Busloads of Tourists

By Joan Rivard 2 years ago3 Comments

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THE NOMADS

BUSLOADS OF TOURISTS

The hippies have been chased away from sitting on the front steps of the McDonald’s that’s on the corner of Haight Street and Stanyan.  It’s too bad because their gathering there was a major tourist attraction, giving people a taste of what they were looking for in coming to this historic place.  They craned their necks and aimed their cell phone cameras from the tops of the double-decker buses.

These tie-dyed, scruffy-looking gypsies are the remnant of the great vision of universal brotherly love ignited here in the “Sixties.”  Some of the older ones never left, having lived in and around this place for half a century.  Since that time rents have skyrocketed, making this Bohemian paradise out of reach for most of the artists and thinkers who spawned it.  They refused to leave, actually camping in the park if they had to in order to stay.  About fifty to a hundred people live on the east side of Golden Gate Park, right next to the Haight-Ashbury district.

The vibrant rainbow colors of their exotic accessories and decorations catch the eyes of the tourists as they peer down from the buses.  Many of them wear some kind of costume, or just something to identify who they are and what they believe in.  Their sparkly jewelry and bright feathers and ribbons contrast with the dingy survival gear they must wear to attain this kind of liberty.  The dream of brotherhood is very much alive on Haight Street and in the park, but life can be hard for the remnants of that magnificent time.  These people are not owned by anyone, pay no rent, but they live outside.

There is a “no sit and lie law.”  Along the sidewalks of the Haight where so many used to congregate and talk about saving the world, now there is mostly only concrete.  An occasional panhandling musician, and the brightly-decorated stores and merchandize, are often the only outward clue that something extraordinary happened here.  Still the tourists come and they gawk, straining to catch even a whiff of incense or the flash of a strobe light, or the sound of peace drums.  They buy over-priced rainbow tie-dyed T-shirts and bring them back to their loved ones in various parts of the country and the world.  This place represents for them something that dreams are made of.

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