By Mike Marino

The Spare Change Sixties gave birth to a flower power Garden of Urban Eden in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury District. Half a world away the war raged on in Vietnam while a counter culture of dissent protested and searched for answers on the homefront. Olive drab was replaced by tie-dyed robes and shirts, peace symbols and beads replaced bullets and grenades, and bongs as big as mortars created sweet dream smoke that mingled with the San Francisco fog. The Lone Ranger and Tonto, heroes of a prior generation, began their slow, decade-long transformation into Cheech and Chong; and Timothy Leary told everyone to Tune In, Turn On and Drop Out!!

The cries of “Make Love, Not War” rang out loud and clear and many answered the call. They came from New York City, Fargo, North Dakota, Detroit, Michigan, Amarillo, Texas and from every small town and large city in between. The highways and two lanes of America were filled with a rag tag army of hitchhikers, seekers, sinners and saints drawn like a magnet by a force stronger than anything in a George Lucas movie. It didn’t matter what road you were travelling on to get there either, afterall, it was 1967 and in Haight-Ashbury it was The Summer of Love!!

The generations that wore flowers in its hair and preferred to make love and not war poured into the Haight-Ashbury vortex in droves. It was an urban starship with a cast of characters that included hippies, yippies, Hells Angel's, Diggers, musicians, artists, seekers and searchers. Peace, Love and Spare Change became the battle cry of the generation in search of itself. If the Beat Generation was getting old and gray, Haight Ashbury hit the scene like a tie-dyed dose of Grecian Formula.

Today the Haight has replaced rice and beans with nouvelle cuisine, and there are now more ATM machines than roach clips. Some vestiges of the Summer of Love remain but mainly it's been gentrified with walking tours, a GAP store, fern bars and bed and breakfasts—about as mainstream wannabe as it gets, and the old girl has been given a real Oprah makeover. Pseudo hippies haunt the Haight today, so when you’re walking down Haight Street and someone cries out for Spare Change and you don't have two nickles to rub together don't despair—chances are they'll accept most major credit cards!

The Spare Change Tour

The Haight is a repository of rockin' 60s landmarks but it can also boast that it is the gateway to one of America's most spectacular urban green areas and also one of the Bay Area's more awe inspiring views. The Deadhead Haight deadends at Stanyan and there before you, like a green and friendly sentinel, is the gateway to Golden Gate Park. The park is the west coast version of Central Park in NYC and hosts a variety of attractions. There are botanical and Japanese gardens to inspire and calm the tortured traveler's soul, a planetarium to study the skies and contemplate the Big Bang, recreational activities galore and the world famous Steinhardt Aquarium. Ball fields and buffalo paddocks share the park with picnic areas and small ponds. If you look carefully you might even see the ghost of Don Quixote as he does battle with a (very real) giant windmill located in the park. During the Summer of Love the park was the scene of pleasant afternoons of giant bubbles and kites flying higher than most of the area's residents. On January 14, 1967 the amplifiers of the Jefferson Airplane inaugurated the Human Be-In at The Polo Grounds. The event was attended by a veritable Who's Who of hipsters, including Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jerry Rubin and Dr. Timothy Leary.

TWIN PEAKS: Portola Road is the Bay Area's portal to one of the city's more spectacular views and vistas. During the mid 60s, Twin Peaks was the scene of many mind-altered sunsets and sunrises enjoyed by the Peace and Love generation. Today it's an easy ride in your BMW to the top and—like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow—you'll be rewarded with a sweeping view of the downtown area of "Ess Eff" that’s a high in itself.

THE GRATEFUL DEAD: Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead are the undisputed crowned heads of the Deadhead Realm that was Haight-Ashbury. Originally known as the Warlocks, the members changed their name and the rest is history! The legendary group has inspired faithful legions to kick asphalt across the American continent to take in as many Dead shows as their brain cells will allow. 60s MIA's on an inner journey for Garcia Nirvana singing along to worn 8-tracks of "Truckin'" and "Casey Jones." If The Grateful Dead were kings of the psychedelic kingdom then their former residence at 710 Ashbury Street was Buckingham Palace! After your pilgrimage to the Dead House go to Ben and Jerry's for a double scoop of Cherry Garcia ice cream.

