Flaskaland
Thursday, March 01, 2007
 
The internet can be so strange. This article "The Hashbury is the Capital of the Hippies" (NY Times magazine, 1967) is posted in entirety at a place appropriately called Ugly Flashbacks (a site which otherwise is entirely in Russian, I think).

Not much to report first hand from my side as I only ventured across the Bay into that world a few times, and my short time in the Haight Ashbury was much earlier (1963) long after what was left of the beatniks had straggled over from North Beach (where the original Anxious Asp was located and whose jukebox played Shirley Ellis's "Nitty Gritty" many, many times each evening) into the Haight's crappy lowrent apartments, I mean historic Victorian lofts of such breathtaking vintage that even the woolen carpets had decayed from age, with wainscotting heavily layered by many coats of paint, and high ceilings that dispelled any chance of heat.

And the walks in the park then could be good, because that year the sun would come out at least once in awhile, and stumbling across a statue of Vivaldi in a hidden glade was cause for wonder, or more wondrous yet the discovery of the solarium, which was dazzling dressed out in many coats of super-gloss white enamel though sometimes too brilliant in the direct sun, and which occasionally made me laugh (especially when thinking of the one caricatured by Heinrich Kley).

I wasn't anywhere near the Haight Ashbury. And in 1967, my connection with music was tenuous, but the underground radio station poured generously for me each night. There were just a few trips to record stores for me, and hearing the new imported lp by a guy named Jimi Hendrix. I didn't hear that on the radio or not just yet. I was lured into the back room of The Store by a friend teasing and asking me, "Are you experienced?"

So I clinked through the wooden beaded curtain into the sanctum sanctorum where he played that whole Experience album, newly arrived from England and pressed on a different sort of vinyl you could tell by the heft and feel, and both sides, on a turntable. There was a jukebox in that room, too, but needing repair the machine only lit up when it was plugged in -- so he plugged it in, and that was our version of a light show I guess. The music was unusual, and unique enough that I knew I needed to be more comfortable for an extended listen, and so sank farther back into the battered itchy mohair chair and listened all the way through. And he flipped the disc over and played the other side and had to go out and wait on customers and such. I realized I was already running a bit late to make it all the way to campus for class, so I left. And though I didn't rush out anywhere to buy the record, I did stop back in a few days to inquire if he had it handy, which he didn't, as the record was so precious to him he didn't want to risk leaving it at the store or carrying it in on a regular basis. (So I heard it on the radio after that).

The Store (a most generic name for the time) was a for-profit place of unique ephemera, semi-antiques, cultural artifacts, kitsch, and collectibles on Telegraph that as I recall a guy from the mime troupe (and Diggers) named Peter (Berg) was running. Because he is famous for starting the free stores, you see, The Store isn't mentioned too much in the more official versions and literature that is currently handed down and received, or maybe I'll hedge and suggest perhaps I'm not remembering correctly myself. (And I kind of doubt the latter, as I know the lady who said she told him he should be doing something like that, and as she was busy and struggling at the time, she was a bit miffed she had given that notion away; but this digression has a happy ending because she has gone on to open such a mercantile herself).

Anyway, it wasn't he, that big bear of a man with beads over wooly turtleneck (who sometimes was tardy depositing money into the bank and so people who sold him the kooky trinkets suffered through the indignity of a rubber check drawn on his account, but to be fair he tried to pay most people in cash from the register) who played the Jimi Hendrix record for me. But a handsome, well-groomed fellow I knew from Los Angeles who was in the area to study the fine art of printing and bookmaking who has since gone on to fashion for the true effete many books of poetry and art, some of which you might recognize.

So 1967 was like that, although this is just what I'm remembering at the moment.

Thinking about it, one of the few high points that year that in any way involved music was most tangential. As I waited for a bus on San Pablo, Chris Strachwitz offered me a lift towards home, dropping me off at my bus stop by an ice cream parlor which distracted me from standing at the uncovered bus bench in the patter of rain. Usually passengers would walk across the parking lot and huddle under the benign overhang of the ice cream parlor roof directly in front of the big glass plate windows. But that day, I entered and had a double cone while waiting for my connecting route. And my bus transfer was still valid though a bit folded and worse for wear, and even a bit soggy from insistent raindrops, when I handed it to the always cranky driver regularly assigned to that lousy route.

And, really, the funniest thing about the whole year was to hear a story from the guy in Hashbury, who used to wear thin white gloves when he handled rare records. He was stopped in Berkeley near a demonstration and the police made him empty his pockets. He was obliged to explain to them how it was he had those delicate white gloves in his possession.
 




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Compiling the best online articles about music so there will be more of both in the future. In periods of drought, the reader will be innundated by my own blogs on the matters.

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