THE BLOG
11/01/2012 01:05 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

Excerpts From San Fran '60s -- Sawhorse Over a Water Department Hole

Through much of that summer of '67, the Summer of Love, Tim was the very first Haight-Ashbury "hippie" many tourists saw. The whole of Upper Haight Street for a dozen-or-so blocks to Golden Gate Park was lined with hippies at 30-or-so yard intervals selling underground newspapers to the stalled week-end traffic. My roommate Tim was the first in that line.

Where our street, Scott, intersected Haight, there was a water department hole beside a stop sign and the hole stayed there all summer. So every Friday Tim perched on the sawhorse that straddled the hole and held out the Berkeley Barb to the cars stopped beside him. And they were bumper-to-bumper for blocks in every direction, all coming to gawk at these mutants with their fantasy-life licentiousness. And here was one right in front of them!

This was taken as an invitation by a car full of straight white teens that pulled up beside him one day. A fist shot out and sent him flying. The car then slowly drove off to guffaws and the bass burble of the muffler. There was nothing to do but stand up, brush himself off, and return to his post.

Once, a cop car pulled up and Tim waited to be told to get off city property or get over to the sidewalk.

Instead, the cop at the passenger window asked with blue-eyed sincerity, "Are you a communist?"

Another day, a car full of young black kids pulled up, pointed a gun at him and demanded all his money. He gave handfuls of change into their outstretched palms and then they drove off.

Tim didn't put up with all this for the money. We were both successful though bottom-feeding pot dealers. No, he sat on that griddle of summer pavement for the people he met, especially chicks: teenyboppers, topless dancers who were also groupies, secretaries with art degrees, etc. He rarely came home alone on Friday evening.

There was Brenda, a peroxide blonde in her late 20s who was a pill freak and early Jesus freak, who didn't eat meat or wear leather, and who once remarked the only book she ever saw in her father's house was Mein Kampf. She had a passably coherent personality until, in the middle of a conversation, she would jump up from her chair and talk to an invisible entity somewhere above her left shoulder. She would come up from L.A. with no money or even a place to crash trusting that whenever she needed food, clothes, shelter, or pills, the Lord would provide, and he did. Tim inexplicably became obsessed with her. Then, to jolt another lover, she killed herself on a whim by diving head-first onto the sidewalk from a fourth floor apartment.

And there was Diane, a buxom groupie with eyeliner so thick it could have been applied with a canoe paddle. She moved in for a week with her clothes and a portable TV, and every night the Fillmore or Avalon Ballrooms were closed, we watched old movies, stoned on the couch, Diane in the middle, Tim and I alternating handfuls of popcorn with handfuls of tit, but no more than her tits, since we weren't musicians ...

... Tim had many accomplishments, among them: sneaking into a Beatles concert, standing within stabbing range of Nikita Khrushchev when he was touring L.A., and smuggling a copy of Naked Lunch into the States when it was banned. Most importantly, Tim was a hero of the only war that mattered, the last front, the home front against the fascists: the Civil Rights Movement. He went into the Deep South during Freedom Summer of 1964 and was eventually driven out of Louisiana by Klan death threats. But, for me, his greatest accomplishment, the ultimate imprimatur of hip, was his being a recurring mental patient.

"Ya know what I want to be when I grow up?" I asked him one day, and then just before he could, I answered, only half in jest, "mentally ill."

There was an intellectual fashion then, reflected in the books of Norman O. Brown, R.D. Laing, David Cooper, and others, declaring madness latent or awry enlightenment, suggesting links between schizophrenia and mysticism. Madness, the ultimate pariah-hood, was actually heroic battle against dark forces on the frontiers of consciousness, certification of being deep, in another league, non-middleclass. Also, having been in a mental hospital at least once was a badge of profundity among the hippest chicks. Even more important, it was how Tim stayed out of the draft ...

... When I was a couple haircuts overdue and tensions were rising, just before summer, I quit my part-time file clerk job and started full-time living. Day after day of doing only what you wanted. No appointments, no authorities, no schedules. There was little difference between day and night, one day and another, one week and another. The biggest decision of the day was what drug to take and who to visit. Added to all of this was my draft status. It became increasingly more difficult through the spring to drag myself out to San Francisco State and doodle or daydream through a class when there was always a friend who needed visiting or a sunny day that needed savoring in the park. So I dropped out of school and therefore became eligible for the draft. I would have eagerly fought the fascists but I wasn't going to feed myself to this kill machine.

So I ran down the steep hill of that summer with the only alternatives being crash or fly.

Find more from San Fran '60s at here.