THE HELLS ANGELS: Black leather jackets lived side by side with jeans and sandals, as two-wheeled Darth Vaders lent an ominous air to the land of peace and love. The gang's name came from a legendary WWII fighter wing and, although they gained true notoriety at Altamont during a Rolling Stones concert, they flew missions up and down the streets of the Haight. If you cross the street from the Dead House you'll see 715 Ashbury where the Angels called home. Home is where the heart is!

COUNTRY JOE & THE FISH: Every kingdom reveres its court jesters and in the Haight-Ashbury district that moniker has to be bestowed on Country Joe & The Fish. Their dark, musical humor cut right through the fabric of 60s social hypocrisy and scored a bull's eye each time out. The McDonald family had long been a voice of social reform in the Bay Area, and Joe carried on the tradition in a style that was Lenny Bruce mixed with Bob Dylan. The Fish Tank was located at 638-640 Ashbury, and it often shook to the vibrations of their signature hit, I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag": 'And it's One, Two, Three. What are we fighting for...?'

JANIS JOPLIN: The reigning psych-divas of the day were Grace Slick and Janis Joplin. It was said that when Grace sang you could tell by her voice that she wanted to make love to her audience, however, when Janis belted out "Piece of My Heart" it was clear she wanted to do much more than that! Janis hit the Haight to take the vocal lead for Big Brother and The Holding Company on a rockin' blues journey that began in her hometown of Port Arthur, Texas. Her star shined brightly for a brief time until it exploded, killing the raspy voice and plaintive wails that for so long were a beacon in the 60s night sky. Her home town of Port Arthur has a bronze bust of the psychedelic era's musical version of Calamity Jane, but you can visit her 'homes away from home' in the Haight. Her two homes are located at 112 Lyons and at 635 Ashbury, respectively. To round out your Joplin pilgrimage go north of Haight Street one block to Page, turn right and find 1090 Page—not only the site of one of the Haight's early crash-pads, but also where Big Brother went full-tilt boogie in between gigs.

JIMI HENDRIX: The truly experienced will want to kiss the same sky that Jimi did while living in a Haight-Ashbury purple haze. Simply head back up to Haight Street and crossing Ashbury on your way towards Stanyan. Jimi was the favorite son of Seattle, Washington, where he is buried overlooking the land of the Space Needle but his pre-wah-wah Woodstock days were spent around the lava lamp in his apartment at 1524A Haight. You can almost hear the "Star Spangled Banner" ripping from the windows!!

THE JEFFERSON AIRPLANE: Heading toward Fulton Street you won't run into any hookah-smoking caterpillars but if you go to 2400 Fulton Street, you will see where Alice would have hung out had she been around in the 60s. Grace Slick left the Great Society to join The Airplane and, in their search to find somebody to love, they left an indelible mark on the Bay Area sound. Although the group has gone through many name changes and incarnations they truly were the group that built this city!

ALLEN GINSBERG: The bard of the beats called many places in the Bay Area home for a time, including a poetic stint in The Haight. Follow Ashbury north and cross the Panhandle to Fell Street, turn right approximately a block and a half, then HOWL with delight at the discovery of 1360 Fell—ground zero for the literati of the 60s.

RUDOLPH NURYEV AND MARGOT FONTEYN: If you pirouette your way to 1546 Waller Street, you'll see the place where ballet got busted for smoking pot during the midsummer's night dream that was 1967.

CHARLES MANSON: The resident wasn't exactly a flower child, but for those who truly want to get gruesome you can visit 616 Page Street. That's where Chuck lived for a while with his constant roommate, dementia.

DIGGERS, DOCTORS AND DONUTS...OH MY!! Lyndon Johnson had proclaimed The Great Society complete with social reform and welfare programs aplenty, however, in the Haight a group called the Diggers had declared The Great Un-society. They put on free feeds in the Panhandle during the week for the local resident weed-whackers, and foods such as rice and beans became elevated to the status of Haight haute cuisine. The Diggers also operated The Free Store at 1090 Cole Street. Downstairs were blue jeans and field jackets of every style and size, and on the mezzanine balcony were shelf after shelf of books and magazines resembling an underground version of the Library of Congress. Nothing in the store was for sale—it was all absolutely FREE!!
A group of good "doctors" took the Haight Hippie-cratic oath and dispensed thorazine by the bucketload to many a bad tripper, providing they could find their way to the Free Clinic at 409 Clayton Street near Haight.
Tracy's Donuts at 1569 Haight Street, just a half block west of Ashbury, was open into the wee smalls to accomodate the homeless, the late night trippers, talkers, nodders and rappers—all singing along to the jukebox in the corner that always seemed to be playing Bob Dylan’s "Everybody Must Get Stoned!"

