A Saturday Afternoon in the Upper Haight

I found myself at a friend's Upper Haight birthday party last weekend.  He's a fairly normal dude: he drinks liquor by the bottle, is totally broke, has a few tattoos, is an aspiring filmmaker, rides a motorcycle at excessive speeds with a suspended license, and has no fear when it comes to igniting various explosives in urban areas.  A true San Franciscan.

He also happens to live in the Upper Haight. How he got there is not important, but we can all agree that moving into a room in an Upper Haight home is some cheap San Francisco living that doesn't have you riding the N Judah to work from the Outer Sunset.

It had always been my opinion that he and others represent modern Haight residents.  Sure, they have to walk over migratory gutter punks on their way to buy Captain Crunch, but the people who actually live in the 'hood could fit in anywhere around town, they just happen to live in the Haight.

So I roll up in the early afternoon to “Haight House,” which is about as cleverly named as Columbus Crib, Polk Pad, Fell Flophouse, Steiner Shack, Valencia Villa, or Turk Terrordome, and I quickly realized that all my notions on “the new Upper Haight” were complete and utter bullshit:

The first thing I see a trio tie-dying clothing on the kitchen table while dubstep being played on the roof rattles the house.

“Whoa, is that a bottle of Jameson?!,” one of the girls covered in blue dye excitingly asks.

I nod in her direction as my eyes slowly examine the walls around me and extend the bottle to her.

She takes a giant swig and puts the bottle down on the table and goes back to tie-dying a victimized shirt. “Just giving you a heads up, those are molly mimosas over there.”

The spectacle is almost indescribable.  Everyone around me is drinking PBR, Tecate, and Jameson, predominately wearing skinny jeans and torn leggings, into acceptable music (dubstep aside), yet live in the middle of a 1960's time capsule.  If this were a zoo, a pride of mature lions were dumped into the monkey cage with an ample supply mescaline and finger paints.

At this point, I realize if I am to truly appreciate the phenomenon which I just walked into, I'm going to have to “do as the Upper Haighters do” and go drink for drink with these kids.  So after putting back a Thursday evening's worth of beer and booze while admiring the hanging underwear and finger paintings on the back deck, I haphazardly stumble into the living room during my directionless trek to the bathroom.

The living room basically speaks for itself.  A strange and frightening old man with clothes I've never seen any human being wear on any day that wasn't Halloween bobbed back in forth in the middle of the room while two bros chilled out smoking weed.  A tie-die painted ukulele rests against a bongo, begging for protection.

On the roof, figuring that's as good a place to pee as any, I encounter an unreserved girl showing off a fresh Grateful Dead tattoo.  “I got this done in the living room last night!” Much like a Mission kid showing off his new sleeve, she goes on to talk, at length, of its meaning and the “street cred” it affords her now around the Haight.  She is speaking words at me, but all I can bother to think about is whether or not Jameson is now being made with wormwood.

After hanging out on the roof for an hour or so, a penniless vagabond made his way into the house after a long day holding up a meaningless sign and begging for change.  Within moments, the “sick bassline” overtook his body like a poltergeist and he's swinging around his didgeridoo with a wanton disregard for the safety and emotional well-being of those around him.

What's this? A Modelo-toting bro follows the human-didgeridoo hazard to the roof while carrying a random American Flag-clad cylindrical object.

Suddenly both of these men are dancing and screaming on the ledge of the house.  This can't possibly end well for them, but will probably end alright for us.

Then in a moment a better judgment, the cliff dancers step back from the precipice and the second guy abruptly reveals he was holding an extendable American Flag didgeridoo.  I'm now listening to a freestyle didgeridoo battle and contemplating throwing myself off the building.

When I begin to think things cannot and stranger, hours of alcohol and marijuana consumption begin to form a category 5 hurricane of drunk that is going to make landfall before FEMA can protect the citizenry.  Conscious of the fact my brain would eventually cease writing to disk, I begin taking notes on yellowing BevMo! and Jamba Juice receipts crumbled at the bottom of my bag.

The majority of these notes are the unintelligible scrawls of a man grasping to the last legs of sobriety. Deciphering them with the futility of reading hieroglyphs before the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, the last remaining primary documents from a Saturday afternoon in the Upper Haight describes a grisly crime scene of music and fashion abuse:

  • A tribe of girls are frolicking on the roof in Indian headdresses.
  • People are still tie-dying shirts while drinking PBR.
  • Some white dude with dreadlocks recognized my friend's pipe and knew who made it.
  • DJ playing a dubstep remix of “Hip Hop” by Dead Prez. This song totally needed a dubstep remix.
  • Girl with new tattoo having two didgeridoos simultaneously blown into her ears.
  • Just introduced to a man wearing a top hat and monocle.  Terrified.
  • Man sitting next to me wearing an Indian headdress and Ray-Bans.  He's rolling loose-leaf American Spirit cigarettes.  Can't be real.  I must have drank a molly mimosa.

