Over the summer between my freshman and sophomore year at San Jose State University, three of us Almaden “hayseeds” rented a very spartan one-bedroom apartment on Ninth Street, near Reed, in San Jose, only a few blocks from the campus proper.
At the corner of 10th and Williams, about a block from our apartment, was a gas station, a “ma-and-pa” sort of grocery and a more modern big-plate glass storefront that was home to the local pizza place, the “Pizza Haven,” or the P.H. as we came to call it.
The year was 1967 and we were hovering right around 19 years of age. While the Haight-Ashbury scene was near its peak and had begun thriving, the older, more sedate, black-clad beat generation was still a well entrenched counter culture element not unknown to this campus community.
The manager of the P.H., some of his staff and a lot of his friends were big-time, dyed-in-the-wool beats. These beat people thought of us, hips, as a passing fancy, frivolous and flighty light weights of the moment. While maybe we were light weights, I think it is safe to say we lasted a good deal longer than those beats expected. But those beats were definitely heavy weights in their black turtlenecks and closely cropped beards. While we did marijuana and hallucinogens, they did smack (heroine) and barbiturates (very heavy downers).
I came to notice something I could never figure out, which was that so many, many of the beats were from big, East Coast cities, with their harsh accents and gnarly brows and thin lips and very white complexions. When they spoke of their home towns like Boston or New York or “Philly,” it always gave you the impression that these old cities never saw blue skies or real sunlight, only the street light incandescence or what dribbled out of half hidden basement windows. Such a specter gave me the creeps and absolutely no desire to venture east of the Sierra Nevada.
I came to have the view that we hips were superior, intellectual and visionary extensions of the classic California surfer bums. Clean, empty beaches and pristine mountain redwood groves were our environment, bathed in golden sunlight and free spirited karma, that’s what we born of, or so I thought for awhile.
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