Long Strange Trip
by JILL SCHENSUL
Sunday, May 20, 2001
Flashback, man. Colors. Tie-dye. Beaded curtains. A 1960-something VW Bug,
painted real trippy.
Yo. Wake up, dude. That guy in the coffeehouse may still be thinking cool
thoughts, but he's putting them down on his laptop. And the kids on the
Haight are wearing $100 footwear. This is where the long, strange trip has
ended, at least so far, in Haight-Ashbury.
The Haight's come a long way since the Summer of Love in '67. AIDS has
ended the free love thing, the condo has supplanted the crash pad, and
Jerry and Janis have gone to heaven.
Still, the ghosts, and sometimes even tangible idealism, remain. The
Haight-Ashbury Flower Power Walking Tour offers an organized, historical
look at this colorful part of San Francisco, beginning in the 19th century,
when the area began as a refreshing wilderness away from the bustle of the
We learned about the Diggers and their soup kitchens and the beginnings of
the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic. We also saw the blue row house once
occupied by Charles Manson. And the unassuming blue-gray Victorian at 710
Ashbury, a former boardinghouse where the Grateful Dead and their entourage
crashed. Farther down, at 635, was the apartment building where Janis
Joplin lived when Chet Helms, local activist, artist, and spearhead for the
Family Dog group, which organized "happenings" in the city, persuaded her
to come back from Texas to play music.
The Haight swelled in population, from 15,000 in 1965 to 100,000 by the
Summer of Love. Then R. Buckminster Fuller's geodesic dome and the "back to
the country" movement began, and the freaks and the hippies went off in
search of nature and space, and the area went vacant again.
Some places, like the Free Clinic, held on. Along Haight Street itself, the
scene is as alive with kids as it might have been back then, although most
of the landmark gathering spots are gone. The stores have changed hands,
but the residents fight to keep the chain stores away. The famous corner of
Haight and Ashbury still has the oldest building in the neighborhood; the
corner was also where fans gathered for a two-week vigil when Jerry Garcia
died. If not there, where?
The Walking Tour is run by Pam and Bruce Brennan. Tours departs 9:30 a.m.
Tuesdays and Saturdays from the northeast corner of Stanyan and Waller
streets. $15. Call (415) 863-1621.
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