Chet Helms with friends on Haight Street

But it [ego] is also something that - and the ancients knew this very well - it outlives its utility. Any particular form of the ego outlives its utility.       
-Chet Helms



S A N   F R A N C I S C O


The seven hills of San Francisco, part of the central-core power of Haight Street, are linked together and augment The City's unshakeable underpinnings. This network facilitates the mystical energy undercurrent that rolls in back of, behind, and underneath visual patches of geography inside Hashbury. Emotional atmosphere in The Haight has an ambiance akin to Columbus Circle in New York City, where a minimum of 13 water lines converge. The overwhelmingly powerful solar intersection @ Haight between Cole and Shrader ~ renown Straight Theatre site ~ is linked with the forces of truth, community, and wisdom as part of the Golden State.

Fascination with The Sleeping Prophet and Atlantis on the heels of the 50s Search for Briedy Murphy, entwined with Hopi legends about Mt. Shasta and its secret link to the Sacred Mountain in Arizona [Easy Rider, Koyanisquatsi] surfaced in mainstream consciousness. Films that link the collective consciousness with global village consciousness – Juliet of the Spirits, Alternate States, The Last Wave, and Australia, Transcendence, and Youth Without Youth allude to the dawn of Aquarian “ambrosia” archetypes. What if people discover the super computer science wants to construct is actually the right brain without plug ins for left brain access?
The arts have long persisted in creating a niche central to the alternative lifestyle teasing in the new age. Popular phrases such as, “Look into my eyes,” and “Eyes are the mirror of the soul,” took on new meaning as the science of iridology, techniques in lighting, and personal palettes became as standard as “shades” and a “new set of threads” with movers and shakers at the time. The quest became more about the journey of Diogenes – the search for an honest man. But It started to seem like something might be broken at the top.


I'm sorry, Dave. This mission is too important for me to allow

you to jeopardize it.    -Hal,  2001 A Space Odyssey

During the post war years there was a resurgent interest in a variety of health programs from different countries that support a holistic approach. The Swedish sauna, Native American sweat lodge, and as illustrated in the Saqqara tomb of Ankhmahor, deep tissue massage treatments for hands and feet.
Cuisine, culinary arts, and good dining became partners with the traditional coffeehouse, a quintessential contributor, from bridges to the lexicon, that bonded beatnik and hip cultures. Coffeehouses were central to North Beach and the Haight.


At the time caffeine required an estimated personal threshold - as everyone knows their limit. Given that constant, information about coffee safety began to surface that packed a more serious punch. FDA regulations require the mountains of beans unloaded on the dock be sprayed down to clean up all toxins before the beans can enter the US. People didn’t know that only the top level of each dockside mountain was washed. All the beans underneath the top layer were never exposed to water or anything else as a sanitization shower. Nutritionists went on red alert. Later developments included additional ineffective FDA safeguards.

Updating the status quo was in vogue. People watched as the Civil Rights movement unfolded in Little Rock – some even boarded freedom buses headed south. The “red scare” witch hunt morphed into redlining disputes about dividing space – even in Northern California. The Hollywood blacklist and greylist began their burn out mode as people refused to take loyalty oaths.
rt., John Cipollina, Quicksilver Messenger Service, San Francisco bands and the birth of acid rock

During the 60s and 70s the popular wisdom began to rise from the depths of a spiritual need for harmony and balance with the world - especially nature. Popular study groups formed overnight. ARE [Edgar Cayce network], The Metaphysical Towne Hall, and Gurdjieff study groups sprang up like mushrooms throughout the City. Students of J. Krishnamurti, Manly P. Hall, and Paramahansa Yogananda from the southern loop, infused a wave of Eastern philosophy with frequent flyer commuters. Alan Watts lectured on KPFA, prompting austere zen gardens and long robes with a serene neutral palette. Jazzy colours accented handworked facades of the Victorian zone painted ladies from pre-quake days gone by. The Haight, within close proximity to Golden Gate Park, was ideal to draw college students pursuing artistic possibilities in the fields of upgraded/restored interiors, creative arts, literature and film. After the Straight Theatre untangled the complex re-zoning doublespeak, all set aright with a little help from friends across the pond, things began to, as Jefferson Airplane sang, "Take Off!" check Carlos Santana Kennedy Center Honors, music appearance Buddy Guy 17:17

