Yeah, man, I was there: I saw the Grateful Dead play "Dark Star" on New Year's Eve. Heavy.
Only it wasn't 1967. It was 1981, becoming '82, and we were at the Oakland Coliseum, not the Panhandle. The Summer of Love was long gone; Haight Street was at war, not over drugs but over gentrification, and the cops were cruising up and down, looking not for hippies selling pot and acid but for the self-proclaimed Mindless Thugs, who were throwing bricks through the windows of upscale stores and fancy bars.
Everybody falls in love with San Francisco the way it was the day they arrived, and mine was a distinctly anarchopunk scene. The soundtrack wasn't Scott McKenzie and flowers in your hair; it was Jello Biafra, "California über Alles," and the kids were getting all bloody and bruised from slam dancing in clubs with black walls instead of mellowing out and digging the colors of the trippy light show.
But the spirit of the 1960s was still very much alive. The Summer of Love gets a bit glorified in the retelling, but in the end the part that survived was a spirit of community and rebellion. We were here because we didn't feel like we belonged anywhere else, and as quickly as we could set down roots, we decided it was our city and we wouldn't let the greedheads take it away from us.
And it's been an endless battle for the past quarter century, but the bad guys still haven't won; though much is taken, much abides ... and every year we celebrate the best of the world's best city with the original, first-in-the-nation Best of the Bay.
This year's issue is in part a tribute to that summer 40 years ago when a new kind of politics, music, and culture was emerging in a city where Bruce B. Brugmann and Jean Dibble were helping create a new kind of journalism. Our local heroes this year are all people who were part of the Summer of Love and are still doing cool stuff today.
It's also a tribute to everything sensational in San Francisco. And now and then and forever, there's plenty. *
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