Sunday, April 14, 2013

My celebrated "hippie" period

Here's another excerpt from my book THE ME GENERATION...BY ME (GROWING UP IN THE '60).  I'm going to keep doing these until I sell enough books to get in the Amazon top 10... or at least 10,000.   Here's where you go to get your ebook copyAnd here's where you go to get the handsome paperback.  Read the reviews.  Many are from people I don't even know. 

By 1967 I had been as far south as San Diego, far north as Santa Barbara, far east as Las Vegas, and far west as the end of the Santa Monica pier. But that was about to change. My dad announced that we were going up to San Francisco.

Oh. My. Fucking. God.

I had wanted to go to San Francisco more than anyplace else in the world. I was intrigued by all the buzz about the music scene there, Haight-Ashbury, the Summer of Love, and okay, I’ll be honest – I just wanted to see a Giants game at Candlestick Park.

As always, we drove. I still had not been inside an airplane. Our family trips tended to be on the frugal side. We stayed at a Travelodge motel on Lombard St. in the Marina district. We should have slept in the Impala. It had more room.

But I didn’t care. I was just thrilled to finally be there. We saw the sights, traveled the bridges, dined at Kans in Chinatown, hopped cable cars, slurped crab cocktails at Fisherman’s Wharf, and gawked at the basketball-sized bazooms on Carol Doda whose image was proudly and largely displayed at the topless Condor club in North Beach where she jiggled them three times nightly.

Side note: Carol had risen to prominence in 1964 when many delegates from the Republican National Convention went to see her act.

I also got my first glimpse of the Haight-Ashbury district. This was hippie Mecca, the epicenter of the counter-culture revolution. Love was free and the drugs were reasonable. With Scott MacKenzie’s “San Francisco” as their anthem, young people from all over the country migrated to the Haight. Harvard Professor Dr. Timothy Leary, the noted advocate of psychedelic drug research (LSD) coined the catchphrase: “Turn on, tune in, drop out”. (That same year Leary would marry his third wife. Hard to tell whether the bride was really beautiful that day; all the guests were on acid.) This was a Utopian society, an oasis where you were free of the shackles of expectation and civilization. A haven for spiritual awakenings, creative inspiration, and yes, even consciousness expanding.

Haight-Ashbury looked exactly as you’ve seen it in documentaries and movies of the 60s. Loads of hippies in colorful garb (some with face paint) milling about, rolling joints, playing guitars and tambourines. Murals on the sides of buildings, head stores and ma & pa markets. And vivid kaleidoscopic color everywhere – from Tie Dyed clothes to rainbow store signs to a blue building with a yellow door. Imagine Jimi Hendrix as the art director of SESAME STREET. But it was festive and fun.

And as we drove through this idyllic world I thought to myself, “Ugggh! How the hell can anyone live here? It’s so dirty and crowded. What happens if you get sick? What kind of privacy would you get in one of these cramped apartments? How clean are the bathrooms? What’s the TV reception like?”

I had zero desire to turn, tune, drop, or whatever else was necessary to move to Haight-Ashbury and join this freaky scene.

It's one thing to be a hippie. It's another to give up creature comforts.

14 comments:

Jerry Baylor said...

My reaction would have been the same as yours. I missed the hippie era by about 10 years, but any time I see a documentary that includes footage of Haight-Ashbury and all the hippies in burlap ponchos and head mounted gardenias, the foremost thought in my mind is "Good God, that place must reek like fried liver and fishheads".

Mac said...

I hear you, Ken. Free love was massively appealing but you'd have had to sit through a tremendous amount of quasi-religious Eastern bullshit just to get laid. There's also an "intimate personal grooming" issue there but I won't lower the tone of the blog by getting into that.

Kevin Bender said...

Our family did the exact same thing that summer, in our 1962 Impala. We three brothers in the back seat gawked at the hippies as parents mumbled dire warnings about that lifestyle.

Mary Kay said...

My son lived in the Haight a couple of years ago. The weekend streets had many upper middle class kids from east bay panhandling the tourists!

BigTed said...

On a recent episode of a TV show, a man and a very attractive woman spent the night having what was probably very hot sex, then in the morning rushed to throw on their clothes and get to work. And my first thought was how gross that guy would actually feel if he went the whole day without taking a shower.

Wild pleasure is fine, but those creature comforts are important too!

Cap'n Bob said...

Like many good things, the Summer of Love became a nightmare within a year. Thugs, drugs addicts, poverty, and despair took over the Haight. But it had its moment.

Paul Duca said...

Deep down, you were--and are--a nice Jewish boy from the Valley...not that there's anything wrong with that.

Classof65 said...

I was living in LA summer of '67, never got to The Haight. If I had I would never have left...

the外國人 said...
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darmund said...

This post brings to mind comments from Paul McCartney and George Harrison about their respective visits to San Francisco and the Haight Ashbury district.

McCartney as one would expect was more sanguine, saying that while it was a 'very nice scene' he could already see the signs of it turning into 'rip-off street' and was disturbed by the number of teenagers simply running the streets.

Harrison was thoroughly disgusted by the filthyness and overall tawdryness of the whole scene and felt there was WAY too much exploitation going on and thought it unconscionable for Tim Leary to go running all over the goddamn world telling teenagers to drop out and run away from home to Haight Ashbury. One of the San Francisco Diggers Brooks Butcher said that while it was fine for someone his age in their early 20's to drop everything and come to San Francisco and survive, to tell a teenager to do the same was borderline sociopathic.

Harrison came away disgusted with the whole hippie mindset.

the外國人 said...
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Mr. Clean said...

Haight-Ashbury: quite likely the syphilis capital of the US; I think that's what it said on the CA license plate.

tb said...

Aw, and here I was hoping you'd ran off, dropped acid, bought a sitar and chanted in a circle of naked chicks in the park.

Jeffrey Mark said...

Today The Haight attracts young adults in their early '20s with head to toe tatoos. It's still a great destination 'hood in the City and young people still flock to it these days. Kinda a trendy place with the piercing subculture. Lots of kids still wear black and are pierced head to toe.