by Jules Older
Sure, I wanted to go to San Francisco. Cable cars, Chinatown, Golden Gate… and something more. Daughter Willow had moved to the Haight district, which in my day was the hippie epicenter of the world. What a chance to introduce Willow to her dad’s own, personal history! So I signed us both up for something called the Haight-Ashbury Hippie History Bus Tour.
Along with four 20-year-olds — I think they were history students — Willow and I climbed aboard the bus — the psychedelic VW bus — owned and operated by tour leader, Hippie Bob.
H.B. was in his fifties. He wore a long, graying ponytail and those little, round John Lennon glasses. He had on enough love beads to serve as a flotation device, and he smelled of a familiar herb; maybe it was patchouli. Maybe not.
Just the guy to teach my daughter modern American history.
“Hippies like me came out to the Haight for the Summer of Love,” Hippie Bob began. “We lived in communes in big old houses like the ones on this street.”
“When was the Summer of Love, Bob?” Willow asked.
“In the sixties, man. Definitely in the sixties. And call me Hippie Bob. That’s my handle, you dig?”
Willow looked puzzled. “I, uh, dig, but when in the sixties, Bo — Hippie Bob?”
“I dunno. We weren't all hung up with numbers and dates and stuff back then. If it feels good, do it.”
I piped up, trying to help the history lesson progress. “Wasn’t that 1967, Hippie Bob? And weren't there many famous rock stars and other cultural icons living right here in the Haight?”
“Yeah, ’67. Whatever. What was that second thing?”
“The famous people who lived in the —”
“Right. I was just coming to that. First, there was Janet Joplin, the great Beatnik blues singer from Cleveland. Then, there was—”
I couldn’t let it pass — this was my history on the line. “Uh, Hippie Bob? Don’t you mean Janis Joplin? From Texas? Who was much too young to be a beat—”
“That’s what I said, man. Janet lived in that house right there with her boyfriend, Jefferson Airplane.”
The 20-year-olds were nodding and taking notes. But Willow looked puzzled. “Jefferson Airplane? Wasn’t Jefferson Airplane a —”
“A great, groovy musician,” Hippie Bob answered. “Used to set fire to his guitars in the middle of a show. He fronted a band called Phish.”
I couldn’t resist. “Phish? Hippie Bob, Phish is a band from the nineties, not the sixties.”
H.B. glared at me and pointed a multi-ringed finger at my chest. “Yeah, well that shows how much you know about hippie history, man. Jefferson’s band was the original Phish — Country Joe and the Phish. They were a big protest band in the Summer of Love. Dig it.”
Willow: “What were they protesting, Hippie Bob?”
“Oh, you know, the usual. The rip-off price of cable TV. Animal rights. Commies. That sorta thing.”
“Commies, Hippie Bob?” This guy was destroying American history before my very ears.
“Sure, Commies. Their big hit, “American Woman” was a Commie protest song. They protested the other kind of commies, too.”
Willow scratched her head. “The other kind? What… what other kind of commies were there?”
“Dotcommies! San Francisco’s full of ‘em.”
The rest of the passengers on the bus blithely continued taking notes, now nodding sagely over their newfound knowledge.
The lecture continued: “And over here in this big old house lived a real heavy dude. He invented the geodeisel dome. And his name was Buckmeister Fuller.”
The others, student-like, nodded and noted. Me, I couldn’t face trying to unmangalize one more piece of hippie history. Finally, I grumbled, “OK, Hippie Bob, whatever. You say it’s Buckmeister, it’s Buckmeister. You say it’s a geodeisel dome, that’s what it is. But we've been sitting in this dirty old bus of yours for half an hour, and we’re still right where we started. You haven't even turned on the engine. Don’t you think it’s time to move on?”
Hippie Bob shot me a look of contempt. “Don’t get all hung up over time, man. That’s not the hippie way. That’s not Hippie Bob’s way.”
He smiled a condescending hippie smile. “Besides,” he said, “if we’re gonna get this bus goin’, you guys are gonna have to cough up with some gas money, man.”
“Gas money, Hippie Bob?”
“Hey, man — that’s the hippie way.”
Hippie Bob is a chapter in Jules Older’s new ebook, DEATH BY TARTAR SAUCE: A Travel Writer Encounters Gargantuan Gators, Irksome Offspring, Murderous Mayonnaise & True Love. It’s available on all digital platforms, including the YourLifeIsATrip.com Trip Shop powered by Amazon.