Thursday, August 05, 2010

DF Remembers Vintage SF

"In September of '66, my formerly tweedy, graying poetry professor, Anthony Hecht, showed up for the new term in black and white-striped Uncle Sam bellbottoms, a bright paisley shirt, a suede vest and Beatle boots. We all assumed that these, along with a new laid-back, goofy expression, were the souvenirs of a summer spent among the flower children of Haight-Ashbury, a section of San Francisco that was just starting its climb to glory. Of course, my pals and I had to check it out as well. So, a few months later, I drove out there with a couple of friends.

The scene, made eerily vivid by the combination of psychedelic drugs and its own outrageous novelty, was pure sci fi: all these dazzling young girls dressed up in home-made outfits inspired by Pocahontas, Maid Marion, Annie Oakley and whoever. Tall, bony drug dealers with ponytails would walk past you muttering the names of their wares without the vowels, just in case you were a narc: Hsh! - Grss! - Zd! - Spd! Blue Cheer, a group that touted itself as the loudest band in the world, was playing down the street at the Straight Theater.

It was fascinating, for about a week, anyway. Then you started to notice that a lot of the kids looked all waxy and wild-eyed, and that they were talking much too slow or much too fast and then you got that Oh Shit feeling like Lou Costello thinking he's talking to Abbott and then realizing he's talking to the Wolfman. On the corner, you'd spot the hustling predator[s] (whose consciousness hadn't been raised as yet) looking to score off the middle-class kids who'd walked right onto their turf. It was over, bro, before it even hit Life magazine. . . ."

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