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Smile, You're in Athens: Altern-Athenians embrace funky characteristics

They have many names. Some call them hippies, others call them hipsters, but the counterculture of this college town is uniquely Athens.

I would like to denounce all of the sometimes-derogatory terms such as beatnik, indie and hipster to adopt my own term. I give you “Altern-Athenians”: the people who boogie to the beat of the “only-in-Athens” drum.

The Altern-Athenian persona is an odd blend of intellectualism from the university, activism for Appalachia, and a hint of environmentalism with a touch of the ’60s. Altern-Athenians are able to find harmony between being worldly and keepin’ it local. For example: Rastafarian dreadlocks with an “Ohio Pride” T-shirt.   

The counterculture is made up of townies and students who bond through embracing an eccentric range of art, music and expression.

Just as Athens, Greece, was once central for arts, learning and philosophy, Athens, Ohio, is the pinnacle of progressive thinking in an otherwise old-school area.

Don’t believe in Altern-Athenians?

Just look at College Green on a glorious spring day.  Notice the blur of colorful hula hoops, joyful jugglers and the occasional meditation circle. If you wander deep into Athens’ neighborhoods, you will discover evidence of their existence: porches clad in Tibetan prayer flags, wind chimes, PBR cans, rusted road bikes and the occasional stray cat.

It’s time you wake up and smell the fair-trade coffee. Or is that the aroma of our communal compost pile? It doesn’t matter — this town is still radical!

I, like many of you reading, came from a teeny town of boring, ultra-conservative, traditional folk. The originality of Athens was like a breath of fresh air in my freshman lungs.

After having spent three years in this town, I am as crunchy-granola as they come. I would rather be barefoot in the forest, eating nuts and seeds, expanding my yoga practice or just hanging around a campfire.

Being Altern-Athenian is not about the thrifty clothes you rock, how many herbs you grow in your backyard, the number of stickers plastered to the back of your Subaru, or how thick your glasses frames are. It is about loving life and just being you, adding your own color to this already vibrant town.

Thank you, Athens, for letting us do, wear and act however we please. We shall forever remember you as the place we first tried tofu and vegan cheese, where we learned to drink water from a Mason jar and the discrepancies and delicacies of dumpster diving. 

May I forever be in an Athens state of mind long after I leave this funky place.

The next time you overhear someone ask a waiter, “Is this local?” remind yourself that you aren’t in a scene from the satirical show Portlandia. No, you are just in Athens, the only place in Southeast Ohio where you can successfully start a banjo-didgeridoo band that raps beat poetry.

Embrace it.

Pull out your tie-dye and join that drum circle.  Let your spirit be free. And don’t forget to smile — you’re in Athens, where being alternative is the norm.

Anna Moore is a junior studying magazine journalism and a columnist for The Post. Starting a dulcimer and musical saw band? Send her your plans at

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