That summer, the summer of love, the summer of 1967, went ballistic. Everyone left school that summer, as usual, but some, quite a few actually, returned completely different. Yes, I had ventured out during my sophomore year, but that summer I took a hike to hell.
My friend said he had family in Tahoe and that he was going there and then to San Francisco and finally to Yosemite to camp out. He was 18 years old and had just graduated from high school. I was 16 years old and was hanging on by a thread. He asked if I wanted to go with him. Yes! I want to go too! So I told my mom that my friends were going camping in Yosemite and asked if I could go too. She asked how long we would be gone. I believe I said three weeks but it may have been four weeks. She didn’t bat an eye. She smiled and said that it sounded like fun and I could go. I have no recollection of how much money she gave me, but if she hadn’t given me money I couldn’t have gone. And I did go.
My friend and I left Newport Beach in his totally restored 1956 Thunderbird. We had some camping gear, some money and some drugs. We left in a blur and traveled straight north to San Francisco. I was lost as soon as we crossed the Orange County/Los Angeles border. He knew the way and we landed in a small bedsitter in the Tenderloin section of the city. It was a dump, in a dumpy building, in the dumpy part of town. The next day we met up with another of his friends who was staying with his rich divorced mother, in her glamorous Pacific Heights apartment. His friend had a brand new Mustang and we piled in and went out to party,
We went to Haight & Ashbury and cruised the sidewalks. That day, after it got dark, we got stoned and decided to climb the fence into the ‘Flower Clock’ park. Once in, we were immediately spotted by some tuffs who came after us in a rush. All I remember hearing from my friends was ‘run run get out of here’. Some things you never forget and that night I remember barely making it over the fence to the safety of the streets of love. Within a day or two we met these very cool people, Hippies, who invited us to come and share their houseboat in Sausalito, just over the bridge. We left our Tenderloin rat trap and joined them. In return, we shared our money and our drugs. As we were walking down the ramp towards their boat I saw a cat and picked it up. I was wearing tie-dyed Levi’s, cowboy boots and a heavy Peacoat. This girl walked up to me and said I looked like a ‘Wiseman’ coming with a gift. I handed her the cat and we slept together that night. I did not see much of her after that, but that was how it was.
The next major thing that happened was scary for me. We were in Pacific Heights and we were going to drop acid and go to an after hours concert. What happened next is actually unexplainable, but I will try. We all got loaded and then it was time to climb into a car and go. I walked into the bathroom to wash my face. I looked into the mirror and what I saw freaked me out. I saw my face but I could see every pore in it. I was very upset and getting lost in someplace I had never been before. The acid we took was much much stronger than anything I had experienced before. My friends were assholes. They realized I was freaking out, so when we got into the elevator to go down to the garage they started telling me the walls were caving in on us. No matter how gone I was I dialed them out and just held on for dear life. We ended up in a nightclub with a light show on the walls. I just hung on until the high began to subside and I could find my bearings. It wasn’t like I came down and everything was cool. I did come down, crashed and slept. When I woke up, I began the long journey home. At this moment, nearly 50 years later, I still wonder if I ever made it home. Or if I had actually ever had a home to make it back to.
Soon after that episode, I awoke with a bad rash on my face. I went to the free clinic on Haight Street to get some help. When I arrived they took a look at the rash and said I might have a venereal disease but being under 18 years of age they could not treat me. I was panicked. My friend took me to SFO so I could fly home and get some help. He was cool and told me that if I could get back in 2 or 3 days he’d pick me up and I could continue the trip. I must have had a screw missing, not loose. I flew back to Orange County. Although I was only 16 years old, like I said early, I was already self sufficient, was not afraid and was a problem solver. So I went straight to my doctor telling him my mother was at work (as she was). He took one look at my rash and ruled out VD and gave me an antibiotic shot and a prescription for oral antibiotics. I had a very bad case of an infectious rash called impetigo. Thank you Tenderloin. For the next two nights I slept in our carport in the cupboard and only went in the apartment while my mother was at work. If she knew I was home, why I was home and where I had been I would never get back to San Francisco. On the third days I raided my older brothers coin collection. I ‘borrowed’ two very valuable pieces, went to the coin shop and sold them for about $100. I bought a one way ticket to SFO ($25 at the time), called my friend, and flew back into hell.
Longtime Coastside resident Michelle Dragony holds a degree in journalism with an emphasis in photography and radio broadcasting. But radio has always had her heart.