Last Friday, after ripping a hole in the last pair of pants I owned that was not already riddled with them, I decided to go to American Apparel to buy new ones. There are only three American Apparels in San Francisco, and two are in my least favorite places to be: downtown and the Marina. With my dislike of those neighborhoods providing me no other choice, I embarked on a trip to the American Apparel in the one part of the city I thought did not hate, Haight Street. My trip concluded within an hour, but as I got back on the 33-Stanyan to head home, too-expensive jeans in hand, I was in the foulest of moods. Not because I had just dropped serious coin on a garment I will be replacing in about four months, and not because I was offended by the smell of the bus, which I can only describe as a mix of bacon and urine.
Then it dawned upon me: I hate Haight Street. Not Haight as a whole, the street is too long and the bars and eateries in lower Haight too awesome, but the neighborhood often referred to as Haight-Ashbury or upper Haight sucks.
The street where I held the first of many jobs in San Francisco, the street where I bought my first bong, the street where I went to that really fun party that one time. I fucking hate that street. And if you do not already, maybe you will too after reading this.
I do not even understand why Haight Street is so big with tourists. There has not been anything special about Haight Ashbury for about 50 years now, yet every time I go there the streets are clogged with huge double-decker tour buses and slow moving tourists impeding the mobility of people that have somewhere to be. Unless you are into taking photos of the homeless youth that congregate in front of the Whole Foods on Stanyan, photo opportunities are virtually non-existent. Hell, the iconic Haight-Ashbury street signs are too high up to even really be visible. Thankfully the Ben and Jerry’s that sits on the corner of Haight and Ashbury has their own goofy looking, oversized street signs in the doorway so you can take pictures in front of those while their ice cream scoopers photobomb your vacation photos.
Upper Haight is the land of overpriced wares. Looking for cheap clothes? Good luck. I saw a pair of overalls at one store being sold for $98. There is a Goodwill in the neighborhood, but I challenge you to find any other store in which the clothes are both reasonably priced and in the realm of fashionable.
If you are hungry and do not want to spend your life’s savings trying to eat, you pretty much only have the option of going to the McDonalds on Haight and Stanyan; that is if you can make it past the panhandlers and their pack of unleashed dogs, dealers offering you pretty much any drug you could ever think of, and wanna-be rappers trying to get you to purchase their mix tapes that have all claimed the steps to the McDonalds as their own. I was really excited when Burger Urge opened on the corner of Haight and Clayton because I thought it would be a cheap alternative to McDonalds, but I was so, so wrong. My excitement quickly faded when I found out that a cheeseburger, fries and a drink at Burger Urge will cost you a smooth $15.00. Street Punx Being a “traveler” living on Haight Street seems like it would be really fun, aside from the whole not having a roof over your head thing. You get to hang out with your friends all day, harass passersby for money and cigarette butts, drink, and participate in general merrymaking. This is not a blanket request for the travelers on Haight Street to get a job or anything, if you do not want one or do not need one that is your thing. Just leave me alone and do not ask me for my hard earned pennies (which are not plentiful) or if I want to enjoy a “warm beer and a cold sleeping bag,” with you. Because I do not.
Its conflicting identities
So, am I supposed to regard upper Haight as a last bastion of the famous Summer of Love or a hip retail district? Because I cannot tell. In-between the expensive boutiques and street-wear stores, murals to people like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, and shops that literally sell nothing besides tie-dye t-shirts, it is easy for the theme of Haight Street to get confusing. But maybe that is the point, in 2014 we are all about being nostalgic, and maybe there is a niche market for people who want to buy a tie-dye shirt, pay homage to Jerry Garcia by eating an ice cream flavor named after him, buy weed off of a stranger, then sit down and enjoy a $15.00 hamburger. I am just not that person. And I guess I will be going to the Marina to buy pants from now on.