Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Dudes...the New Bohemians

[boh-hee-mee-uhn] noun - a person, often as an artist or writer, who lives and acts free of regard for conventional rules and practices.

dude [dood] noun - See bohemian!

      Being born in the 60's, I was alive during the heart of the "Hippie" movement. Dude, all I remember is that it was a colorful time. I actually recall my favorite pants, in 2nd grade, being a pair of purple bell bottom chords...dude.
     And, though I was alive during this "free love" and "flower power" era, at ages 5-10 my purpose in life (or lack of purpose), spiritual direction, political views, taste in music, art, and my love for nature had not begun to define me, or molded me in any way...and recreational drug use, a big part of the culture, was not yet an option.  There were no kids dealing on the kindergarten playground (that I knew of). Now that I think of it, there was that one kid who always had money?
     I guess, looking back, I wasn't so much "living in" the Hippie movement as I was "living beside it".
     By High School, in the late 70's, things began to change. I had finally become opinionated (too opinionated for some) on just about every topic imaginative; including whether recreational drug use was going to be an option or not. There were no playgrounds, but this time there were plenty of dealers. It gave a whole new meaning to "High" School...dude, you know, if you were there.
     As I reflect back, I remember being too concerned about trying to do all I could to be the best at everything I did, and that left no time for drugs, or drinking to get drunk. Sports, art, music, faith, classes, grades, and acceptance were more on my radar, one just as important as the other. I thought if you had to go to school, why not give it your all. As a new freshman, I figured everyone forced to wake up that early everyday, and attend school because the law required it, must feel the same way as me, but, dude, I couldn't have been more wrong. It took a couple of months into my freshman year to get the lay of the land, and as my awareness of all that was going on around me kicked in I began to notice a group of people that, though they attended school everyday, were definitely not into school. I also noticed something else about the eyes of many, they were considered very cool.
     Wait! That was my goal! Was I running in the wrong direction? This "cool" group was doing everything they could not to run, in any direction, and yet they seemed to winning on every level. Do you remember this group? Were you one of them? Are you one of them? Dude!
     They were an intimidating group of kids, for sure, who had turned apathy for just about everything important, and energy for things that seemed to have no significant purpose, into a lifestyle that many, myself included, long to be apart of. These were definitely the "cool kids" on campus. They always hung out at the same place, talked about the same things, made fun of the same people - kids who were running around trying to do it all (like me). They even somewhat dressed alike, though there was no rhyme or reason to what they wore. Back To School shopping probably took all of ten minutes. Mine was a calculated search for everything I would need to wear to look somewhat "in" everyday, and yet, a stretched out Hang Ten t-shirt, faded jeans and sandals or faded tennis shoes with holes in only the coolest places, were all the threads those guys ever needed: and the girls wore those amazingly tight jeans and...well, that's all I remember, those amazingly tight jeans! Can I get a witness?!
     This group of non-conformists only strolled to class, slowly and flashing the finger, when pushed by the campus patrol.
     They were what I would call today a new breed of bohemians. 
Feel free to listen to Edie Brikell and the New Bohemians while reading if this helps set the mood.
Edie Brikell "What I Am"
     What is a bohemian? The definition at the top of this article defines them well in just a few words.
     The name originates from a culture of people who lived in 19th Century (Bohemianism), a people group that had gained a reputation as those set on counter-culture thinking. An anti-social group with little regard for place or position, a strong anti-establishment approach to politics and social commentary, and yet, very much in tune with, and recognized for their love of music, poetry, and the arts. Bohemians also had a lower regard for appearance and physical hygiene.
     I don't know if this group of cool kids I went to school with cared about their appearance, but I do know they looked good - but in a carefree, "I didn't really try" kind of way. The guys were chick magnets and the girls were what most of us outsiders dreamed of. They had a way of making messy hair work, they made layered clothes - that as individual pieces probably didn't match - come together with such disregard...that it set trends. Whether they smelled bad, I never knew. I was never allowed to get close enough to them to find out. Most of them, when not at there cool location on campus, hung out at the beach, surfed, skateboarded, played guitar and could look like gods and goddesses in the glow of a fire ring. Pissed me off! 
     Bohemians, Flakes, whatever you thought of them...they were dudes and "Dudes Most High"!
     Dudes, by my definition are still today's modern bohemians, and are alive and well and growing.
     You can spot them today in two familiar groups. 
     First, there are the bohemians of the 60's and 70's that somehow defied the partying, the drinking, the drugs,and made it out alive. They beat the odds and didn't let too many drugs, and excessive partying take them away in their teens.You know, the "old souls" who walk among us today. Those who set the bar low back then, and set the bar wherever they want today as to continue to live life at their pace. It's the guy with the constant tan that you never see working a job but always seems to have enough money to make it. Many of them own their own businesses and let others run around while they reap the benefits...dude. He has enough friends to laugh with everyday, and enough life in him to make you want to know his secret. Some might call them slackers, but they call you and I suckers for chasing after the American Dream while their dreams are still more vivid, mellowing and truthful than ours. Their only stress is hoping they have enough wax for their board on the day that big set comes in. They also still make messy hair look good and still look like gods and goddesses in the glow of a fire ring. Still pisses me off!

