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1st September 2010

A Stroll Back in Time to Bohemian Haight Ashbury, Too Late for the Summer of Love

House on the Way to Fillmore
    Today was different, it was WARM and sunny. I decided to hike over to Haight. It was indeed a hike; it took me over an hour to climb hill and dale to get over there.
Haight Architecture
    On the way I passed through Fillmore, a predominantly African-American district, and known as a lively part of the city. Fillmore was a renowned jazz scene centre for the city. Here, should I desire, sip coffee in the Jazz cafe whilst waiting for my washing to finish in the Jazz Wash next door. Sadly, at the time of day I was passing through, there was not a note of music to be heard.
    I picked up Lower Haight with its cafes, bars, boutiques, galleries and Victorian houses that served a bohemian clientele. This took me as far as Buena Vista Park, a high tree covered hill that offered superb views over the city, but was an area to be avoided after dusk.
    Between Buena Vista Park and the Golden Gate Park lay the Haight Ashbury area. This was originally a quiet, middle class suburb, brimming with Queen Anne-style houses. During the late 60s, notably during the 1967 "Summer of Love", encouraged by the media, some 75,000 young people from all over the country flocked to the Haight Ashbury district in search of free love, music and drugs, and it became the focus of a worldwide youth culture. The junction of Haight and Ashbury was the legendry street corner better known as the G-spot of the "Summer of Love". The Haight still retained its radical bohemian culture defying social norms.
Typical Haight Boutique
The Lady is Too Big for the Condo
     When the youth of the nation flocked to the district, they came not just to "turn on, tune in, and drop out", but also to listen to rock bands such as Janis Joplin's Big Brother and the Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane, and the Grateful Dead. Impresario Bill Graham put unlikely pairs such as Miles Davis and the Grateful Dead on the same bill at Fillmore Auditorium. He also brought together big-names such as Jimi Hendrix and The Who, making the Haight the focus for the rock world. The Grateful Dead lived in one of the Victorian houses in the neighbourhood, but I was more interested in spotting the house where Jimi Hendrix once lived and recorded music.
    I strolled down Haight; many of its shops and boutiques still stuck in a 60s time warp. A few hippy type people wearing hippy clothes could still be spotted, and a fair number of young drop-outs slept or dossed about on the pavements. Anarchists, oddballs and punks who wanted somewhere to shop were well catered for here.
    Buildings were brightly decorated and blank walls were liberally covered with meaningful and sometimes psychedelic murals. It was an excellent place to drink a coffee and people watch.
    I walked as far as the Golden Gate Park and back down Haight again before finding my way across to Fisherman's Wharf via street car.
    The evening was spent locally in Polk Street, a road running parallel to Van Ness, the main highway 101 running through the city. The street was populated with bars and restaurants and attracted a younger clientele. Tonight was particularly busy. In some ways I preferred the local districts to places like Fisherman's Wharf. The local areas were visited by locals, whereas Fisherman's Wharf and the like were full of tourists.
The Red Victorian
Haight Ashbury Street Corner
Jimi Hendrix Lived in the Yellow House
    I ate at a sushi bar, and being on my own, I sat at the counter as opposed to a table. This gave me the opportunity to watch the 'man' prepare all the sushi and sashimi dishes from scratch to order. I was mesmerised.
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Uploaded from Francisco Bay Inn, 1501 Lombard Street, San Francisco CA on 02/09/10 at 20:50

Last updated 3.9.2010