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i will ask the chamber of commerce how to get to haight street

Day 79 of 365: a year in songs and photos

Song: Frank Zappa, Who Needs the Peace Corps?

(I think I got the numbers on these right, if not I’ll figure it out later)

I went through a hippie phase when I was a teenager. I was maybe 13 at the time, heavily influenced by Ken Kesey, the Grateful Dead and a bunch of other people who made getting stoned and complaining about The Man sound like a career choice. I wanted to tie dye all my clothes, put a flower in my hair and move to San Francisco. I’d find some communal living arrangement at Haight Ashbury, get high a lot, live a bohemian lifestyle and spread peace, love and happiness throughout the world. Youth is so cute in its naivety sometimes.

In the intervening years, I put down the bong, went to work for The Man and became a capitalist pig. But I still had this desire to see the promised land of Haight Ashbury for myself, just to set my 13-year old mind at ease and assure myself that I didn’t miss my calling as an aging hippie trying to keep the 60’s alive.

All these years later, I finally got there. And it turned out to be a dirty smudge on what was otherwise a pristine vacation. Sure, the hippie, flower-power, peace and love aura still pervades the area, but it seems like a facade to me. While the storefronts are filled with peace signs and groovy art, the place still smelled, metaphorically, like drug abuse and regret. Teenage panhandlers, 20somethings with a permanent glaze in their eyes, baby boomers still dressed for their Electric Kool Aid Acid Test all co-mingle in a depressing display of empty lives and emptier futures.

I watched an obviously strung out kid who couldn’t have been more than 16 play a trumpet for cash and the 13 year old Haight Ashbury wannabe in me took a last, shallow breath and died.

We walked up Haight to Amoeba Music, bought a great Von Bondies CD which became the soundtrack to the rest of our trip and tried to ignore the panhandlers and vagrants at McDonald’s while we grabbed some coffee for the trip back to Sacramento. Lovely as San Francisco had been, it was time to get out of there.

And I’m kind of glad the last breath of hippie in me disappeared. I don’t even know why I was holding on to it.

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