The Wisdom of Hippie Dan - Page 3
If someone had asked me at the time what I liked about Dusty, I probably would have shrugged. He was my friend, and that was enough. Now, though, I suspect it was because he embodied the worldview that was pulling at me. I had started delving into existential literature in high school and was continuing in college. Writers like Sartre and Camus described the plight of the outsider who felt like a stranger in an incomprehensible world. Hermann Hesse wrote about the search for the sacred amid chaos and suffering. The existentialists did not believe in living life from the neck up. They challenged me to reject artifice and the expectations of others, to create a meaningful life.
Back then, while my life never strayed from the conventional lines of socially approved behavior, the people I chose to hang out with created their own conventions—people like my uncle, my mom’s younger brother, nicknamed “the Communist,” who wore a Malcolm X cap, demonstrated to protect the rights of the homeless, slept on the beaches of Hawaii, worked on the Alaska pipeline, and usually had a copy of Mao’s Little Red Book in his pocket. And people like Dusty, of course, who now had a puke-green Chevy van emblazoned with a bumper sticker that read: hey, mister, don’t laugh, your daughter might be in here.
The most unconventional of all might have been the Minnesotan known as Hippie Dan, a modern Henry David Thoreau.
Dan Proctor was forty-five years old when I met him in 1992 at the co-op where he worked and which he co-owned, the Positively Third Street Bakery. He was 5-foot-10, all legs and long, gangly arms. He wore a T-shirt that said bikes not bombs, partly hidden by a beard that would have looked at home on a Hasid. He moved as if he was dancing at a Grateful Dead concert. His hair was plaited into two braids that hung over each shoulder. He talked fast—about the environment, and wheatgrass juice and whole grains, and living a mindful life. He spoke with a Scandinavian twang, and when he laughed, he sounded like a loon at dusk.
Hippie Dan made Thunder Cookies that were like chocolate chip cookies on steroids, with oatmeal and whole wheat flour and peanut butter and tons of butter. They were the best cookies I had ever tasted. (Rumor has it he once ran a secret bakery in the back of the shop, long since closed, and Dusty and his stoner pals used to sample those goods a lot.)