I’ve known all kinds of hippies in my life. When I was a kid some of the adults were the tail-end of the original hippies. And I’ve known country hippies and Deadhead hippies and later on Phish-head hippies, but my favorite hippies are European hippies and my favorite European hippie was Lumi Soto-Diaz.
Lumi was from Murcia in Spain. She was short and cute and she would shift her weight back and forth with her legs together like she always needed to go to the bathroom. She had lived in tents following the olive harvest in Italy and squatted in abandoned flats in Paris and even tho’ she’d never gone to college she could speak five languages and dream in three of them. Her English was a weird mixture of Spanish accent with a little French plus reggae and American slang:
‘Hhhho man, you are trippeen.’
I’ve never been a hippie. I don’t really like smoking pot, I don’t like the music or the clothes. And I’m not an in-the-moment guy. I’m not a go-with-the-flow guy. I’m a judger. I like to judge. So I’ve always kept hippies at a distance.
But I was at this period in my life when I needed to make a change. I wanted to be a different person. So I got a new job bartending at a place on the corner. (For those who don’t live in the Charlottesville area the corner is a strip of stores and restaurants near the university.) Bartending at the corner meant I had cash in pocket and there were new people around. And at the time there were a lot of hippies on the corner, cooking in restaurants and working at this one place delivering pizzas. I decided maybe these hippies were on to something. Why am I never in the moment? Why do I never go with the flow? Who am I to judge?
That’s when I met Lumi. She was hostessing at another bar when I went in for a burger before my shift, and she was cute and had the accent and we flirted a little bit. And then later that night she came in to where I was working. She was there to see this guy who hung out there. We’ll call him Raffe. But mostly she ended up talking to me and we flirted more and she told a dirty joke about a conversation between a cucumber and a penis. I don’t really remember how it went but one of the lines was something like:
‘Hand the peenis says, “Hhho man, you are trippeen.”’
So after she left I investigated and this is what I learned: She had come to America about four years before and she had met Raffe. Raffe was a recovering alcoholic who recovered from being an alcoholic by smoking pot and paid for it by selling pot. So she and Raffe had bonded over his stash, and produced a daughter together out of wedlock. Then Lumi had gone off to be a stripper in Miami. Where she had spent her money on cocaine. So then she had come back with her daughter to stay with Raffe in his small apartment to get her life together while he sold marijuana and slept with college girls.
Normally for someone like me these things would be red flags. Normally I would not date a pot-addicted formerly coke-addicted ex-stripper living with the pot-addicted, pot-selling, formerly alcohol-addicted father of her illegitimate child. But I’m going to be a different person. I’m going to live in the moment. Who am I to judge?
So I ask Raffe how he would feel about me going out with Lumi. ‘Dude, I just want someone who’s going to treat her right. She’s a great girl.’
And that attitude lasted the first date. When I met the lovely daughter, Jasmine, and I met Lumi’s sister who was on an extended visit from Spain, and Lumi and I first kissed. And that attitude lasted through the second date when Lumi and I first had sex. The third date was when the cops were called.
I arrived to pick Lumi up and there was a police car out front. And Lumi’s sister and the daughter, Jasmine, were sitting on the curb looking miserable, and Lumi and Raffe are screaming at each other in the back. And a policeman is standing there trying to figure out what the hell is going on, looking like he wishes he had a different job, and normally, that would have been enough. I am not into yelling in front of other people, and I am definitely not into yelling in front of cops, and I am especially not into yelling in front of your own children. But who am I to judge?
So to make peace between them and to the great relief of the police officer, I took Lumi, her sister, and her daughter back to my apartment. Third date and we’re living together. With an in-law. And a stepchild.
And it was wonderful. Lumi and her sister immediately started cooking a delicious Spanish stew and singing Spanish songs. And we made up a little bed for Jasmine and a fold out couch. And over the next few days I found a few books and toys in my mom’s attic, and we put together a resume for Lumi and she applied for a job at this residential medical treatment center. And in order to pass a drug test she quit smoking pot for a month and as soon as she quit smoking pot she started to show up on time for things and everything became a little less chaotic. And I was able to get her and Raffe to go to mediation at the counseling center off Grady Avenue that had sessions for free. And then Christmas came and we got a tiny little tree and a couple gifts. And having Christmas with a little kid is just fantastic.
And all that stuff you think you need, the Care Bear lamps and the Winnie the Pooh curtains, and the piles of toys, and special rooms for this and that, you don’t need any of it. Just add two and a half Spanish hippies and suddenly I had a family, and my dreary little apartment was a home. Yes, the hippies are right about some things.
It was wonderful. Until it wasn’t. Lumi’s sister had to go back to Spain. So we lost our in-house babysitter who was also Lumi’s best friend. Lumi got the job, but it turned out to be grueling and depressing, an understaffed old folks home where people were sent to die. Then Christmas was over and January was rainy and gray. And Lumi started smoking pot again. So she was late for everything, and tired, and she couldn’t stand up to Raffe because she might need him for pot. So he had something to hold over her, so he started being late for everything.
One Saturday it’s noon and I come home and at the door I hear little Jasmine inside the apartment crying. I rush in following the noise to the kitchen. Jasmine is crouched sobbing and screaming over a broken green ceramic vase. She’s confused, she’s worried she’s in trouble, she’s threatened by the sharp green fragments surrounding her like spilled cereal. On the little couch eight feet away Lumi is curled up, passed out, buds and rolling papers in the ashtray, next to a lighter. Jasmine was screaming so loudly I could hear it outside and Lumi was too stoned to wake up.
All the love and respect that I felt for Lumi at that moment just vanished. Vanished instantly.
I found Lumi another place to live and moved her out. I tried to keep contact with Jasmine but it was too difficult. About a year later Lumi and Jasmine went to California. I heard she took up stripping again. Raffe disappeared and reappeared a year later. He had started drinking again.
Jasmine would be seventeen or eighteen now. I think of her sometimes, especially now that I have a daughter of my own. I hope she’s okay wherever she is.
And ever since then I’ve genuinely liked hippies. I admire their convictions and their dreams. I feel a warmth knowing that they’re around. I even like their music sometimes. But now I like them from a distance.