Buying drugs is a chore, a proverbial thorn in one’s backside. Can you find a seller? Will they have anything the next time you come calling? Nobody likes this part.
So picture a place instead where you’re offered the kindest of bud, chocolate-covered mushrooms, and crystal meth the moment you arrive. People all around you are lighting up fatty jays and beating drums and wandering around with a dazed look on their faces that would land them a night in the Santa Barbara County Jail.
Is this some dark, urban dungeon on skid row? Nope, it’s in a beautiful public city park swarming with tourists. What else could it be but San Francisco’s fabled Hippie Hill?
In Bill O’Reilly’s latest book, Culture Warrior, he argues that our country is currently engaged in an ideological war between those standing for traditional moral values and “secular progressives” wishing to model the country after Western Europe. If such a war exists, then San Francisco must be the Manhattan Project of secular progressivism. Traditionalists look with scorn at what they call “San Francisco Values,” but I prefer to think of the city as Diet Amsterdam — an opportunity to see how well leftist policies work in the land of the free and home of the brave.
Enter Hippie Hill, perhaps the ultimate secular progressive experiment. Yes, Mendocino and Humboldt are swarming with drug abusers, but that’s different – nobody lives there. Over 700,000 people live in San Francisco.
There are a couple of reasons why a city of this size gets away with it. Many of the people sparking in the park are card-carrying medicinal users, so they have the state law on their side. Also, as of last year, adult marijuana offenses in San Francisco are the lowest priority for law enforcement. This ordinance was passed 8-3 by the Board of Supervisors, an overwhelming majority. So yeah, it can be pretty damn easy to score some ganj. The last time I visited Golden Gate Park, a grimy looking woman dressed like the “feed the birds” lady from “Mary Poppins” walked up to me and asked, “You wanna smoke some herb?” like it ain’t no thang. I hadn’t even made it to Hippie Hill yet.
Proponents of Hippie Hill will argue that the people mean no harm, and wish only to play their bongos, burn some fern and perhaps share some of the wealth with others. Because it’s, like, all about peace, love and understanding, man. Far out. What if it were this easy to buy pot at my high school? The mind wanders.
It’s tough to determine from Hippie Hill whether it is indeed possible to have an area that openly embraces drug use without compromising the safety of youngsters and tourists. Children? Forget about it. A better name for this place would be Hobo Hill. And while these guys may generally be pretty laid back in comparison to other parts of the city, you still occasionally run into the mentally unstable intransient under the spell of drugs far more powerful than ‘shrooms and sticky.
That won’t stop the older tourists, though, because the entire surrounding Haight-Asbury district these days is a sanitized commercial enterprise with a Gap outlet and a Ben and Jerry’s. A friend of mine at UC Santa Cruz, who uses Hippie Hill as his one-stop cannabis supershop, complains that the pot is overpriced and of generally inferior quality to the stuff grown here in the Santa Ynez Mountains. I’ve seen this mentioned in the pages of this paper before, so maybe it’s true. Hippie Hill a tourist trap? Gasp! Sob!
So what’s the verdict? Would an open drug bazaar like this hippiest of hills work in the land east of the 580 freeway? Or will we never be able to tell because the data is masked by some of San Francisco’s infamous quirks? You know, the ones Bill O’Reilly blames on the city’s “secular progressivism,” like the number of homeless people and rampant number of … er … friends of Dorothy. But I’ll leave whether that’s true or not for another column. In the meantime, go ahead and visit if you want, but for God’s sake, be careful about sitting on the grass — wouldn’t forty-some years of hippies make you at least consider a beach blanket?