Aging Hippie Recalls Days of Rage Through Child’s Play

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by Con Chapman
Lifestyles Editor

CHICAGO, Illinois. At 61, Zack Coffelt can’t believe he’s a grandfather, much less a happy one. “My generation didn’t trust anyone over 30, and now I’m a geezer myself,” he says laughing.

Coffelt does his best to avoid the stereotype of a grandparent, insisting that his grandson Todd call him by his first name, and he tries to impart the lessons of ’60s to Todd to make up for his son’s rebellion.

My son fell in with a bad crowd in college,” Coffelt says, shaking his head. “Accounting majors.” That wrong turn on the road of life led to a job as a C.P.A. that Coffelt scorns, although he made his peace with his wayward son once his grandson arrived.

I’m a kid again,” he says, but Jake quickly corrects him. “What do you mean–’Again’?” Zack dismisses him with a snort and shows his grandson the present he’s brought.

The boy rips off gift wrap to reveal a box containing a “Protestors vs. Establishment” plastic action figure set.

Neat!” the boy exclaims, and Zack gets down on the floor to play. “Which side do you want?” he asks Todd.

Which has bigger guns?” the boy asks.

The establishment has guns, but the protestors get the girls!” his grandfather says, a wistful gleam in his eye.

Yuk,” the boy says. “I wanna be the establishment!”

Have it your way,” Zack says as man and child line up their pieces for battle. “I think I’m going to attack . . . your administration building!”

The grandfather moves his troops towards a plastic building and blocks the entrance. “That will stop you from turning creative young minds into tools of your corporate war machine!” he says.

What do I do?” the boy asks.

You try to reason with me–use your Dean piece.”

Which one is that?”

The little man with the bow tie whose wife is sleeping with an English professor,” the grandfather says.

What does he do?”

He appeals to the protestors to engage in rational discourse,” the grandfather says helpfully. “Then my guys pelt him with eggs!”

Cool!” the boy says, and he walks his Dean piece to the administration building. “You are the best and brightest of your generation,” the boy says, lowering his voice to the stern tone his father uses to scold him. “There’s no reason we can’t agree to disagree . . .”

Zack flicks a white plastic egg at the Dean, hitting him in the head.

Ow!” Todd says, and trots the figure across campus to the President’s house.

Attaboy!” the grandfather says. “He who turns and runs away, lives to fight another day!”

Do I attack now?”

Yep. Now the college President calls in white ethnic policemen to beat the upper-class students!”

The boy grabs some blue plastic police and marches them towards the protestors. “Youse spoiled brats!” he says gruffly. “I’d give my right arm to goof around for four years on my old man’s nickel!”

Zack is visibly moved to see the youngster grasp the complicated sociological dynamics that made 60′s protest a sometimes ambiguous affair.

What’s that pig’s name?” he asks the boy.

I’m Sergeant Pulaski and I’m gonna bust your head open like an overripe melon!” the boy says as he brings a billy club down on the head of a plastic protestor.

Zack experiences a twinge on his skull where a Chicago policeman cracked his head open four decades earlier. “I think I’m having a flashback,” he says holding his head.

What’s that?” the boy asks.

That’s when you get the benefits of drugs without paying for them!”