     Secondly, I have also enjoyed following this latest and younger generation of bohemians, or dudes, as they attack life at a snails pace, yet seem to be embracing the modern world, technology, life and love as if they, once again, know something we don't...and maybe they do. This twenty-something, Generation-Why crowd, many the by-product of the "old soul" crowd, are, like their predecessors, gathering together, dressing alike, talking alike, and, with all the apathy they can muster, dictation the future. They are musicians and poets with a voice (and Record deals). They are artists whose "Street Art" sells for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Their fashion sense rocks the fashion world, and their political and spiritual philosophies are changing the course of governments and religious institutions one blog, website or YouTube video at a time. They are the modern bohemians...the ones I look at from a distance today, because, once again, it's intimidating to get too close!
     The ones we stare at and say, "Dude!"
     I was a late bloomer as a dude and still haven't tasted fully from the "dude" cup. I still, all too stressfully, run around chasing the American Dream, but I'm learning to relax. Finding a way to be stress free, having never practiced it when I was young, is exhausting...dude. My wife asked me last week, "What's with all the Soft Jazz music on your radio dial?"
     "I'm just trying to stay mellow enough to not want to strangle anyone, honey!"

     I guess I'm just trying to slow down so I can catch up with this new crowd of bohemians. I know they are looking at you and me, and probably making fun of us as we run around trying to do it all..again. My goal now is to try and find an hour or two a day to spend with these dudes, practice doing what they do best...surfing, skating, or nothing.

Having a daily cartoon strip about dudes (www.Gocomics/dudedude) has become a great stress release and escape for me as I slip into my studio (dudeio) and just think about all things dude and the humor and insight that comes from it.
     It help makes me feel young again! I think it would be worth it for all of us, especially today with all the reasons to be stressful, to study how today's bohemians, young and older, approach life. Borrow some ideas, find some escapes, learn something about going at life on your own terms...and someday, just maybe you'll look good with messy hair (if you have any left) or, at least, halfway decent in the glow of a fire ring!    

Dudes...the modern bohemians, watch out world, they're coming on slow!...dude.

Comment and share your dude secrets, your escapes, your ways to relax! 

Keith Poletiek is an author, illustrator, speaker and cartoonist. Creator of Dude and Dude, a daily comic Distributed by Universal Uclick for United Feature Syndicate at

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1 comment:

  1. Right there with you Keith. I was born in the fifties, sort of (1959) and I remember oh so well my adolescent middle school self watching in envy the "cool kids", the older high school kids ... the "hippies"n who seemed to have it all together.

    I could not wait to grow older, to experience it myself ... "make love, not war", "never trust anyone over 30", "peace, love and rock and roll". From the outside looking in ... they were so cool.

    I bought the rock albums, I watched the VietNam War on the evening news .... I put patches on my jeans in middle school, I bought my first surfboard and hung out at the beach (Vah Beach). I couldn't wait to grow older, to make a difference, to experience "hippie-ness".

    A few years later I was in high school. Nixon had resigned and we were out of Viet Nam. Disco was rearing its ugly musical head. What ... in the hell ... had happened?

    40 years late I still wonder. To this day I feel as if I missed out on my best opportunity to be a "cool dude". Don't get me wrong, surfer dude was cool ... but where were the hippies I remembered?