Saturday, March 07, 2015

Can you picture me as a hippie?

Here's an early excerpt from my book, THE ME GENERATION... BY ME (GROWING UP IN THE '60s).   It occurred to me I've been remiss in plugging the crap out of my books.  You can (and should) buy this one here. 

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.

12 comments:

Eric J said...

No comments...

Looks like everyone has already bought the book.

Oat Willie said...

Funny to contrast your Haight Ashbury 60s as opposed to Establishment Television's portrayal of "hippies" (Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, etc.) Those programs that got axed in the Rural Purge were exhausting themselves spitting on the Younger Generation.

Michael said...

Hippies couldn't afford Haight-Ashbury now.

Jim said...

George Harrison had similar thoughts on Haight-Ashbury:

"I went there expecting it to be a brilliant place, with groovy gypsy people making works of art and paintings and carvings in little workshops. But it was full of horrible spotty drop-out kids on drugs, and it turned me right off the whole scene. I could only describe it as being like the Bowery: a lot of bums and drop-outs"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_I-ThafU1e4

Mike Barer said...

My take away from that passage is that it is always good to hear of another Jew that eats crab. Persoally, I have a weakness for clam chowder.

Dana Gabbard said...

My mom lived there circa 1963 after I was born while dad was serving on an aircraft carrier. She went about in a minimum with me in a stroller. It was a cheap neighbourhood, which is why it was taken over by the counter-culture a few years later. By 1967 a mock funeral was held for the hippie movement.

Dana Gabbard said...

I meant muumuu (darn autocorrect).

ODJennings said...

We went while on the big family vacation during the Summer of Love, and we drove through in the station wagon after my parents made us roll up the windows and lock the doors.

Thankfully my older brother was almost 18 and wise in the ways of the world, and for some reason he decided to take 11 year old me with him when he snuck back that night.

The pornographic comic books were quite a revelation, but I have to agree with George Harrison, my most distinct memories are the army of dirty kids sleeping in Golden Gate Park, wearing army surplus and generally looking hungry and miserable. Whatever magic there ever was had vanished long before we got there.

Boomska316 said...

That's why I could never be counter-culture or a revolutionary:I love my creature comforts too much.

Mike Barer said...

I remember it being exciting to visit Berkeley ib 1970, when it was the happening place, I went back with wife and her sister and the town seemed shabby and dirty.

J. Allison said...

Hi Ken. I recently finished your book and figured this was as good a place as any to leave some feedback. I was born in '63, so I lagged your growing up years by better than a decade. But I too come from suburban SoCal -- North Orange County, so the other side of L.A. -- and your stories definitely resonated. Really enjoyed the book.

Paul Duca said...

Which is why Beaver Cleaver once outro'd Scott Mackenzie with the line "San Francisco...be sure to wear flowers in your nose hair"