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Reply To: My story ..

Toby Johnson

Hi Mark, I think you’re right about 1966 being the “best year” in the Haight. I first visited in ’67. I was still in Catholic religious life; I stayed at the Servite House at Stanyan and Fulton. One evening we walked down to Haight Street for a pizza. And there was the “Summer of Love” all over the place. I was amazed. I’d done LSD the previous year, and sort of understood what was going on, though didn’t know about the term “Summer of Love” yet. I bought an ankh made out of leather, and wore it as the crucifix with my Servite habit. I remember the street was crowded with people and it was a little scary.

I moved to 602 Ashbury in 72 or 73. My room in the top floor flat looked out onto Haight Street. There was a vacant storefront across the street. The junkies hung out along there because there were no shop owners to shoo them away. One of my roommates was a medical student at UCSF and was an occasionally heroin user himself (tragically cause it killed him the day he completed his residency and got his MD). He became a sort of doctor to the junkies; he’d bring all sorts of people to the flat where he treated minor wounds and infections. We had stuff ripped off quite regularly.

I loved living at that address, and really liked the flat. We had a turret in the livingroom, which was actually another roommate’s bedroom, and a two story staircase and upstairs landing. It was very elegant, but shabby.

But the neighborhood was long past hippie prime. The junkies made it hard to live there. I’d borrowed my roommate’s car (not the doctor) one day, and parked very briefly in front of the flat to check my mail and the car was broken into and, among other things, my journal was stolen.

That was a major turning point in my life. The anonymous thief was what Joe would have called a “guide” or maybe a “boundary guardian.”