Eric Suhem

Arnie Hippie

Arnie the aging hippie sat in his apartment in the Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco with ‘Sprout Girl’. “It’s ‘Kill Your TV’ week!” he declared to ‘Sprout Girl’, who had been named Barbara at an earlier point in her life, but for a large number of reasons she was glad that she had recreated her life and synthesized a new identity as ‘Sprout Girl’. However, she was not sure that cohabitating with Arnie was a good move. “The media tries to destroy our minds!” bleated Arnie, “But I won’t let them!” While ‘Sprout Girl’ agreed with some of Arnie’s views about the media, she did not feel that all of television was inherently bad. Arnie lifted the Magnavox, as he had done with other televisions in previous years, and tossed it out the window to the ground, where it crashed in a hazardous spray of glass. At that precise moment, Heather, just off the bus from Kansas, was ambling down the sidewalk, barefoot, in a haze of cosmic stardust, grooving on the freedom of being off the farm, no longer having to milk the cows, on Cloud 9 from her first LSD trip, as those anxious to take control of her life waited quietly in the bushes. It was then that Heather walked into the shards of broken glass from Arnie’s TV, and she let go with banshee howls. Arnie, viewing from his window, was visibly disturbed, and ran down the stairs, wracked with guilt. “No, no, major bummer!” he yelled under heavy eyelids. “I don’t trust the medical establishment, but I know somewhere we can go,” he said, referring to pseudo-Indian communities on Highway 43 that would handle things quietly, and heal her feet in a natural environment.

As she cleaned incense ashes from the coffee table, ‘Sprout Girl’ recalled when, as Barbara, she had decided to tune in, turn on, and drop out, moving into Arnie’s pad. It had been an autumn evening in the suburbs, Barbara and her now ex-husband were hosting a get-together with some of the other neighbors. Neighbor husband #3 was talking about his orthodontic treatments, and neighbor wife #3 was commenting that this had an impact on the family popcorn hour, but that she had decided to be a good sport about it. Neighbor husband #4 went on to describe the financial costs incurred to provide orthodonture to 3 children, one of which compulsively chewed on the bark of trees in the backyard. Barbara inserted a well-positioned excuse into the general conversational flow (excuse=attend to a cooking appliance issue), and dashed to the kitchen. She called Arnie, whom she had met in a weekly tie-dye class, and within a month was living in his apartment, changing her name to ‘Sprout Girl’.

Arnie gathered Heather, in her granny dress, still screaming from the glass in her feet, and placed her in the backseat of his 1967 Volkswagen Bus. He gave her some tofu, and then called ‘Sprout Girl’ on his cell phone. “Where’s my trail mix? I expected to find trail mix in the elastic pocket on the driver’s side door of the VW!” Arnie blurted into the phone. “Also, how does the Highway 43 congestion look on the traffic channel?” Arnie often enjoyed watching the traffic channel, not for its information, but rather for the brightly colored yellow, red, and green lines that would indicate levels of traffic volume on each route. There was a pause on the phone line, and then Arnie continued, “Oh yeah, I forgot, the TV’s gone.” ‘Sprout Girl’ shrugged her shoulders for the 1000th time, after 999 shrugs, and hung up the phone, moving soon to her new life. Arnie drove on, choosing to ignore the emissions spewed into the air by his Volkswagen Bus, as it was no longer within smog compliance standards. However, Heather knew a thing or two about Volkswagen repair, and she and Arnie would go on to live together for 18 happy years.

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