THE TRIPS FESTIVAL: Ken Kesey and Company (including beatster Neal Cassidy and the rest of the Merry Pranksters) tripped the night away to the music of The Grateful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company and The Loading Zone. The amplified party of all parties took place at the Longshoreman's Hall at 400 North Point.

THE MATRIX: (3118 Fillmore Street) The Matrix has become known as the Airplane Hangar. This former pizza parlor was converted in late August/early September of 1965 by Marty Balin of the Jefferson Airplane to showcase the band. Anchovies and pepperoni had now been replaced by white rabbits and surrealistic pillows served up ultra-cool.

THE AVALON BALLROOM: (1268 Sutter at Van Ness) The Avalon was operated from 1966-1968 by Chet Helms & The Family Dog. Originally built in 1911 as The Puckett School of Dance, by the far-out 60s it had become the School of Cool. The first group to take to the stage was Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band on May 20, 1966. Today it's a multiplex cinema—the faint odor of marijuana finally replaced by popcorn and milk duds.

WINTERLAND: (Post and Steiner) On May 30, 1966, the slick sounds of the Jefferson Airplane graced the stage of this former ice-skating rink. Amplifiers had replaced zambonis and a litany of rock royalty challenged the hall's acoustics. Jimi Hendrix recorded his critically acclaimed "Live at Winterland" at the venue in 1968, and Martin Scorcese immortalized performances by Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton and The Band in his film The Last Waltz—filmed entirely at Winterland.

THE FILLMORE AUDITORIUM: (1805 Geary at Fillmore) The Fillmore first saw dancing action in the art deco 30s and by the 40s zoot-suiters and others rollerskated the night away. The 50s brought rockin' rhythm and blues with performances by greats like James Brown and Ike and Tina Turner, and in the 60s the Fillmore would become the auditorium of choice, the locale for many musical firsts—and some highly significant and culturally important lasts.
On December 10, 1965 Bill Graham put on his first show at the auditorium with the Jefferson Airplane and another Haight-Ashbury group that had been going by the name of the Warlocks. By the time they hit the stage that evening its name had been changed to the Grateful Dead. The next three years brought wave after wave of psychedelia's best acts taking the audience with them on musical journeys that transported them onward, upward and inward. Lenny Bruce, who taught a generation to talk dirty and influence people, gave his very last concert appearance on the stage of the Fillmore on June 24, 1966, sharing the bill with Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention. By July of 1968, Bill Graham had left the auditorium to take over the Carousel Ballroom at Van Ness and Market Street, which would soon change its name to The Fillmore West. Bill Graham died in a helicopter crash in 1991.

THE PSYCHEDELIC SHOP: Finally, no trip to the Haight would be complete without a visit to 1535 Haight Street, site of the Psychedelic Shop—the grandfather of all 'Head Shops.' Black lights, posters and enough patchouli incense to fill the Taj Majal were its hallmarks. Sitar music greeted you as you entered the shop and zig-zagged your way to the back where the beads parted and you gained entry to the womb room, containing the best poster art on the planet.

The corner of Haight and Ashbury is symbolic of not only a particular summer but of a changing of the elevated social questioning and inner search. It is also the location where on October 6, 1967, it all ended with a procession that proclaimed The Death of Hip. Today you can still buy a tie-dyed shirt, pick up a Jerry Garcia bumper sticker and, on occasion, the cries of “Spare Change” still ring out. But these days, when visiting the Haight you can leave the flowers at home and bring your checkbook instead.

There are walking tours throughout San Francisco, and the Haight is no different. But to truly explore the neighborhood, leave the tours and crowds to the less adventurous, and discover this jewel on your own. Peace and Love have mostly been replaced by commerce, but every now and then—coming from some second floor bay window—you can hear a CD blasting out a rendition of The Dead's "Casey Jones." Also, make sure you have a pocketful of spare coins...some things never change.