Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Iconic Haight/Ashbury


They say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. However, that isn’t exactly how this journey to find the iconic corner of Haight and Ashbury in San Francisco began. It actually began as a way to honor a request from a dear friend who just insisted that I throw some flowers in my hair, transport myself back to the sixties, and take a photograph of myself at the apex of the most famous street corner from the amazing era of flower power, love and peace man, peace.

So, you would think in this day and age of electronics, that finding a street corner as famous as Haight/Ashbury would be easy, well, you would be wrong. But, I was on a mission, a mission from God (if you don’t get the reference we can no longer be friends).  As it happens, San Francisco is a pretty damn big place, especially if you are a small town girl like me. It’s not as if you just walk around any old corner in the city and poof, Haight/Ashbury magically appears like an oasis filled with hippies, acid, and an abundance of weed. Although, if you’ve eaten enough mushrooms I guess it might.

At any rate, after doing a ton of cool things that particular day: walking all the way across the Golden Gate Bridge and back, riding the trolley cars up and down the hills of San Fran, and taking a stroll out along Fisherman’s Wharf, I decide to use the Muni-pass I had purchased (which got me on all forms of public transportation in the city) to ride out to the Golden Gate Park, disembark, and from there, honor my friends wishes by finding Haight/Ashbury and having my picture taken at the historic corner. Flowers or no flowers, like I said man, I was on a mission. Finding the bus that went that way was one thing, not understanding that they would not announce which stop I needed to get off at to reach the park, was another. Were they not aware of the fact that I was a tourist? Were they not aware of the fact that I had no idea where the hell I was or which bus stop to disembark? Were they not aware that I was paying no attention to city streets, or where I was going? Apparently not. 

My intended bus ride of 15 minutes, turned into more like an hour. I finally asked someone, "does this bus not go to Golden Gate Park?" "Yes it does" they informed me, with a look of pity in their eyes, "back there" they pointed in the direction we had just come. "You missed your stop about 20 minutes ago."  Shit. Someone, who was kind enough not to point out that I was a complete idiot, then told me to get off the bus, cross the proverbial road, and hop the next on coming bus to the park. They were also kind enough to tell me which bus stop I should look for. So off the bus I go, across said street, and on to the next bus which, by chance, didn’t actually go all the way to the park. So off the bus I go, again, where I finally catch a bus going in the right direction, to the right park and the right bus stop. Score. Sort of…Now, I’m not sure if you are familiar with the Golden Gate Park but that shit is immense. It’s like 20,000 freaking acres. Not to worry, I had my phone to google map it. And so off I went to hike all the way across that stupid park. Oh, I mean that really cool park. Until what? You got it, my phone dies. Did I say shit earlier? Well, I second the motion.

Now I was on my own. Sort of, but not really. At least some of the folks in the park knew the area and after a couple of polite and extremely helpful conversations, I zeroed in on my goal. And before you knew it, only two hours after I started my foray in to the great expanse know as San Francisco, I found myself staring up at the sign. There is was in all its glory; the iconic corner of Haight/Ashbury, and there just above the sign, the clock which is perpetually on 4:20. I had made it, finally.

As I began taking a few photos, a young man who happened to be working cleaning the streets, gave
me some pointers on where to stand to get the best photo as to encompass the clock and the sign. He then politely offered to take a photo of me standing under the sign/clock. I thanked him and turned to go stand under said sign when I noticed a guy, no not just a guy, but real life modern day hippie standing nearby. He smiled at me as I turned around to smile into the camera and…click. My mission was complete. My friend would be ecstatic. I had done it. I had my photo taken under the sign on the most famous corner in all San Francisco. I thanked the young man again and began walking off along Ashbury Street. I was just strolling along when I looked down at the photo he had taken. It stopped me dead in my tracks. The photo did not just include me, but also two guys: one street urchin and the other was the real life hippie, decked out in his Elton John sunglasses, bright read pants, and Willie Wonka hat. He was smoking a fat joint with one hand and shooting a peace sign with the other; the smoke from his toke easing out of his mouth in a giant fog. I was all a flutter with excitement. I literally couldn't stop laughing as I though to myself "this maybe the most awesome photo ever taken at Haight and Ashbury!" And truly, I think it was. Talk about finding iconic. It was art imitating life in spades.

You know, they say everything happens for a reason. Had I not gotten lost for an hour, had my phone not died, had I not taken my time strolling along through the Golden Gate Park, I would not have gotten such an iconic picture to share with my friend and with the world. The powers that be came together, at the right place, at the right time, and with the right people in place. Thank you universe, you rock.  

I won’t go into my journey back to Fisherman’s Wharf but I will say, I spent the night sleeping in my truck on the top of a parking garage with the city sky line twinkling overhead, feeling every bit the hippie/adventurer. I fell asleep thinking about the freedom was I lucky enough to be experiencing and the roads still head of me, the roads still...less traveled.

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