I Spent My Holidays at a Hippie Commune
I couldn’t see the end of the room through the dim lighting. The air was thick and filled with dust; which I guess was appropriate for a room insulated with flattened orange juice boxes. The rotting wood piled on top as a shelter looked like it could barely hold its own in a rainstorm.
“This is our house,” Dad told me enthusiastically.
Fucking hippies. This had definitely taken the cake for shit family holidays.
Being dragged along to unusual places had become the usual to me. What made matters worse was my parents being so passé about everything, no forewarning about the level of weird I was about to encounter. I’d been around hippies since I was a kid, but sharing a living space was a whole new ball game.
The idea of the commune was that it was a volunteer conservation agreement, which exercised the concept of communal living, self-sufficiency and alternative energy. Through my adolescent eyes it seemed to me it was just an excuse for hippies to strip naked, get high and scab free accommodation.
It was smack in the middle of the dry Aussie bush. There were shanty houses built everywhere, some only half finished and left behind. A few of them were filled to the roof with old rags, rusty toys, broken computers and other useless junk. Not to mention the car yard, dozens of broken down and rusting cars and the land surrounding them littered with car parts.
I made my way through the dusty bush to mix with the locals and found a few gathered around the fire. Immediately one approached me and introduced herself as Strawberry. Her bare feet were black with dirt and the color had faded from her torn dress. Her hair was parted into three half dreadlocks, which she explained had formed naturally over time when shed stopped brushing her hair.
After an afternoon of listening to slurring words and drug-induced rants, I started to wonder how proactive these eco warriors really were. Not to mention their lack of personal hygiene, which had forced me to stand at a metre radius from any one hippie at a time.
The cold wind was whipping at my arms and I was kicking myself for leaving my jacket at the house. I slunk into a ball in front of the fire and tried to heat myself up.
“There are a bunch of jumpers in Jacob’s place if you need one,” Strawberry gestured to a dingy caravan with junk spilling out of the windows.
“Would he mind if I used one?” I asked.
“No, he’ll be in hospital for a while.”
I usually avoided prying into people’s personal lives but there was nothing else to entertain myself with.
“Oh… why is he there?”
“He has a messiah complex,” she explained, “He thought he was Jesus Christ, which was harmless enough until he tried to crucify himself.”
Perfect, confirmation that I was in a hot bed of lunatics.
It was Easter and I’d gathered my chocolate into a stash, ready to survive the organic bullshit I would be surrounded by. The sun was slipping into the horizon. I’d finished my dinner of bland quinoa and was ready for dessert. I eagerly pulled out my Easter eggs and dug in; indulgence tasted sweet.
What a great idea B, that’s so nice of you!” A scrawny hand dove into my stash and instinctively I gripped the bag and tore it away in defence. Everyone stopped, silently watching us.
“This is a commune, ownership doesn’t exist here.”
I was ready to fight this hippie scab to the death, but a crowd was gathering and I was outnumbered. I slumped my head in defeat and stormed away in teen angst, leaving the bag behind.
There was shit all to do in the middle of the bush with no friends or phone battery; kicking a rock along the dusty dirt road served as the first point of entertainment.
“You look like you need something to do!” Strawberry cheerily suggested. “Why don’t you help us weed and Ill give you $10 an hour.” Fuck it, why not? I thought. I swept my hair into a bun and got to work.
After a few hours the unforgiving sun was making me nauseous. Sweat was streaming down my face and weeding had gotten tedious, so I decided to bail.
“I’m finishing up here now, thanks for the work.”
“Sure, I’ll pay you tonight when I get some cash.” That sounded good to me; I guess communes weren’t that bad after all.
By the time dinner had come around, hunger pains began to stab at my stomach. I made my way to the commune shed as my hands trembled, punishing me for forgetting lunch.
“Here’s your money, thanks for today!” Strawberry interrupted. I took the money with thanks, trying not to let on my haste for dinner. But she wouldn’t move past me. Confused I tried to walk around her.
“And now you give it back to the commune” she told me.
You’ve got to be fucking kidding. “We agreed you’d pay me $10 an hour?”
Our heated arguing went back and forth until they’d bartered me down to $10 for three hours. I slammed the $10 on the table and walked out the doorway, throwing back the beaded curtains as angrily as I could.
As I stalked away, my limbs started feeling heavier, pulling me to the ground. The tremble, which had started in my hands, was radiating though my body. My head started getting hazy and, before I knew it, I’d blacked out. I could faintly hear people calling my name and asking me questions.
“Are you okay?”
“Have you drunk any water today?”
I felt my body being lifted off the floor and onto a bed. When I started to see clearly again and process what was happening around me, I saw that the people who were getting me medicine, preparing drinking water and cooking me food weren’t any of my family. They were the hippies I’d spent the entire trip arguing with and looking down on.
I guess I had to admit that even though these people and their way of life wasn’t for me, they were good enough people. When it came down to it, they did looked after me pretty well despite my shitty behavior.
My parents decided soon after that they’d had enough of the holiday. As we drove away, waving goodbye, all I could think about was how I would never, for as long as I lived, go back to another commune.
Cover by whistle.and.run