On groovy

For those of you who did not grow up in the nineteen sixties, this word is nothing but a strange artifact of that lost decade. Groovy was the paradigm for a generation whose youth was lost in the maelstrom of assassinations, war, protests, draft cards, sit-ins, rock’n roll, peace signs, ecology, weed, Charlie Manson, the Beatles, and a whole raft of strange sitcoms on the television. It was the younger generation–the Hippies–who started to use the word to describe either things they liked or what made them happy, which wasn’t much during the sixties. Born in ’59 to the Eisenhower and Formica generation, I was a little boy during the “groovy” years, which were culminated by the election of Nixon in ’68 and the moon-landing in the summer of ’69. Whenever I heard the word used, or whenever I tried to the use the word, I always felt like everything was incredibly phony. I mean, I never lived in a commune, never smoked or took dope, never burned a draft card, or took part in a riot–I was just a kid. If one of the Monkeys or John Denver said, “Groovy,” I always felt like I was left out, like I didn’t get the joke, that I didn’t understand what the word meant. To this day, I’ve always felt like the word contained an edge of irony or violence that was contrary to what people thought the word meant. It’s as if the word was a self-contained parody of a word, that to use it, you were subjecting yourself to self-parody, ending up with egg on your face, foolish, as if you didn’t really know what groovy meant either. You see, the sixties were many things, but they were never “groovy.” Flower power, Mary Jane, the Cold War, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, Detroit, Watts, Birmingham, Saigon, Paris, and the list could go on and on. For a child there was very little that was actually groovy in the conflicts that marked a decade that was filled with death, destruction, and random violence that seemed both common and mundane. Groovy did not seem to be the right word to describe the generation gap, psychedelic drugs such as LSD and marijuana, the fight for civil rights, the war in Vietnam, or the generalized pollution that contaminated our lakes, rivers, and air. We started to wear bell-bottoms and tie-dyed t-shirts. Although I still think tie-dyed t-shirts are rather groovy–I hate bell-bottoms. Although long hair is rather groovy, it never looked good on me. The sixties left me feeling empty, as if nothing were ever very groovy for me. I was growing up in middle America, small town, very agrarian, as if it were impossible to really ever escape the 1890’s, which was when the house I grew up in was built. I was about as far from “groovy” as any one person might get. Perhaps the essence of “groovy” resides in the changing paradigm of lost innocence that marked those years as our country slowly burned in the fire of urban violence and jungle warfare. When the sixties were over, and before Watergate started to garner all the newspaper coverage, “groovy” just passed away, a weird leftover relic of a strange and unsettling decade of the Domino Effect, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Tonkin Gulf incident, Mi Lai, Robert Kennedy and all the rest of the un-groovy disasters that filled our lives and made headlines every night. Let’s not forget the dead report given by Walter Cronkite each night as he recounted the wounded, dead, and missing–nothing less groovy than that. Does anyone really know what “groovy” means anyway?