's head. I found myself wondering whatever happened to Carrot after that story, and most of the situations I imagined did not have good endings.
I have two favorite stories in this issue. The story of Jon's dad's power trip is really funny. After Jon's mom goes away on a month-long retreat, Jon's dad starts to go a little crazy. He's a disaster in the kitchen (so much for breaking down traditional gender roles), forgets to pick the kids up at school, steals his daughter's cigarettes (it's not that she smokes that's the problem; the problem is that another kid tattles on the dad), and even tries to ground his daughter. I thought it was hilarious how the dad regressed back to his bourgeois, upper-middle-class childhood the minute that his wife was away from the family. He might have said he was committed to the hippie lifestyle, but not necessarily all the time.
My favorite story was the extremely improbable story of how Jon's family meets the Dalai Lama. It turns out that the Dalai Lama has a standing invitation for people to come visit him in Tibet, and Jon's family is able to scrape up the money to get to actually go there in 1980. It's a cool story because Jon shares so many anecdotes. How about dancing with the kids of the Shah of Iran at the Mughal Sheraton, or vendors rowing to up the family's houseboat on Lake Dal, or showing the crazily winding mountain roads up to Daramsala?
But of course the highlight is the audience the family has with the Dalai Lama. They actually get to meet the spiritual guru and ask him questions ("How can we get Americans to be more like Buddhists? They're too materialistic." "It doesn't have to be Buddhism, but there's more to life than material objects.") The scene has a sweet feel to it – a combined family fantasy come true. The story ends with a funny note – looking for a gift to give the Dalai Lama, Jon decides to give him his basketball video game. The Dalai Lama laughs at the gift, and the story ends on a memorable and sweet note.
This is a really entertaining look into a subculture that isn't completely banished to history. I had a great time reading this book. Thanks for being so aggressive in pushing this on me, Jon and Dave!
For more information on this comic, visit TalesOfAHippyKid.com
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