Saturday, July 16, 2005

The Freedom To Get A Mohawk At 6

Did you ever really want to do something when you were a child and your parents would always say no?

That didn't happen too often with my parents...

When I was about 10 and my youngest brother Cayenne was 6, he desperately wanted a mohawk.

Perhaps in New York City, or London at the time, this would not have been such a dramatic fashion statement. But for a lily white boy growing up among the cornfields of Iowa this certainly was not the normal request. (Nowadays it probably wouldn't seem unique at all.)

I'm not sure why my brother wanted a mohawk in the first place because neither I, nor our other brother Patrick-Spirit (PS) ever had our hair done that way...and certainly no others from the community did either. It was likely the combo effect of influences floating around our house and the popular culture of the time. My mom would often post colorful images on the fridge such as the one I remember of two London street punks with spiked purple hair, dog collars around their necks, walking down the street hand in hand. Or it could have been Mr. T and the A-Team show my brothers and I loved so much.

The hairdo didn't last more than a few months, and our parents seemed to get a kick out of it. Our grandparents didn't approve and even tried to take my brother to go get another hair cut once. And a lame portrait photographer tried to comb it down for Cayenne's annual school photo. But other than that it was just another hippie kid memory of childhood freedom...

(Photo courtesy of Peter Feldstein who photographed my brother at the time as part of his project: Everyone in Oxford, Iowa 1984.)

Copyright Unity

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Car Surfing In Iowa

Is it irresponsible to let one's children stand on top of the hood of their car as they drive down a winding gravel road?

I ask this question, only because I have recently been reminiscing about one of my favorite summer past-times as a boy: car-surfing in Iowa.

It would work like this. When I was about 12 or so, my brothers and I would beg my mom to stop the car about a mile and a half from home so that we could surf the remaining road home. With no other cars on the road, my mom would pull over and we would jump out of the car Dukes of Hazard-style and take up our positions on the hood of the car. Sometimes standing as if on a surf board -- sometimes hanging off the hood like we were TJ Hooker in a chase -- we would ride the gravel roads home, wind blowing through our hair, dust trails in our wake.

Surfing the country roads truly was an exhilarating experience and it never grew old. It was best in the early summer evening, just before sunset. The air was warm then and the roads were free.

To put this all into context, my mom would cruise at only a few miles an hour until she knew we were steady. The pace would pick up to no more than 15 miles per hour - top speed - bugs rushing by and all. It was better than any carnival ride – we were in control!

No one was ever hurt and looking back I don’t recall any real danger. To some friends, these stories sound odd, but if you think about it, riding horses or 4-wheelers, or even surfing can be much more dangerous. Today seems like a different era, however: one more litigious, more controlling, more fearful. But are these times any more safe? Any more responsible?