When Neil Young wrote the song “Sugar Mountain” in the 1960s, he was just a teenager. The song wasn’t about a real place. It was about coming to terms with growing up and leaving one’s childhood behind. I was 18 the first time I heard him sing the line, “You can’t be twenty on Sugar Mountain.” Today it’s still one of my favorite songs.
Last winter I went to an actual place in North Carolina called Sugar Mountain. The occasion was a youth ski trip organized by a local church. I was a chaperone. One of the other chaperones was a former hippie from the 1960s. He’s not really a hippie anymore, although he’s still a liberal. Now he’s raising four kids.
I learned a lot about both the 60s and liberalism, just by spending four days in the mountains with that former hippie. I wrote this column to pass on what I learned. I would hate for my readers to have to experience such a trip firsthand in order to get the knowledge I obtained through so much frustration.
My fellow chaperone got to go skiing for free since he paid for one of his children to go on the ski trip. I was a little perplexed when he showed up with, not one, but three of his children, since two of them had not paid for the trip. He just thought that he would bring them along in case some of the kids who paid didn’t show up. That way, along with him, two of his kids could ski for free. Even though that wasn’t the case, he asked if they could bum a ride to the mountains to spend some time with their older sister (who also ended up joining us later). The youth director graciously complied with his request.
When we got on the bus, the former-hippie-turned-chaperone began to take charge. He approached the bus driver (who happened to be black) and offered to tell him how to get from Wilmington to the location just east of Asheville where the group was staying. For those who don’t know, it is a straight shot up I-40, just one road for six hours.
But the former-hippie-turned-navigator had another route in mind. It involved going to South Carolina to pick up I-26. He spoke real slowly to the bus driver, hoping that he could sell him his “short-cut.” When the driver refused, he warned us that “this guy is going to need a lot of guidance.” When we looked at him, we only saw a professional bus driver. When the former hippie looked at him, he apparently saw an unintelligent black man. I have found that you can usually identify a liberal by the way he talks to black people. This was certainly no exception.