…..Most blips on the radar screen were calibrated to throw people off their center: First Amendment rights, steering Americans into survival quagmires, and the arrogant out-of-town investors hoping to transform the Haight by erecting high-risers to supplant traditional San Francisco. Local artists shared common ground with mom and pop stores – the festivals and street faires were great for business. High profiles interfaced when underwriters acted on the collective right brain game plan. Gavin Arthur provided star chart subtext for Neal Cassady who dug deep into his spiritual & karma lives. Ronald Reagan also studied astrology with Arthur to craft a safe exit doorway out of the 20 year presidential curse. Many joint Kesey-Cassady projects were cultivated to augment Kesey’s prankster movie – such as the ‘Drive Tapes’ that were processed in La Honda. A couple of back beat bands were sampled but Kesey could not catch the spirit of Neal’s spontaneous interaction with the road so the project didn’t fly.
People from many a philosophic base were collaborating, pooling talent – the cement world was adapting, trying to keep time with the Ecumenical movement John Paul XXIII shepherded through.

The arts were targeted in overtly hostile legal disputes. Kesey was an ongoing example of raids and break-ins – sticky fingers carted off reels of his film, footage that was never returned. In the paranormal fields there are reports of people waking from a dead sleep with a group of non-corporeals standing at the foot of the bed. The 60s & 70s version of the 3:00 AM wake up call was pretty much the same, only the FBI were piled into the bedroom with handcuffs and arrest warrants. Some cases achieved international notoriety, as with the scandal at the Vorpal Gallery. The owner was arrested on charges of obscenity in 1964 for showing some Ron Boise welded metal sculptures that portrayed Kama Sutra passages. The censorship, torches, pitchforks, and court case that followed helped set historic landmarks for free speech. Ken Kesey had one of the Boise statues at his home in La Honda circa One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. The Hip Pocket Bookstore in Santa Cruz managed an ingenious bit of ongoing publicity when they placed one of the celebrated statues at their front door on display.

Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady were in the mainstream On The Road. At the same time William Burroughs’ Ticket That Exploded wasn’t allowed through customs. However, some incidents fell into the category labeled, “national embarrassment” or perhaps, “Believe It Or Not.” One case involved [possibly embedded] police, who had staked out a delightful event for locals where food was regularly served with unpretentious simplicity. Known to attendees as, Gabriel’s Feed, after the host, the menu was chosen for Italian gourmet diners – the door remained open should someone feel in the mood for some espresso, biscotti, tossed salad, paste, wine, and garlic bread.

Background:…..Briefly, the 60s time window ideal to facilitate cultural exchanges had opened. Two stars of the greatest magnitude, Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev, booked their US tour in answer to a Utopian prayer uttered by some thoughtful spirits in the cosmic continuum.
Naturally, they wanted to see a few cultural hot spots in the Haight, so they garnered an invite to Gabriel’s Feed where people got together for group dinners that went social, beyond the traditional “free lunch” served at Tony’s [St. Anthony’s Dining Hall]. No one knows exactly what happened - even to this day. It was perhaps that a black musician wandered into the feast - Miles Davis, Otis Redding, or Thelonious Monk, after a set at the Both/And a few blocks away.
Red alert! The house was promptly raided by police. Anyone there was bundled down to the station, finger printed, and processed into the computer. The British read from their usual refined script with decorum.

“The tour included a much-publicized incident in San Francisco when Fonteyn and Nureyev spent a night in jail after attending a party where there was a suspicion that marijuana was being smoked. The Assistant General Administrator of Covent Garden made a hurried appearance on London television screens to announce that both dancers were non-smokers.”

Continued Part Two