The Haight-Ashbury: A History by Charles Perry (Wenner Books, 2005)

The Haight-Ashbury: A History is a detailed, in-depth history of the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, focusing on the late-1960s counterculture years. Perry shows how the neighborhood evolved during this time, and how the “hippie” subculture evolved with the neighborhood. The book covers every concert, every new venue that opened and closed, every “happening” on a week-by-week basis. This can make for arduous reading, but it makes the book a great starting point for more in-depth research.

Although Haight-Ashbury started as a student neighborhood, it quickly became the locus of a new artistic movement. Beginning in the mid-sixties, concerts, multimedia shows, student cafes, and other “happenings” bloomed in the neighborhood. Kids would parade around the neighborhood in outrageous costumes from the neighborhood’s many second-hand clothing shops. The remaining beatniks, now in their thirties and forties, called this new generation “hippies,” i.e. junior hipsters. The name stuck.

The police looked the other way––at first. Haight-Ashbury formed a “buffer zone” between the mostly-black Fillmore and the mostly-rich Pacific Heights. Some students want to wear costumes, put on a play, even smoke a little dope? Not a priority.

After 1967’s “Human Be-In,” though, the neighborhood attracted thousands of runaways, who in turn attracted many shady characters: dealers, pushers, pimps, hustlers, acid heads, speed freaks, junkies, crazies, and other ne’er-do-wells. Charles Manson lived in Haight-Ashbury for about six months, picking up girls who would later become part of his “family.”

I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in 1960s culture and counter-culture. Perry is a little too close to his subject matter to be objective, but it’s still an invaluable resource for anyone who wants to know what happened, and what it felt like.

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A.O. Monk

A.O. Monk lives in the USA, drinks lots of water, and writes stories about imaginary people, places, and events.

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