Being present is different than being there. The So-called Summer of Love was not all it was cracked up to be. I remember San Francisco in July of 1967 when I finally got there. I remember it differently than the story the media painted. San Francisco reminded me of a miniature Manhattan. Like a theme park, the place was like a noir film set. The Haight was not all that it was drugs for sale and lots of bums. Lots of creeps and lots of tourists. I liked the ocean the mess on the beach at the end of Golden Gate Park and the old zoo watching elephants relax in the fog as the air turned cooler and moist as the fog rolled in ,it was quaint then very charming loved the hills and the parks. I was living in a tiny apartment in Oakland with my first wife. We pretty much had nothing.
The art school was the same lies I knew from art school in Chicago the same charades the same people even only even more shallow more glib and more lost. The teachers were mostly not teaching, I started teaching there as a T A it was often with students tripping on acid really doing nothing, scared of noises. Art school teachers seemed like baby sitters, the students were naive and mostly lost in drugs and parties. And mostly from the middle class from the better families or like me from some where else .
I spent a lot of time wandering through old book shops in downtown Oakland. I had a few friends at the art school my old friends in Chicago were in Vietnam or just lost to me. I wrote a lot of letters. I lived near the Center for The Blind off Broadway near the Rainbow Car Wash. I walked to the art school most days when I had to be there for my TA gig or for seminars. I remember the war going on all the while and The Black Panther Party and the emptiness. My Lucky Strike cigarettes were $5 a carton. I did my MFA in three semesters. My first child was born there. He was a peach very smart good baby but couldn’t sleep very well. I worked at the Post Office after I was done at the art school. I applied for teaching jobs all over mostly out West, Hundreds of rejection letters.
I thought the whole San Francisco trip was fake really more about drugs than anything. It was pretty there the weather was almost always good. I learned things about myself, about my self possession my aloneness. I sort of knew I was very bright but I knew too that I was a bit insane. Indeed I knew I was on a journey by myself with no destination but an sense of inwardness.
I did meet some very inspiring people but all to naught. I was glad to leave. The superficiality got to me. The place was just so unlike my memories of Chicago. It was a very sad place. A sad time but I have a lot of nostalgia about it. It was before I lost my mind.