Back in the summer of 1973, I attended a concert in Jersey City that was my closest meet-up with the hippie counterculture of the time. It was a double bill of The Band and the Grateful Dead. I remember thinking, as soon as I got to my seat in the old Roosevelt Stadium, that this was not a run-of-the-mill concert. The guy in the seat next to me had set up a small recording studio. He had a portable reel-to-reel tape recorder that he had lugged in, along with two microphones that he had on stands. You see, the Grateful Dead did not object to people recording their concerts. That’s why there are so many bootlegs around today.
Sirius/XM satellite radio has a whole channel devoted to the Grateful Dead, and features these “audience recordings.” The next thing that told me I wasn’t in Kansas anymore was the open sale of drugs and drug paraphernalia. It wasn’t just pot, which was the dominant smell at the concert. People were walking through the stands selling all sorts of pharmaceuticals from amphetamines to LSD and more. This, too, was done openly.
Fast forward 40 years to 2013. I am touring Copenhagen with my cousin and he takes me to a section of Copenhagen called Christiania.
We walk in, and it’s 1973 all over again. There are peace signs on the buildings, clothing from another era and open sales of drugs. It’s a hippie time warp. Christiania is 84 acres of downtown Copenhagen founded in 1971 as a commune. The founders simply squatted on an abandoned military base and have never left. The relationship between Christiania and the people of Copenhagen has been tense at times, but much to the credit of the liberal Danish people, it has been allowed to survive for all these years. Christiania considers itself a separate city state from Denmark. They even have their own currency, the Løn.
As you walk around Christiania, and see the carpentry shops, bike shops, bakeries, restaurants and jazz clubs, you get a sense of what might have happened if our generation had held on to the spirit of Woodstock. That’s not to say that everything in Christiania is peace and love. There have been some violent incidents in recent years arising out of the drug trade. But by and large, this small community, estimated at about 850 people, has managed to support itself, and live the spirit of the Age of Aquarius. How much longer the Danish people will allow this extremely valuable piece of prime, downtown Copenhagen real estate to be occupied by the residents of Christiania remains to be seen. But let’s salute a group of dedicated people who have held off “The Man” for more than 40 years.