Haight-Ashbury a Flower-Power Holdover

It has been 40 years since thousands of young people gathered in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district to share what came to be known as the "Summer of Love." It introduced the rest of the country to flower children and social permissiveness. The Haight is still laid back, but there's less love flowing.

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The thousands of young people who gathered in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury that year were listening to a different kind of music, psychedelic and blues, which came to be the soundtrack for the Summer of Love. It introduced the rest of the country to flower children, hippies and the social permissiveness. Fast-forward to today and the Haight is still a laid-back area, but there's not a whole lot of love flowing from there.

NPR's Mandalit del Barco has this report.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO: Twice a week, former flower child Ezo Interlandy(ph) leads the Flower Power Walking Tour.

Ms. EZO INTERLANDY: Okay. And this is the safest corner of Haight and Ashbury.

DEL BARCO: At 54, she still wears long, flowing hair like she did when she arrived in San Francisco in 1967.

Ms. INTERLANDY: People were getting naked, painting each other's bodies, dancing. Timothy Leary that's what he said, turn on, tune in, drop out. Every day was a celebration of life.

DEL BARCO: Interlandy points out the Victorian houses where the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and the Hell's Angels once lived. Not 40 years later, young people still gravitate to Haight Street. You can find them on the sidewalks strumming guitars and asking for spare change.

Unidentified Man #1: You got quarters?

DEL BARCO: In front of the Amoeba Records strolls a wild-eyed 24-year-old.

Unidentified Man #2: Lapper de lush.

DEL BARCO: Where do you guys sleep at night?

They sleep at nearby Golden Gate Park with his dog, Felon(ph) and his old lady, Wopples(ph), 19-year-old Audrey Warner(ph).

Ms. AUDREY WARNER: The hippies from the '60s were more about peace and politics, but nowadays it's just about drugs and alcohol and being free and doing whatever you want.

DEL BARCO: They say they're not getting a lot of love on Haight Street. Not from the tourists who give them nasty looks, not from storeowners who ask them to panhandle elsewhere, and certainly not from some nearby residents.

Mr. ARTHUR EVANS(ph) (Writer): I've lived at the corner of Haight-Ashbury for 33 years.

DEL BARCO: Arthur Evans calls himself a struggling writer.

Mr. EVANS: I used to have hair down to my waist. I had feathers and beads in my hair. If you saw pictures of me from 20 years ago, you would probably call the police.

DEL BARCO: These days, it's Evans who routinely calls the police, sometimes four or five times a day to complain about the street people.

Mr. EVANS: They routinely urinate and defecate on the sidewalk and the street even though there's a public toilet one block away. They harass people for spare change. They throw up and fight in public.

Captain JOHN EHRLICH (Commanding Officer, Park Station): We also have a problem here of the drug dealing, which is mainly marijuana and some psychedelics.

DEL BARCO: John Ehrlich is the police captain for the Haight.

Capt. EHRLICH: We make a lot of arrests. It seems to be a never-ending supply of both buyers and seller coming here because it's the Haight.

DEL BARCO: Ehrlich says most of the street people are peaceful nomads and many of them escaped here from abusive homes. And he says Haight Street remains a magnet for drug users and alcoholics.

Mr. DANNY BOY: I felt some when they tried to bash me in.

DEL BARCO: Twenty-two-year-old Danny Boy panhandles in front of coffee to the people. He holds a bag of ice on his fresh black eye and broken nose, and he says he hates everyone these days, the hippie kid.

Mr. DANNY BOY: Don't give me none of that peace and love garbage.

DEL BARCO: And the yuppies.

Mr. DANNY BOY: They give me money. You know, that's cool, but other than that they can go burn in hell for all I care.

DEL BARCO: Why is that?

Mr. DANNY BOY: They're the antithesis of everything I stand for.

DEL BARCO: What do you stand for the?

Mr. DANNY BOY: Getting drunk. Fighting people. Making music. Making art. Destroying the capitalist system.

DEL BARCO: Recovering heroine addict Stephan Hobby(ph) works in the Clean Needle Exchange Program at the Homeless Youth Alliance. At 22, he says his generation is fighting itself.

Mr. STEPHAN HOBBY (Homeless Youth Alliance): The '60s, there was this big thing about unity. Now, you know, there's no love movement. There's no unity. There's the punks against the hippies. There's the punks against the punks. There's the heroine addicts versus the tweakers - speed freaks. There's the speed freaks versus the crack heads.

DEL BARCO: For her part, a barefoot 19-year-old named Cry.

CRY: Cry, like tears.

DEL BARCO: Apologizes for the rowdy behavior of some of the street kids. Cry lives in her van, earning a little money panhandling.

CRY: It's just degrading when you see people walking by in a three-piece suit that they're so greedy. They can't think to take down a dollar to a hungry kid. Most people will look at us and think oh, these kids are, you know, drunk and on drugs when, in all truth, we're just hungry and cold and need a job.

DEL BARCO: Back on the Flower Power Walking Tour, Ezo Interlandy says hard drugs pretty much did in the peaceful hippie movement, and then came the yuppies who priced many out of the area.

Ms. INTERLANDY: The homeowners and the shop owners want to get rid of these kids on the street. You know, I embrace them, personally. I think we need more community services, especially in this neighborhood. I mean, this neighborhood's known for embracing the homeless, for embracing hippies, for helping people, you know.

DEL BARCO: She says she and her husband Waterfall still love the Haight, and they keep waiting for the utopian society they came looking for in 1967.

Ms. INTERLANDY: Hopefully it's the Summer of Love again.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. INTERLANDY: That's why I want to do a rebirth of the hippie movement. It should have never ended.

Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.

(Soundbite of song "San Francisco")

Mr. SCOTT MCKENZIE (Musician): (Singing) If you're going to San Francisco…

MONTAGNE: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

JOHN YDSTIE, host:

And I'm John Ydstie.

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