Where have all the flowers gone? (A REQUIEM IN REMEMBRANCE OF HAIGHT ASHBURY) By Don Aters

Where have all the flowers gone?

It would evolve into The Dionysian Festival of the sixties, the grand illusion while searching for individual identities. These were the cherubic faces of the counter culture, the vanguard that would inevitably define an entire generation of youthful malcontents. War and political turmoil raged throughout the nation, and causes of the day became as common and ominous as Hoffa was to Teamsters. As the reigning dissidents of the era, we perused our options in an effort to establish a dichotomy and subsequent separation from the shackles of the mainstream and the urban myth from parental guidance. The thought process was for us to avoid the ritual of antiquated guidelines that had been passed on by our predecessors.

This would maturate and become the embryonic stages of our introduction to recreational involvement, i.e., sex, drugs, rock n' roll, political and radical organizations and the juxtaposing image of a Bohemian culture that would forever be synonymous with the decade. The Americana aspect that our parents had embraced would be lost in the proverbial shuffle, a defining moment augmented by mind altering experimentation and a mass migration to the west coast. While in search for our illusive identity, the sensationalism of sex, drugs and rock n' roll was not the addiction so blatantly exploited by the press. If the actual origin had been pursued, some basic knowledge of our commonality and acceptance of cultural diversity and the "hippiedom" lifestyle would have been revealed.

It was our chosen path in an effort to defray the astronomical loss of life in a political and pointless war magnified by other sociological debacles that solidified our separation from the accepted norm. The entire generation would be scrutinized by the media and prejudged by drug related deaths that were more noted as the trappings of the musical genre and other artistic souls than a mirrored image of the youthful, nomadic hordes that were westward bound.
San Francisco and The Haight Ashbury district, the Valhalla of The Woodstock Generation, would soon become the epicenter. An august, generational pilgrimage would reach epic proportions and the apex of this popularity would culminate during the latter days of the late sixties and signal the demise soon afterward. The influx of dangerous two narcotics, and various laboratory intoxicants would surpass the typical indulgence of marijuana and the glory of this Bohemian neighborhood and the denizens who survived would be replaced with the decadence and perpetual crime factor that had once been relegated to the larger cities of the country. The choices that arose from "flower power" and the pundits of flower children would be arcane to the post WW11 adults but their inability to cope would not impede the unveiling of The Age Of Aquarius a culmination of fact and The Peter Pan Syndrome. It was somewhat of a mixed metaphor that would evolve into defiance yet contiguous to prior generations.

The days of being bridled by tradition and the restriction of rough hewn bi-laws of yesteryear would be severed by our affirmation and belief that we could collectively change the aggressive demeanor of international discord with a more demure and ambiguous approach through "peace and love". Our world was envisioned as a more serene existence, a clandestine gathering inclusive of cultural diversity, pattering lives to the musical pearls of selected bands and the human tapestry painted by the icons of the day that we most emulated and admired. These would prove to be provocative thoughts attained from those we most adored and they still occasionally resurface from the recesses of our minds. The quandary is, "Where have all the flowers gone?" The caveat of the Bush administration resonates loudly as we digress to the more surreal yet explosive era in the annals of American history. The nefarious involvement and burgeoning war with Iraq has equated to more casualties after the announced conclusion than while actually involved with internal combat and seems to conjure vivid memories of and the lesson in futility ascertained from the sixteen year dilemma in Vietnam.

San Francisco, the chosen destination for nomadic sojourns during the sixties and Haight Ashbury as the Utopian capitol for the burgeoning throng of free spirits was the intrinsic peacemaker. At times it seems to be nothing more than a distant memory, fodder for music trivia, but the ideology of commonality and peace through music remains a beacon in a mire of political and social banality of 2003-2004. We are now the vanishing tribe, the voices of reason now ensconced in nostalgia and virtual obscurity. The mystical formula, the mantras of harmonious existence are now shards of the aspects that were once so ominous on our horizons. Perhaps the illusion of the flower children was not as daring and inconceivable as once believed by those who frowned on the anarchy of troubled youth. It was to have been the universal bonding solution, a trumpeting plot that seemed more feasible than the senseless killing of our peers and the appalling fabrication from our government as the harbingers of good will and a pillar of unification. The desire for a more laconic method could arise. It becomes a thought to ponder over as the idea of rising from the ashes becomes more of a reality. The beat of the counter culture rings loudly in the once deaf ears of the purveyors of doom. We now represent 64% of the population. A need for us to finally be heard seems to be urgent. The rancor has been rekindled and the desultory attitude and cajoling lexicon of those in office is in need of revision. The once regal icons seem to be fading glory but we gather occasionally to celebrate events and performers with a litany of old friends. The power of positive thinking seems to permeate the air and replace the temporal disorientation with communal logic and the antiquated but valued thoughts of long ago.

The legacies of the past and the artists now live vicariously through those who know the power of the music, the opulence of the Avalon Ballroom, The Fillmores and other noted venues. The memories of Janis Joplin, Pigpen, Jerry Garcia, John Cippolina, John Kahn, Dave Tolbert, Skip Spence, Mimi farina, Bill Graham and other are The Ghosts of Avalon, the storied entertainers of 35 years ago. The survivors have long since vacated the abodes in the Victorian area of the bay around Golden Gate Park for the more lavish confines of Marin County but, their legacies live on. As we ruminate about the days of old, and the ambiance that remains, thanks to survivors like Paul Kantner, Sam Andrew, Peter S. Albin, Barry Melton, Santana, Merl Saunders, David Nelson, Pete Sears, Terry Haggerty, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, and Chet Helms seems to be in order. The mass migration drifted into folklore many years ago but the aura of this suburban district continues to grow as a cultural phenomenon. The mystique of various raiment trends is another media hyperbole, fondly recollected as the trend setters of the era. The wafts of fragrances that once lingered over this beloved area has been somewhat tainted by the influx of street urchins but some semblance of the embryonic days of the beat poets and artists who once dominated the district is still alive and well. It was the cradle for personal identity, a brief stay where a standard for universal growth and acceptance will never be replicated.

It is an epiphany where we subconsciously still see the legends of our youth. As they gradually fade into their next existence, any death or demise is as painful as if it were our own family. We are a universal composite, a family of brothers and sisters from different parents joined together by a unilateral cause with the backdrop that arose from great music. Perhaps a chance to restore credibility to these heralded venues and the canon of the counter culture is now more feasible. Long ago we searched for a better way, an effort that would forever make us the most engaging and mysterious generation known to man. We continue our search as best we can, relegated to diminishing numbers but still admired by those who envied the efforts. We cling closer to the survivors, the living treasures of teenage years, and a reminder of the sacred vestige of Haight Ashbury. These were the days of our discontent but we also reveled in our participation as we strolled along undaunted in our search. It was magical yet mercurial, the brief life of the flower children. Such a waste, those were the days.. Long live the legacy of The Haight
Long live the legacy of The Avalon Ballroom and The Fillmores
Don Aters -

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