Home    Haight Street    Love-In     Acid     Revolt     Author   Paper/Ebook

 
June 6, 1967

At the corner of Haight and Masonic, I came to the Drogstore Café, once a Victorian drugstore. Its beveled glass windows looked out on the street. Inside, behind the counter, the small wooden drawers of the pharmacist were still visible in the wall.

Hippies sat at the tables now. A crowd stood out on the corner. Their lively chatter and cheerful greetings quickly put me at ease.

It was as if I had come upon the members of a Victorian circus who were out for an evening stroll.

A boy in a top hat kissed a girl with flowers tucked in her hair. Another girl wore a hooded cape of violet velvet. Most of the girls wore granny shoes, with eyelets up the ankles. They wore vintage fur and woolen shawls. Everyone seemed to wear granny glasses.

Boots and vests and cowboy hats enhanced the Western feeling. Moccasins and turquoise jewelry proclaimed their love for the Indian. Lace and silk and bright satin colors revealed their sensuality. I had never seen girls show their breasts so much.

Draped in an American flag, a girl brushed my arm, while two guys started playing guitars and singing a Dylan song:

Come mothers and fathers throughout the land

And don't criticize what you don't understand.

A girl came in on harmonica.

Then everyone started cheering as a flatbed truck pulled up to the light. A red, white, and blue missile rested on the back of it, with a hand-painted sign that said:

Some Day You Will Be Against Nuclear War—Why Not Now?

Hippies sat around it, on the edge of the truck, playing guitars and tambourines.

Then as the truck pulled out from the light, everyone started waving in a slow comic fashion, as if a ship were setting sail.

I started to wave myself. It was so easy to be a part of it all.

Then, in a burst, Chas came out of the Drogstore, and pulled up beside me.

“My kitty needs a leash, man!” he said, out of breath. “I've been looking for a leash for an hour!”

A gray kitten peeked from the neck of his jacket, glancing in every direction.

“How about a shoelace?” I said.

Chas pushed back his Army surplus cap.

“Wow!” he said. “Now that's what I call an idea, man!”

Chas looked down at his moccasins. I looked down at my desert boots. My laces were broken, all in knots.

“No shoelaces,” I said.

He lifted the kitten and kissed it.

“This kitty is driving me nuts!”

“How about a piece of string?” I said.

He seemed less impressed, and shoved the kitten into my arms. Then he stalked into the Drogstore.

For a moment I thought the kitten was mine. But he was going from table to table, asking people for string.

Finally, he came back in a huff.

“Nobody's got any string, man,” he said, “and now the guy at the counter won't talk to me. The sucker's wiped on acid!” 

He grabbed his kitty back, just as an older couple stopped to pet it.

“Hey, little bugger,” the husband said, stroking its head.

Chas gave me a nudge.

“Check out those jazzy shoelaces.”

The man wore polka-dot shoelaces.

“Do you think you can spare a shoelace, man?” Chas pleaded. “My kitty needs a leash!”

The older man laughed and nodded.

“I think I can spare a lace.”

He knelt on the sidewalk, covered with swirling chalk drawings and yellow sunbursts. Once he freed the shoelace, he fashioned a loop at one end, and slipped it over the kitten’s head.

But Chas was disappointed. The shoelace was not a leash.

When the older couple went into the Drogstore, Chas tucked the kitten back in his jacket.

“It's warmer in here anyway,” he said. “This kitty's just a kitty.”

I waited for him to move on, but Chas peered up at the sky for a moment, as if he was lost in thought.

Then he was beaming back at me.

“Let's take a stroll down Haight Street, man,” he said. “Let's go dig some chicks.”








 
The light turned green as Chas led us across the street.
I was glad for someone to walk with. In my sheepskin coat, and striped velour shirt, I could be seen as collegiate hip, but Chas was the real thing.
He wore buckskin pants and moccasins. He wore a suede jacket with fringe on the sleeves. His sideburns were cut like mutton chops. Sun-bleached hair spilled over his shoulders. With a flick of the thumb that verged on vanity, he stroked it behind his ear.
We went by the storefronts on Haight Street. There were liquor stores, cafés, and laundromats. There were boutiques and funky clothing shops. There were shops with names like The Blushing Peony and Wild Colors. 
The stores had Victorian flats above them, their bay windows outlined in Day-Glo colors. Hippies sat in the windows, dangling their feet, kibitzing with friends below.


