Continuing on my theme of recreating the sixties-era Haight-Ashbury as I actually knew it, as opposed to the mountains of hype that have been generated about it, I’m going to post some contemporary accounts – written by people who lived there – while they lived there. Let’s start with Walrus Pemmican…
I knew Walrus well. At the time of this letter, he had fallen on hard times. Nearly twenty-six years old, he had finally split for good from his beautiful wife Linda Lovely. He was living a cheap rooming house on Divisadero Street. He called it The Black Hotel. He had just lost his job at the post office when the authorities discovered he couldn’t load trucks because he had a serious heart murmur. He missed his four year old daughter desperately. He visited her nearly every night to read her bedtime story.
I guess he was feeling more on the ‘On your own with no direction home’ side of life than the ‘All you need is love’ side. He’d gone home for Christmas the day before, where someone had snapped the photo that graces this page. Today he is back on Diviz…
Hi girl –
Back in the city, I am sitting on my fire-escape in the sultry dusk overlooking Divisadero – drinking Spur malt liquor and watching curly black heads pass between my feet – what a summer day it is! Who would imagine this to be the day after Christmas! Folks drinking beer on their front steps, kids rollin by, the tops down on their convertibles, the aroma of beans and pepper drifting up to me from Bishop’s Soul Food below in the pinkening twilight. What a sweet day.
Today I ran errands – I stirred up the dust in my room and reshuffled my books and pencils and tapes, then ran down to Market St. – walking up and down in the December heat, doing errands – took my old Smith-Corona to be cleaned and repaired – $17.50 it will be, then to the bank, deposited my P.O. wages $151 dollars – it will be gone in 4 days, I’ll pay some bills, give you some bread, and phoosh, gone – but that’s all right, ma.
The girl at the bank window knows me, she tells me about her real five-course American dinner (she’s Greek), then back up steaming Market St. I stop to eat some pineapple cottage cheese in front of the laundromat, and wander into all those hi-fi stores, to stare at things I lust for – 500 tape recorders you can stick in your pocket and catch the lion’s roar, the smirk of the savant – I visit Gyro Gearloose (ed. note: Rodney Albin) in his shop, making an electric violin, his ability with his hands fascinates me, I feel out of place in a place of hands, he shows me his latest lovely dulcimer, plaintive, hearts carved into the wood…
This day – I visit John Chance, but he is not home, so I walk through the magic Panhandle – every tree is golden today, every shape perfect, a park for lovers – I meet Peter Albin, he is going to play with Chuck Berry this weekend, to me it seems like a great honor but he takes it in his stride – used to playing with the great I guess – His wife, Cynthia, is dressed in an amazing violet Pucci print and looks twelve months pregnant, she stands apart, waiting for Peter to finish his jiving, then they walk on through the golden day. I walk on, stop at Diane Warne’s; not home.
So now I sit in the deepening day. It’s purple now, and I feel Spur in my brain. Saxophones cry up from below – I love you woman – Tell me your day now.
I wonder if Walrus ever got that tape recorder that would capture ‘the smirk of the savant’. It must have been really sensitive.