Friday, July 29, 2016

San Francisco Day 3: Keep It Weird Haight Street

At the geographic heart of the storied youth revolution of the 1960s on Haight & Ashbury ... The area is what you imagine when you think of San Francisco in the 1960s: a strong hippie vibe, the smell of marijuana, lots of head shops, and small stores with names like Earth Song and Tibet Stars. The smell of pot is everywhere. It's a shock to see an American Apparel store or any chain store for that matter and, to its credit, these stores are far and few between on this strip. "Keep Haight Street weird" a chalk board intones cheerfully ... indeed, they are doing their very best to do so. 

Some Painted Ladies ... 
It's such a curious combination of the old hippie ideal and the new, very wealthy SF economy ... when you stand on the corner of Haight & Ashbury and look north or south of Haight you see these beautiful "Painted Ladies" (gorgeous Victorian houses painted in three or more colours) that must be worth well over a million dollars. Meanwhile a barefoot, forlorn looking blond haired boy in ragged clothes passes us, armed with a pointed stick gathering garbage from the street like something out of Dickens. He wears some sort of yellow vest but is barefoot - a municipal employee or merely a good citizen?

Interesting places to see ... The bookstore Bound Together: The Anarchist Collective, on 1369 Haight St., where I purchase a copy of Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit and which, clearly, I am sorely in need of. The store has the added distinction of having its window broken by racist skin heads in the 1980s. A gentle, very aged hippie works the cash with grace and a quiet charm.

Amoeba Records, 1855 Haight St., and Rasputin Music, 1672 Haight St., are both home to thousands of vinyl records for my two record nerds.

Coffee to the People, 1206 Masonic St., is a coffeehouse off Haight with passable coffee but, more interestingly, it features decorated tables containing pictures of dozens of buttons with political slogans.

While R and J search for vinyl I wait on the periphery of Golden Gate Park at the base of Haight Street - not the best idea for a timid soul such as myself. The park is filled with a combination of homeless people huddled together in groups seemingly with all their belongings, affluent tourists renting bicycles to ride through the park, supervised groups of children on an outing and young faux hippies. Middle class mom most decidedly does not fit in so I move along noting the numerous prohibitions on drug use, smoking, camping, etc ... likely all ignored. 

If you are in the mood for tapas and surly service by very attractive Hispanic men you might try Cha Cha Cha, 1801 Haight St. and cap it off with ice cream at Ben & Jerry's right on the corner of Haight & Ashbury.

Crashing at the hotel very exhausted from the day ... then off to a late dinner at Farmer Brown, 25 Mason St., a "soul food" restaurant that is a ten minute walk from the hotel. Tremendously good food, great, rowdy atmosphere, good music ... We choose jambalaya, pickled chips, cornbread. Excellent service and atmosphere. J has some food left over so he asks for a take out carton and gives the food to a man on the corner. The kid is a good'un. 

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