Party in the Haight
A Sketch of Bygone Days
People come and go. The party trails through the old Victorian house, in the expansive living room, the bay window, up the narrow stairs, out in the small back yard, around the house and back onto the steep front steps. It has its own energy flow. Everything does in the Haight in 1966.
Up in the attic loft, Jerry lays on stars and stripes pillows, blissfully walking among the stars in his own cosmic trip. Mountain Girl sits beside him, reading to him from The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Jerry can see each word in brilliant colors hanging in the infinite blackness of space, each one a new constellation. He understands the wisdom of the ancients. He gets the eternal message. He feels like a new god. A new god who is hungry for pop tarts.
Downstairs in the kitchen, Janis, who prefers to be called Pearl, laughs loudly, an electric presence surrounded by admirers like moths to her flame. Someone lights her cigarette, which she uses to gesture wildly as she talks nonstop. Someone else fills her paper cup whenever its empty. She appreciates the attention, and her raspy voice dominants the room with jokes, observations and every now and then, she sings a line or two from an old blues song. A tall, thin, lightly bearded young man produces an acoustic guitar and strums soft accompaniment for her. Janis laughs again at something someone said, and touches the guitarist’s long hair gently, like a mother to a child.
In the living room’s big bay window, Country Joe and Paul from the Airplane talk politics and music, revolution and the Rolling Stones. Some stoned girls, lost flower children from the streets, listen raptly at their feet.
In the tiny back yard crowded with tall, narrow trees, Neal flips an ax over and over, catching its handle perfectly each time. He is a man of action rather than a philosopher. He has to be doing something, and right now, it’s this. Neal keeps count—215 times so far. Two girls watch him spellbound. They know he drives Kesey’s wildly painted bus, and Neal is famous in the Haight. Each of the girls hopes that he will eventually notice her. Either of them would sleep with him or both together if that’s how it works out. He is sufficiently older than they are, but he is famous.
Out front there is a slight commotion. Ken has just arrived, and the people sitting on the steps, loitering on the sidewalk and dancing in the street take notice. He is a published novelist, but most everyone here knows him from the Acid Tests around southern California. A young man in an army coat decorated with anti-war patches offers him a hit of purple Owlsley acid. Ken swallows it and asks where the band is. No one knows, but everyone smiles and nods hello to him.
Pigpen lounges in a community bedroom upstairs. Two giggling young waifs sit on the edge of the mattress that lies on the floor. The girls have seen Pigpen play with a band that performs in the Panhandle. He has flirted with them from the stage. They have thrown flowers to him. He talks idly about taking them for a ride on his motorcycle. The two girls are game. It would have to be one at a time, he says. One would have to wait for her turn. The girls think he is talking about the motorcycle ride.
Bob and Phil from the Acid Test house band run into two members from Quicksilver. They decide to jam but can find only a couple of acoustic guitars, harmonica and a bucket for a drum. They work with what they have. Music flows out of the house, up and down the block on the warm night air.
Pearl finds them, and lends a vocal to the improvised blues number. Ken sits in a peacock wicker chair, keeping time by slapping his thigh, while Country Joe and Paul add a background chorus, making up lyrics as they go. Everyone begins to dance, swaying to the rhythm and doing their own thing. The dancers soon spill out onto the sidewalk and eventually out into the narrow, empty street.
Two San Francisco policemen lean against their patrol car and watch. They are young and hip to the whole scene. They both tap their fingers on the hood of the patrol car, their heads bouncing slightly in time to the music. One of them takes a long drag on a joint some long-haired kid offers him. It’s just another summer night in the Haight.
Rod Drake lives and writes in Neon City, better known as Las Vegas, although he grew up in the bucolic Midwest. He taught on the high school, college and university level for a number of years, and has worked as a writer in the areas of technical materials, publicity and public relations, advertising, website content and training instructions. But he enjoys creative writing the most.