The stream of people grew thicker. The easy floating quality of how the hippies moved created a kind of rhythm, like the slow soft movement of waves. 
We swam through a sea of smiles. Painted faces appeared out of nowhere. Tiny Christmas bells rang out on everyone’s clothing. Tin buttons, with funny slogans and peace symbols, decorated coats, pants, hats.


Then a girl stood up on her toes, and extended a yellow plastic ReaLemon.
“Anybody want a flash?” she offered.
Chas stuck out his tongue. She squirted a stream in his mouth. Chas shuddered, squealed. 
“Now that's what I call a flash!”
She lavished the kitten with a lover’s kisses. 
“I love your little kitty!”
“What about me?” Chas said, offering a cheek.
“Anybody want a flash?” she replied, and held up the yellow plastic ReaLemon.
At the corner of Haight and Ashbury, a guy with a baby lion on a leash stood watching a kid kneeling on the sidewalk, painting the word LOVE. 
A girl in a Beethoven sweatshirt stopped and asked him to paint her. She turned her fanny to him. Still kneeling, he added the word LOVE to it. 
Then a Chinese girl came crashing through the crowd and continued crashing through the crowd, all the way up the street.
“Speed kills,” Chas said cryptically.
I nodded sagely as if I knew what he meant.


As we crossed the street, Chas shot an arm in front of me and pointed down the hill toward the Panhandle, an island of exotic trees and grass that led to Golden Gate Park.
“Human Be-In,” he said. “Saturday—be there, or be square.”
I read about the first Human Be-In back in January, when thousands of hippies gathered for dancing and music in the park.
Smaller versions had sprung up on the Panhandle.
“I saw the Grateful Dead last week,” I said.
He lowered one arm, and shot the other up the hill on Ashbury Street.
“They live up yonder,” he said.


Crossing the street, we came to a pack of Hell's Angels. Bikes at the curb, their arms around their ladies, they talked among themselves, between slugs of beer. In spite of their grizzly appearance, they seemed quite friendly.
“They're all wiped on acid, man,” Chas whispered.
“You gave it to them?” I joked.
“I gave it to them,” he snickered.
He made a pass at a short young earth mother whose breasts were bouncing with joy inside her satin blouse. She smiled, kissed him, and passed. A wink came over her shoulder. 
“Dig it, man—I just love to tease the teenyboppers.”  
“She must be fourteen, Chas,” I told him. 
He gave me a serious look.
“But she ain't goin' home tonight, brother.”
I was amazed at the number of people, barefoot and wrapped in blankets. It was known you could come to the Haight-Ashbury and find a place to crash with people you'd never met. But some looked scared and hungry. I watched three young guys tearing at a loaf of bread and passing a bottle of juice around. 


