.Last week, I took my three friends, Diane, Margaret, and Stuart on a journey via public transportation to see the real San Francisco. We began in my old neighborhood where I grew up on Second Avenue near Lincoln Way. I leaned against the stoop of the place where I grew up.
I took them through Children’s Playground and showed them Hippie Hill which was completely empty. It looked like just another area of the park. So eerie not to hear the congas or see people.
I took them through a tunnel to the lake on the other side. It’s been fixed up and is now beautiful, with a fountain and gorgeous lilies planted around it. We used to hang out at that lake when I was a kid and my mom would take us there on Friday nights to eat fish and chips. For a while, the lake was dirty and almost dry, but not anymore I was happy to see that.
Just beyond the lake sits Stanyan and Haight Street which dead ends at Golden Gate Park. The old Cala market is now a Whole Foods. I guess I wasn’t too surprised. McDonald’s which wasn’t built until after the 70s is torn down now. I was kind of surprised to see that. Amoeba Records is still there along with many other cool stores with vintage items. I really wanted some of those Beatles ornaments in the window at one store, especially the sun king, playing a ukulele. But 50 bucks is just too much for an ornament in my book, even if it is a collector’s item. There’s a Goodwill on Haight Street so I’m sure you can get a lot of good deals there. I missed the bead stores and button stores of the 60s but they haven’t been around for a long time.
We sauntered down Haight Street a ways to Ashbury and up the hill to see 710 Ashbury St. where the Grateful Dead lived across the street there was a church in school called Saint Agnes we used to go to church there and attend catechism on Tuesday afternoons and Saturdays, my mom will send us walking down eighth Street on our own. We’d say peace to the hippies who are so colorful and walk into church, where they say, peace be with you the priest, more colorful robes and the church always smelled of incense and I couldn’t help but think maybe they aren’t that different. Crazy thoughts I know.
At the corner of Haight and Ashbury, a guy with long hair, and a beard was serving free food. He asked if I wanted any. At first, I said thank you but I was not sure I needed it, but he insisted, and I decided to accept the food in solidarity, He told me that every day he made this big batch of vegan beans. He excitedly told me what ingredients were used such as red peppers and green peppers and three different types of beans. I told him about the diggers in the 60s and how they would bring free food, and after all the concerts for the families, the hippies, or whoever needed it, and that he was keeping the spirit and legacy of that alive by doing what he did. I thanked him. That’s what it’s all about. I thought things had changed so drastically yet in a small way. This guy is out there making food for everyone who needs it.
Those beans were absolutely delicious. I wasn’t even sure if I’d like them or not. I carried the container with a spoon carefully taped to the top with me until we stopped at a bench on our way back through Golden Gate Park near the playground. Diane brought a bag on wheels with snacks for everyone along on our journey. I told her she didn’t have to do that, but she insisted. That was so cool of her.
I ate the entire container of the wholesome beans, so I had to save my pumpkin chocolate chip muffin that Diane had made for all of us until later.
As we made our way back to an N Judah stop that would take us back towards downtown, I promised to take everyone to Lands End and more the next time I visited. My friends said they’d love that.
I thought about the guy on the corner of Haight and Ashbury again giving out free, homemade food to anyone who was hungry. Somewhere, deep in its midst, the old San Francisco still exists. You just have to look for it.