but I’d never ever seen anything like that before!

SEEING SOMETHING NEW and dif­ferent and un­ex­pected and then re­marking upon it—no matter what it is!—is not racism, prej­u­dice, big­otry, etc. It’s just we do when we see some­thing that we haven’t ever seen any­thing like it be­fore! So this piece is about a few anom­alies that have stuck in my head for more than forty years—because I haven’t seen them du­pli­cated since!

These are not the angular-distance-of-a-satellite-from-its-last-perihelion kind of anomaly. This is about your everyday anomaly—things that jump out of their normal, run-of-the-mill sur­round­ings and catch your attention.

Maybe even catch your breath.

They may stir your imagination.

Things that shouldn’t wouldn’t couldn’t nor­mally be there—wherever there is—but are. You know, anom­alies … some­thing that is un­usual or un­ex­pected. 1


Ever seen anything like this photo of Bleecker Bob's record store in Greenwich Village?

This is a photo of Vil­lage Oldies trans­mo­gri­fied into Bleecker Bob’s years after I last saw it in the ’70s. I re­member the rock LPs in al­pha­bet­ical order on the left wall and that Bob had what seemed like an un­lim­ited supply of orig­inal Bill Haley 10-inch Decca al­bums stashed downstairs.

You ain’t seen anything like this before!

In 1970, I trav­eled from Wilkes-Barre, the heart of the an­thracite coal-mining re­gion of North­eastern Penn­syl­vania, to New York City. It was the first time that I’d been to the city since I was a kid with my Grand­par­ents. This time I was 18, and I hitchhiked.

My goal was Vil­lage Oldies, a used-record shop in Green­wich Vil­lage. There were other stores there that I wanted to see, but someone told me that Bleecker Bob’s was where I would see some re­ally rare records. The only “col­lec­table” records that I saw in Wilkes-Barre were well-played 45s from juke­boxes that a tobacco/news shop on the Square fold for 5¢ each, or six for a quarter. (Natch.)

So I got there and spent hours going through racks of 45s and EPs and LPs, asking too many ques­tions, spending too little money. Fi­nally, I left for a bite to eat and to head home. While walking down Bleecker to­wards Mac­Dougal (or Mac­Dougal to­wards Bleecker?), an­other pedes­trian caught my eye.


Jimi Hen­drix’s look made him all kinds of sym­bols for men and women all over the Western world.


He was tall and lean, with a brown beard to his waist. Very hip­pyish. This in it­self was a little odd: de­spite Wood­stock, there re­ally weren’t a lot of men in America with beards of that length out­side of com­munes. And there never re­ally were many communes.

But it wasn’t the beard that caught my eye.

Nor was it the eye-liner, mas­cara, and lip­stick he was wearing.

It wasn’t even the red evening gown.

It was the roller skates with the baby-doll heads glued on them.

No­body paid no mind—nobody local, that is

But me? I stared.

I’d never ever seen that before!

In fact, as I watched him coast to­wards the Av­enue of the Amer­icas, I thought, “Wow, man! If I live an­other eighty years in Wilkes-Barre, I might not see any­thing like that again.”

Mind you, that by Wilkes-Barre stan­dards, I was a hippie! I had shoulder-length hair and a beard of my own. True it was trimmed close.

And I didn’t wear make-up or evening gowns. I was the Lee-jeans-and-gray-sportcoat kinda guy.

But with the hair and the beard, I got more than my share of stares in Wilkes-Barre.

So maybe I should have been less sur­prised and acted less touristy.

Maybe I should have been, you know, cool. 2

But I was sur­prised and I was a day-tripper in the Big Apple.

So I stared.


Aaahhh, yes: a hand-painted Volk­swagen Beetle back when “hand-painted” meant you got down on your knees with a brush and a can of paint and did the work by hand! No air­brushes, no de­cals. Just those ten digits that Wholly Grom­mett in His In­fi­nite Wisdom granted us.

A black guy in a hand-painted bug?!!?

1971 was an in­ter­esting year to be young and living in these here United States and paying at­ten­tion to your sur­rounding. So it was that a few weeks later I was walking down South Main Street of Wilkes-Barre, heading to­wards Public Square.

It hap­pened again!

No, roller-skating man didn’t show up in my hometown.

A young black dude came off the Square and drove past me up South Main. 3

In a yellow Volk­swagen Bug.

Hand-painted, al­though I don’t re­member the paint-job (flowers, no doubt), just the black dude be­hind the wheel.

With a ‘fro, of course.

I’d never ever seen that before—not the ‘fro, but a black person dri­ving what was al­ways a white folk’s car!

When a brother bought a car, he bought a Caddy or a Lin­coln. At least in North­eastern Penn­syl­vania in 1970 he did. Maybe in New York or San Fran­cisco or Los An­geles where there were lots of black hip­pies sharing sim­ilar lifestyles with white hip­pies there were brothers who drove Volkswagens.

Maybe.

But I’d never ever seen it before.

So I stared.


Re­member when ‘hand-painted’ meant get­ting down on your knees with a brush and a can of paint (and a joint)?


And don’t give me no crap about racism

And don’t give me none of that racism crap!

Racism has nothing to do with it.

They were anom­alies, and if you read the foot­note below like you should have, then you know they’re some­thing dif­ferent, ab­normal, pe­cu­liar, or not easily classified.

 

Ever seen anything like this photo of the amazing Jimi Hednrix in 1967 as he was about to change everything in rock and pop music?

FEATURED IMAGE: The first ‘nat­ural’ that most of us white folk who lived out­side a few big cities ever re­ally paid at­ten­tion to was Jimi Hen­drix’s hair in 1967. Jimi’s good looks and taste­fully eclectic and oh-so Six­ties at­tire made him all kinds of sym­bols for both black and white men and women all over the Western world. (Photo by Gered Mankowitz, 1967. And those eyes weren’t from smoking cigarettes …)

 
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FOOTNOTES:

1   An anomaly is “some­thing that is un­usual or un­ex­pected: some­thing dif­ferent, ab­normal, pe­cu­liar, or not easily clas­si­fied.” (Merriam-Webster)

2   This was ages be­fore The Big Lebowski and “black dude” was what we hippie-types called younger black men. We were all searching for a non-racist, street-cool lan­guage then. Even “spade” was cool for a while … if you had long hair. I, uh, I don’t use those terms anymore. 

 I was cool once. Lit­er­ally once. It was 1975 and I was living in Con­necticut. And for a change I was having a tough time meeting girls. So my best friend Jack told me to take a break from the bars for a fe weeks, grow a mous­tache (I was clean-shaven at the time), and wear his leisure suit. So I did. And I was cool. It worked, too! But, y’­know, look at the pic­ture of me at the home­page of this site: me and leisure suits weren’t going to last long …




 

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