Flashback: The Summer of Love

Waxing Nostalgic -or- Johnny Comes Lately

I recently journeyed to San Francisco to interview for a position at eWeek, published by Ziff-Davis Media. eWeek...sister publication to PC Magazine and formerly titled PC Week—which used to quote me when I was a PC reseller during those heady days of Windows 3.0. And sister publication to Windows Sources, for which I had a one-time cover story credit and was the Windows tips editor for a few months.

Now to be here..in San Francisco...interviewing at the Ziff-Davis. It definitely felt like I was coming full circle, regardless of the outcome.

Years ago San Francisco was only something I read about in Rolling Stone, or maybe even Life magazine, should one George Harrison decide to drop in on the Summer of Love. And long before I came to appreciate Tony Bennett leaving his heart there (one of three palatable songs on The Blue Room jukebox, the others being The Kingston Trio's Scotch & Soda and Dolly Parton's Jolene), it was Scott McKenzie imploring us to "be sure to wear flowers in your hair" and Eric Burdon alluring us with "old angels young angels feel alright, on a warm San Franciscan night."
Jimi Hendrix, baby believe me, set the world on fire, yeah!
Early for my appointment and it being the noon hour, I took a quick survey of the block and immediately sensed something was missing: honking taxis. That's right—the city had all the vibrancy of the Big Apple, including its own well-appointed Frederick Law Olmsted park, but no demonic honking taxis.

His majesty, Prince Jones, smiled as he moved among the crowd...
The crowd. Not a crowd, per se, but lots of people. Interesting-looking people, all with stories to tell and songs to sing—regardless of their ethnicity, dress, age, gender, or physique. And here's my epiphany: every last one of 'em looked just like R. Crumb's depictions. Or is it "despictions?" Although we may feel a sense of shame about them in flipping the pages of a Zap! Comix, here there is nothing about which to be ashamed—they're just common ordinary people. Right outta dem pages of Zap!, fer cryin' out loud! Why, there's Jumpin' Jimmy Jiz...over there's a sewer snoid... No, man... dey's people, just like you............

Giving numerous restaurants the cursory evaluation, I ultimately settled upon The Toaster Oven Sandwich Shop for a bit o' nosh. It looked low-key, no hassle, probably a tasty sandie and—if all goes well—maybe even a table outside. Entering the queue, and feeling somewhat the outsider in my Mr. Bidnessman Suit, I was immediately swept away by the music:

"I can walk down the street and there's no one there,
though the pavement's a one huge crowd...
I can drive down the road; my eyes don't see,
Though my mind wants to cry out loud.
Though my mind wants to cry out loud."

It was I Feel Free from Cream's debut Fresh Cream release. Suddenly it was 19-freakin'-67 all over again ("Sherman, set the Wayback Machine...") and I was at the Grande Ballroom—where my life changed forever—the Grande being but Detroit's knock-off of Bill Graham's original Fillmore Auditorium. And here I was.

Standing in line, I wanted to strip open my Oxford shirt to reveal—what? That "I'm one of you?'" Or maybe slip on my bandana headband and play Frisbee in the park? Certainly a job interview was not where my head was at, though the prospect of Ziff-Davis was enticing...

I'm gonna wave my freak flag high, high!
...and when my mind is wandering there I will go... Next up was the Guess Who's Laughing, followed by a familiar Santana song for which I forgot to write down the title. Maybe it was too familiar, as Santana can sometimes be (Oye como va...mi ritmo...bueno pa gosar...mulata). Dunno what kind of sandie I got; some sorta meat sub with sweet peppers and a street view. I opted out of dining al fresco, though, settling for a window view of the passersby and:

Shoefly, dragonfly, get back to your mother.
Pick up a flat rock, skip it across green river.

Then I think there was a forgettable Stevie Wonder song, followed by the inimitable Al Green—Love & Happiness—with its defining opening guitar riff.

Funny, but if you sit in one place long enough, the people walking by start to become repetitive....like you're on a Lionel train set passing the same plastic diner with the same townsfolk stenciled on the windows. But it was way too sunny to be...The Twilight Zone, and the music was way too cool:

That spoon, that spoon, that spoonful.
That spoon, that spoon, that spoonful.

I was straining to identify the next one. What was that? Ah, yes... Woo hoo, witchy woman, she got the moon in her eye, followed immediately by Neil Young's Harvest Moon.

Too many people, too many songs, too little time, and ultimately 1968 had to once again become 2007.