I love the Haight. I have lived in the same place on the same street for over twenty-six years. This works out to be just shy of half my life. I’ve never thought of living elsewhere till now. I think the worm is turning on Haight Street and no one is taking the bait.
It all started with George Bush. He left this country in the dumper. San Francisco, bastion of Liberal Pride, was no exception in the oncoming fear of the financial ruins he left behind.
People forget that when it comes to money, we Frissians are as tight or fearful when it comes to spending or the panic of not making out collective nut just like the red states. After Obama won the election, it seemed like there wasn’t a moment to waste. The country was going into a freefall. Tent cities were rising under underpasses like weeds from concrete. Citizens were nervous. Good and decent people were losing their homes. Then the banks and automobile companies began to fall, bleeding and hemorrhaging all over Wall Street. Luckily Wall Street knows how to hose the public like Mack the Knife, so there’s never a trace of red.
We had a real world panic going on.
Now it’s the jolly-olly-holiday time of Ought Nine.
The newspapers are already worrying a pumped-up public that this Christmas season, revenue is going to be down. There was talk of home-made presents and limiting spending on gifts that had stores holding their high-rent paying breaths, worried that sky is going to fall.
There was a palatable fear running through the commercial properties of America. Haight Street wasn’t any different, except for one component, the Road Dogs.
One thing you have to understand about the Haight/Ashbury district of San Francisco is-we are the end of the world for many kids and yes, for many adults too.
We are the end of the world because of the dreams of those who come to San Francisco in hopes of reclaiming some of that history that Jerry found all those years ago. They come out looking for some Peace and Love. But those numbers are dwindling too. The hippies of the Sixties, it would be their grandchildren that get off the bus trying to find a new life in the Haight now. And those grandkids, they have as much as in common with the Hippie Dream as Fishermen’s Wharf does now with fishing. Nothing.
The kids who come to the Haight now are products of bad homes. They’ve been pimped out by their mothers or fathers, if they hadn’t been used by a parent already. They’re addicted to Meth, 40’s and pills, not Weed, like previous generations. They don’t respect women, property, and are in incredibly pain for the most part.
This is where the world stops for some. Once you get to Frissy, you can either go up or down. To go further west means wearing floaties and earplugs, because you’re in the Pacific now my friend.
So in the months leading up to Xmas ’09 were very tense here in the City. When the Road Dogs showed up on the street, and as the Atheist god is my witness, I was there to see them, the Merchants of Haight Street freaked out.
There has always been street people, panhandlers, and assorted other broken toys perched along Haight Street intermingling with the public since I moved here. But now it was different. There was an animal out there that got into your face if you didn’t fork over some spare change. All of a sudden, almost overnight, small bands of young men that normally were sent off to war were lining the street, aggressively asking for money. A lot of the Road Dogs actually had dogs too. Another reason for their name. The sight of Pit Bulls and other jaw-tightening animals that were tied with makeshift leashes and other shreds of knotted rope barked at us while we tried to get by on the sidewalk.
The situation was definitely different from the usual gang of nuts that frequent the street.
Then a columnist in our only official newspaper that requires payment to read wrote an article about the rumored violence in the Haight. If the sky wasn’t falling before, now it was coming down in chunks. This columnist just like Chicken Little declared the End was Here! And this gave the Merchants of Haight Street a chance to voice their fears of not making enough money this Christmas season because of the street people of the Haight. All of them. Anyone who is poor is the problem. Whether or not they are like Otis in Mayberry and have lived on the street for years, being known and cared for by the locals. It didn’t matter whether or not it was a sexually assaulted sixteen year old girl who is scared and literally has no other place to go. The window of opportunity had been lifted by the columnist and the merchants joined in on the hold. The reason was obvious why consumers weren’t spending this Christmas of 2009, it was the Road Dogs. Nothing like blame to simplify a situation.
Okay, it is now July of 2010. The damage made has been done. A friend of mine has owned a store in the Haight/Ashbury for thirty-four years. He’s now closing his store due to his rent increasing from roughly $3500 to SEVEN GRAND, a month. More and more stores are closing.
Friends of mine no longer shop the Haight because of the articles that written. The damage has been done.
Because of the articles that the columnist wrote, the Mayor got involved politically, I say it like that because he’s trying to leave town with something done that can show the state of Cali that he’s serious, not just another crazy San Franciscan politician. So against the wishes of our District Supervisors, the Mayor is trying to enact a law making it illegal to sit or lie on a commercial street during business hours. I could give you a thousand reasons why this is wrong. I just give you one. If you or any member of your family is in serious trouble and need the police, after the cuts and layoffs that are happening state-wide, the chances that a police is going to be able to respond to a call with any kind of urgency, forgetaboutit.
Today, this very day, the Oakland police released an official communiqué stating, they are only going to respond to violent crimes. Everything else is going to have to wait. They are stretched too thin to do otherwise.
If you were to walk Haight Street now, you’d see the majority of the Road Dogs are gone. They have moved on. I heard Ocean Beach down San Diego way has encountered the Dogs and their aggressive ways and are trying to find a solution.
It’s too bad we see these kids only as a monetary crisis, instead of kids in pain. But that’s another column.
So the Merchants and the scardy-cat Columnist gave the Haight a death blow. They scared the straights from coming out. If the Mayor and the Columnist have their way, it will be against the law to be poor in San Francisco in the near future.
Soon this will be turned into Hippie-Town. It will be a matter of time before fake remnants of the Sixties will be sold by actors in wigs wearing patchouli oil offering fake Peace and Love in gift shops for a price.
Once again the fear of not making enough money set off the alarms that continue to ring in the ears of people that can’t hear.