On Haight Street in San Francisco, there is a fun window to see, something that you might think was made by one of the Merry Pranksters. The window has these huge fishnet stocking legs hanging out of it with red spiked high heels. Before the Summer of Love, the Haight-Ashbury was a youth ghetto where the students who went to San Francisco State all stayed, because it was a low-rent area and lots of artists and musicians and writers also flocked there. Before San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood became a popular tourist attraction, it was a little-known creative refuge for musicians, painters, and writers who had escaped their lackluster communities in favor of the Haight’s cheap eats and even cheaper rents. It was where the main focus was not on making money, but instead on creating art. The iconic hippie band the Grateful Dead were as much a part of Haight-Ashbury’s cultural scene as anybody else.
Haight-Ashbury became the epicenter of this new and exciting counterculture. By the end of 1966, the streets were full of people dressed in brightly colored clothes (once deemed outrageous costumes), with long beaded necklaces, velvet vests, and feathered hats. It was a culture created by spirited, freethinking radicals that longed for social activism, peace, and the opportunity to march barefoot in the streets to the beat of love and freedom. Hippies transformed the street into a sunny arcade of pleasure, celebrating the now with unqualified exuberance. Love thrived in Haight, because of its colorful and ornate Victorian houses, and the Haight hippy scene was characterized by the youth movement with flower power, that eventually moved into drugs and demonstrations against the Vietnam War.
The Grateful Dead started as The Warlocks and they were located in Southern California in 1965, but in late 1966 when they returned from Los Angeles, they moved into Danny Rifkin’s apartment building at 710 Ashbury, displacing most of the tenants. They brought with them a version of the sound equipment Owsley had lavished on them, making them the loudest band in town, potentially in the world. Actually, 710 Ashbury was built as a three-unit working-class apartment at the turn of the century, a very typical structure at the time with modest stained glass. Later, it was carved into smaller units. By 1966, it was being run by Danny Rifkin, who also was the fledgling Dead’s co-manager. By the fall of that year, he’d convinced the members of the band to move in. Haight Ashbury Legal Organization (HALO), a volunteer group of lawyers helping out the hippies which essentially consisted of two lawyers, Brian Rohan and Michael Stepanian had their office at 715 Ashbury, which was directly across the street from the Dead.
HALO’s services were needed on October 2, 1967 when most of the Dead were arrested in a drug bust. 710 Ashbury was among three houses that were raided for marijuana and eleven residents were hauled away by the San Francisco police who confiscated a pound of marijuana. Bob Weir and Ron “Pigpen” McKernan were arrested; other band members, including Jerry Garcia, were not home at the time. The Dead moved out in March of ’68.
Written for May Writing Prompts – At the heart of a window.