Reviewing photographs taken from the party the following day, I learned that molly mimosas or various hallucinogens were not responsible for my tribal visions; all this really happened:

Comments (27)

man, this so exemplifies why i moved out of the upper haight.

OMG, that was hilarious, thank you so, so much. Without the photos I never would have believed you – the digeridoo battle was just too over the top. You should definitely submit that mermaid shot to the Ugliest Tattoos blog.

Dubstep? Is that a popular form of music in the Haight?

Hippies love dubstep…BASSNECTARRRR

having been dragged to free dubstep at temple on thursday nights twice, this sounds like the day time version of what I experienced there, with alot less people & no (what looks like)abandoned-alien-ship growths on the side of the wall. In fact, I remember seeing “white guy with dreads” there.

Terrific account of One Crazy Summer rolled into One F-ed Up Afternoon! Love your pics and pocket notes, too. I’m also in TomH’s camp – so glad I moved from the Upper Haight earlier this year, but I still enjoy peeping at the freaks in my old ‘hood. Where else can you celebrate a pal’s birthday with such a zany bunch of people??

This is a terrific piece of subcultural ethnography! Kudos!

Upper Haight shared housing is the classic SF rookie rental mistake….

you need new friends

I have been to “Haight House” and I must say that for you to twist their life and enjoyment of such into some warped caricature for the enjoyment of your hipster readers is disgusting. Why would you open up your friend and others to this sort of mocking and criticism after they showed you such hospitality?

Hilarious, one of the better articles in a while.

Also, what the hell is Dubstep? I hear that genre mention a lot (typically in a negative fashion) but I don’t think I’ve ever actually heard what is sounds like. What is the most cliche dubstep song?

Why weren’t they listening to moombahton?

anyone here who hates on this house will have the fleas of one trillion camels infest their pubic region.

Because at the end of the day, all we show is love.. your negative comments will never bring us down only make us stronger


Amen to that girl w/band tattoo!

Maybe I (Birthday boy who organized the party monster) should have weighed in earlier, not sure who the offended friend of the Haight House is but… I for one love this post. The description of me couldn’t be more on point (except my license wasn’t suspended, the cop was just being a dick because I had an out of state license) and the description of the rest of the house is a completely fair, outsider’s take on it. Of course its chalk full of snark, that’s the format, which KevMo has set the precedent for. And it’s, to me, entertaining as fuck! I laughed my ass all the way through it. The Haight House, “Jugtown” (the craziest, hippiest unit in the 6 unit house) in particular is RIDICULOUS. KevMo’s snark and bite isn’t even a FRACTION as ruthless as MINE is when describing it, depending on a few things:

• How much sleep I got the night before
• How much of that brand new case of beer I bought the night before is left
• How much it smells like patchouli oil at the moment
• Whether I’m talking in “The Voice” or not
• How much “Mocktail” I’ve been drinking
• How many gnargles are still asleep in the living room

That isn’t to say I never describe with love and adoring sentiment. Its awesome and ridiculous, and I also understand why captain too cool for school left the upper haight. I on the other hand, am going to stay, tame the bitch, and post it for the world to see.

A gathering of everyone and everything I can’t stand. Except the booze.

The photos you chose to use does not represent anything that was going on that day.. “GNARGLES” on the roof is not what the “Haight House”represents.. For you to take part of what we all here feel was a pretty over the top but fairly organized party and not recognize all the great things that were actually happening makes you a pretty shitty journalist… But hey, bad revues are better than none, right? Are you just jealous that your life’s boring? You should try to have 10,000 hippies stumbling around in front of your house and see how it goes.

Studiously ignoring the above comments to say:

Very few things on the internet make me feel nauseated anymore. One becomes inured. But this. THIS. Well done, KevMo.

Hey, that strange and frightening old man is my friend Chuck. He rules. I guess I might qualify in the strange and frightening old man camp too though.

I was there!

This could have happened anywhere, not upper haight or san francisco specific whatsoever. One of my earliest memories is of being lost in the upper haight and it was ten times wilder than this, of course, I was three or four. Meh.

I wasn’t there, but I would like to know more about these Molly Mimosas. And more info on the Dead tattoo. What song is that supposed to represent?

As East Oakland’s Finest, The Paw-T Dawgz, would say, “Don’t stop stawting da paw-t.”

those who judge obviously have no experience of a life so unexplained, exciting, original, artistic, mentally stimulating, culturally and musically stimulating, creative, impulsive, captivating, dazzling, intruguing, and magnetic.

these people live and love in the simplicities of life.. it doesn’t take much to have fun. and anyone is welcome to join in.. big, small, short, tall, white, black, pink and yellow. those who ridicule obviously live in an uptight, self-righteous and judgemental manner..

we could learn a lesson from this beautiful expression.
these minds exploring a life worth adoring.
a commonly overlooked and easily mistook
perspective of pure acceptance under any circumstances.

man this guy sits more in his house in San Francisco then experiences SF, what a boring life you live my friend

At least some people in this City still know how to have a good time…..and Chuck G can play a mean guitar.

Wow, Kevin, you really roused the angry hippie beast with this post.