Tie-dyed in the wool

I’ve been accused of being a hippie. The first time was by my dorm roommate Sharon McKenzie, a bonafide Jersey girl. She confessed to having snooped through my cassettes when I first moved into our tiny room on the campus of Northern Arizona University. The presence of Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Creedence Clearwater Revival testament to my “granola” status – which in Flagstaff, Ariz., was code for hippie.

I never considered my hippiness an insult until moving to Kaua’i. I knew my friends teased me about my baggy attire with about as much conviction as a fifth grade boy giving a love punch to the arm to a girl in class – it stung a little but made me feel warm inside at the same time. Besides, I didn’t wear Birkenstocks or even listen to the Grateful Dead, so I wasn’t a full-blown hippie by my definition. Of course my dread locked vegan boyfriend Wes didn’t strengthen my case any.

In 1999 when Wes and I honeymooned on Kaua’i with backpacks full of camping gear, we began our three-week stay at Polihale. We hopscotched the island from county to state parks and ran into the same crowd at every campsite. There was a large community of hippies living permanently on the beaches who told us how they financed their extended vacations to the islands: The day they’d arrive, they would get a post office box and then apply for welfare. They’d live off the state for years and tried to convince us of the genius of this stratagem.

Thus began my quest to shed my hippie persona. Wasn’t the essence of the hippie movement based on social consciousness?

When we moved here a kama’aina friend redefined hippie for me.

“You’re mistaking a hippie for a dhippie,” she said. “A dhippie is a dirty hippie – they think their “good energy” is all they owe the islands.”

Tracy had been a park ranger for years at Haleakala. From the top of her little vegetarian head to the fringe of her Guatemalan textile skirt, Tracy was a hippie – all 102 pounds of her.

“I tell those dhippies, ‘get a job or help out as a volunteer. Hawai’i has good energy without your leaching the system.’”

Tracy seized the moment to inform all newly arrived hippie kids and dhippies of what was expected of them were they to remain more then three weeks in the islands.

I confess, I have dhippie roots – minus the welfare checks. I grew up in a household where not a single critter was ever rejected – not the king snake my brother caught in the canyon behind our house or the orphan rat from a high school science class. No amount of tape could free me of the fine sheen of cat and dog hair covering my school clothes. There was a poster on our refrigerator door that said, “In your next meal, there’s a cat hair with your name on it.”

There’s a little dhippie in me still, and even though I shave my legs, iron my linen skirts and wear mascara on occasion, I can’t escape my husband’s ribbing when we pass a cute little hippie couple hitching down the highway, “Look Pam, there’s your people.”

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