2020-08-09 21:22:58 (UTC)

Prompt 090: Counterculture vs. Mainstream in the '60s

90. If you lived in the 1960s, would you be more likely to be a part of the counterculture or the mainstream and why? How would your family feel about your choice and why?

I think I've dwelt on this possibility sufficiently in past entries. To explore a little bit, I want to fabricate two possible outcomes.

1. Mainstream Kestrel. This is the guy who went to high school, dropped out of his first year of college to enlist in Vietnam, and went overseas as part of the Army. He was a radio operator and transporter. Knew a bunch of guys who were medics, so he transferred closer to the front. Saw a lot of people blown up and otherwise broken. Came back to the 'States and moved into an old house across from a coal field, near his Pennsylvania hill country relatives. Settled down with a nice hometown girl with good birthing hips. They had a handful of cracker spawn that he grew to dislike. Worked as a union electrician for over 25 years, went into a hardware store venture with two of his old Army buddies just outside of Uniontown, PA. Died of undiscovered lung cancer, age 60.

Relations with his family were solid, at least until his late 40's. He never made it out from under the thumb of his dad, who nearly outlived him. His mother hated that he moved off to Uniontown, regardless of his quantifiable success, because she felt abandoned by family. She died shortly after Kestrel did.

2. Counterculture Kestrel. This is the guy who fought to stay in college and avoided the draft. He ended up going to a technical college in Columbus, OH with a degree in electrical engineering in 1967. Moved to Pittsburgh, then Philadelphia, and started running lights and sound for music venues and theater stages. Romantically attached many times but only briefly, and never met any of his (several) kids. He had a thing for red-haired women. Tried out some DJ gigs through the years and they didn't work out, but in 1969 he heard of this music festival happening in Woodstock. Decided to take the electrician gig to help set up the stage in upstate New York: "just gonna be there for a few days." Ended up hooking up with the guys in Canned Heat and started as a recording engineer in New York City. His claim to fame is mastering the debut album for Van Halen in 1978, and being "the go-to guy" for Gene Simmons.

His thing for red-haired women came to a head when he met Marilu Henner on the set of Taxi, and they dated briefly 'til the show was canceled and he took another engineering gig in NYC. Died of a heart attack, age 58, waiting in his car outside a Chicago hot dog shop called "Demon Dogs."

He drifted away from his relatives over time, gradually severing ties with "those uneducated slobs from the Pennsylvania hills." Broke his mother's heart, though he was grudgingly accepted by his father because he would send money back home. He never visited outside familiar obligations. Kestrel's siblings would grow to resent him, since he avoided any family connections that would "tie him down." He appeared only briefly, if at all, for funerals to offer his sincere condolences. He dropped off a check to Dad, and then was gone again.

Both of those are trade-offs, the way I see it. When you look at the concept of polar opposites, and the way that the '60s were a decade that began to starkly divide the nation, there's little in the way of middle-ground. When it comes to writing prompts, the idea that there's no Middle Way makes for fun, interesting writing. For the writer, anyway.

This reminds me of the entry I did some time back where I waxed long on alternative dimensions and timelines. Coming up with fictional lives for myself is amusing and curious, particularly if you consider that should alternative dimensions exist, then the possibility I describe is what happens in one of them. You could wax even more outlandish and say something like, "the unique vibrations from that alternative dimension influenced my mind in such a way to suggest that I was only imagining this alternate history, and it only -seems- like I made it up... But didn't you feel like you were only moving your fingers, just letting the story come out, as it was told to you? You didn't really have to make up any part of that story, did you? The story was real. It happened."

I have the next seven days off from the day job. All is well enough.

When I woke up this morning, I did a lot of reflection regarding the non-stop work for the day job I'd done since March. I wrote a thank-you letter via email to the leadership team at the office. They seemed to take it well and graciously.

I wonder if I'm a workaholic.