Chas stopped to squint at the sky again.
“I’ve got to get Alfie back, man,” he said.
“Who’s Alfie, Chas?” I asked him.
“Alfie’s my bass guitar, man. Alfie’s in the pawnshop. We used to have a band—The Next Only Other Alternative. But Georgie went off to Wyoming. Tessie went off to Tibet. Now how can you jam in Tibet—they ain’t got no fucking electricity there!”
As we walked a little farther, Chas talked about all his hopes for the band. Tessie wrote the lyrics. Georgie wrote the music. Chas had all the connections in L.A. 
Further down the street, a girl stood outside the Haight Barber Shop, clutching a bunch of daisies. Each time she plucked a daisy from the bunch, she tapped your cheek like it was a magic wand. 
Then she gave you the daisy.
 Chas took one for the kitten. I took one because she offered. 
I was still not so trustful of all this generosity. But the feeling was starting to get to me. There was such a desire for innocence here. 
We stopped to look at a poster in the window of the Print Mint. Parodying a frontier Wanted poster, it pictured Jesus as an outlaw, with a large bounty on his head, a rebel and government agitator, wanted by the authorities. 
With their long hair, beards and sandals, so many hippies resembled him.
Inside the shop, artists sat on the floor with pens and pads, sketching psychedelic images. Posters from the concerts at The Fillmore, and the Avalon Ballroom, papered the walls.
The cars at the curb were painted like the posters, with stripes and paisleys and Victorian tresses. Hippies sat on the bumpers and hoods. From a window above, I heard the Rolling Stones singing:
Let's spend the night together
Now I need you more than ever.
The music startled the kitty and she started clawing Chas's jacket. He soothed its neck with a finger and soon the kitten was quiet.
“We need a name for this kitty,” he said.
“He doesn’t have a name?” I asked.
“Oops.”  He lifted the kitty up. “It's a chick kitty!”
“How long have you had her, Chas?” I asked.
“Amy at the Drogstore just gave her to me!” he shouted. “She thought I needed a little company.”  He leaned closer to confide in me. “Molly split last week, you know.”
“Molly?” I asked.
He drew back.
“Oh, Molly wasn’t a chick, man. Molly was a little white rat with a long pink tail. Cutest rat you ever seen. Every day we’d go to Hippie Hill and panhandle for groceries. Molly was making some bread, man. That chick was a little charmer.”
“She split?”
A shadow dimmed his memory.
“Last Tuesday we dropped some acid together,” he confessed. “Molly got a little paranoid. I kept telling her not to freak out, but she was sure the fuzz was coming. Took off through the window.”
“Never came back?”
“I was making thirty bucks a day on that little stinker!”
I noticed the little gray kitten gazing at me.
“How about Angel Hair?” I said.
Chas shot me a grin.
“You're brilliant, man,” he said. “I don't know how you do it.”  He tapped the kitty's head. “Angel Hair, you’re home, baby.”
The kitty looked at him with fond bewilderment. Chas seemed pleased.
“Angel Hair knows where it’s at,” he assured me. “This chick knows how to boogie.”
“She sure does.”
“Angel Hair’s got a little bit of heaven in her.”
“I think so too.”
Chas seemed more at peace now.
“Want to do some meditating?” he asked.
“Sure,” I said.
“Let's go over to the Psychedelic Shop.”
We crossed the street and walked up the block to the small storefront. Candles were lit inside. The air was filled with incense. Sitar music played in a room off to the side. 
Inside, I went to look at the display of bracelets and necklaces, strung with colorful love beads. 
Chas drifted into the meditation room.
Although I had read about Buddhism, and tried some meditation, I was feeling too restless to join him.
I studied the bulletin board on the wall, strewn with pictures of young runaways.
Letters from parents begged their kids to come home. The pictures were those of a happier time.
As I studied the face of a fifteen-year-old girl from South Dakota, I wondered what we had in common, both having left one America, in search of another. 
In my case, I planned to start graduate school in creative writing in the fall. I wanted to write a novel. 
I came out early because my cousin was heading to Fort Ord, before shipping to Vietnam. We thought it might be fun to drive across country together. 
I went into the meditation room. Chas was sitting on a pillow, his legs wrapped in the lotus position, the daisy behind his ear. 
I knelt by his pillow.
“I think I'll go out on my own,” I said.
He slowly opened his eyes. 
“One thing I want to tell you, man,” he said.
“What's that, Chas?” I asked him.
His eyes were clear and penetrating.
“I think you're gonna make it.”
“I hope so,” I said, thinking he meant I’d make a good hippie.
“I mean the writing,” he said.
A mysterious smile played on his lips. I had said nothing about my writing. 
I gave him my daisy. He put it behind his other ear. Then he took out a tab of acid and slipped it on his tongue.
“See you later,” I said.
He nodded goodbye and closed his eyes.
Out on the street, I looked back through the window. 
His eyes closed, his breathing even, Chas resembled a sleeping satyr, with daisies instead of horns.
Angel Hair still peeked out of his jacket, glancing in every direction.