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: