Saturday, November 03, 2007

Runaway Carmen

In 1962, while I was being an early hippy in Berkeley, I had an apartment about a mile from campus, where the coffee houses and bohemians were concentrated. We all worked at minimal jobs, enough to pay the rent and buy groceries and books and go to movies. Life was exciting and different and new. There was a sense of community among the young people exploring this lifestyle. Lots of people lived in communes, although I didn't. There was a lot of back and forth visiting; we were all too young to hang out at home for the evening. Our social circle grew rapidly.

And one of the people who dropped in occasionally, pulling pandemonium in her wake like the tail of a comet, was Runaway Carmen. Runaway Carmen came from one of the eastern states; it was a matter of pride to her that her family had come over in colonial times and were still in the state they had first settled in. I'm not sure if her family had means at that point, but they certainly had for long years of the country's history. I think that Runaway Carmen was about 14 at the time. Periodically she would run away from the expensive finishing school her parents had, as she said, "imprisoned me in this time" and head for Berkeley. On hitting town, she would run for cover to the homes of the hippies that she knew from previous visits. The police, having received notice that she was on the loose yet again, would watch for her. Instead of picking her up, they would follow her from one house to another, raiding the unlucky householders as she went out the back door. People would desperately call each other, "She's in town! Get out!" and the recipients of the phone calls would flush pot and call friends and try to get out of their house before she led the narcs to the door.

Although I did meet her at the home of a mutual friend, she never knew where I lived and so never caused me anything but amusement. I was playing a computer game and listening to Hair the other night, and I got to thinking about her. And I got to wondering. If people had been more open in those days, if child abuse had been talked about, if we had been just a little older and more aware, would we have recognized that there must have been some reason behind the deep unhappiness that drove her from one coast to the other in an ever futile attempt to find a place where she felt safe. I wonder if she ever did find a safe haven.

Photos: Campenile, virtual traveler; toilet, Fun, Facts, and Trivia

4 comments:

joared said...

Interesting thought about Carmen. Lovely shot of the disposal unit. However, I especially like the sunset photo! ;-)

Naomi said...

made me think where i was in 1962--albuquerque, married to wrong guy, publishing little magazine. always thought of it as my flight into expected-to-marry life. you have me reconsidering that it was momentary relief from pressure of "career girl" in new york city scene. hmmm...

Naomi said...

reading this gave me new insight into my own 1962 slightly alternative life. not sure if it made it through my newish gmail account. ah well.

J said...

I wonder if she was running away from abuse, or just from utter boredom? I wasn't there then, but it seems like many kids were interested in 'living life to the fullest' and getting out of their parents idea of how life was going to be. Her parents were probably rich, if they could afford finishing school.

I wonder what happened to her...