I love the elegance and stature of Metropolis – the finesse and awe of any city – I am often also taken aback by its pace and hustle. It usually doesn’t take me long to find a park. So after some crepes on the corner and a large cup of a coffee, I grabbed a ninety-nine cent book at the Goodwill and headed to Golden Gate Park. I sat under a tree and shared nods and hellos with passersby, when I noticed a dog playing in a sprinkler.
“Dog’s got the right idea,” the straggly tweeker said as he plopped down beside me and asked for a lighter. “Look what I found,” and palmed a crank pipe. He covered his crusty blond hair with his jacket and disappeared into chemical euphoria. As he got the temperature up, Jerry Garcia rode by on a ten-speed. The bushy, gray beard and sunglasses were unmistakable, but I couldn’t recall ever seeing him with a yellow hip pack and headband before.
The kid had used up half of my butane when he came out from under his puffing tent with an acrid exhale. He galloped himself over to a sprinkler, doused his head, and galloped right back.
And then he started talking.
He told me that I was sitting under the Janis Tree – the enchanted tree that she had written about – where Ms. Joplin hid Easter eggs full of bud. He pointed to the spot where Jerry Garcia drank margaritas and played guitar in the shade. I told him that Jerry just rode by on a ten-speed.
“That’s because he’s still alive. Just like Elvis.”
As interesting as my short tour of Hippie Hill was, the kid’s ramblings – as clear and concise as his speech sounded – started taking on the echoes of complete incoherence when he started talking about chemistry and weapons and “having the right tool for the right job.” I had noticed a bumper sticker in one of the head shops on Haight earlier that said, “Tweekers Suck.” I now understand that motto. The kid went on and on – not in any style of conversation or even lecture, just rambling words as if his tongue knew no end. Another drifter sat down to join us, the tweeker’s attention was redirected, and I got out while the getting was good.
This is an excerpt of The Rucksack Letters by Steve McAllister. Buy your copy of the eBook on Amazon.com.