“If You’re Going to San Francisco…”

Big Brother and the Holding Company 1968

My boy friend and his best friend had stopped in Portland on their way to San Francisco for the “Summer of Love.” It turns out that there is now a celebration of the 50th anniversary of that summer in 1967. Many people had responded to the idea to go to Haight Ashbury that summer, and there was even a song that went,”if you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.”

I joined them for a visit and we went to see an act at the Fillmore West. The room was filled with “psychedelic” light effects. I was sitting near where they were originating, and it appeared someone had poured colored oil on glass and was tilting it around as light shone through it. The band was very very loud and the woman singer was screaming basically. That was my introduction to Janis Joplin and the Holding Company about whom I knew nothing.

The major problem I had in San Francisco was that I didn’t use drugs. Of any kind. Not pot, not LSD, not mescaline, not mushrooms, not peyote. I barely even drank. I had no objections to other people using, but I had a fragile enough grasp on reality that I was terrorized at the thought that I could lose it. I spent my time trying to stay grounded, not trying to leave my body.

As you might guess, this made me somewhat of a drag around my friends in San Francisco. It really highlighted a chasm between us. Not only did they love any kind of mind altering drugs, they were also very politically involved in anti-war activities.  I was just trying hard to study and write papers. On the other hand, they were facing the draft and I wasn’t.

For several reasons, then, that summer brought an end to my romance. And by the time I returned to Cambridge, I was greeted on campus by my former roommate. She announced that since I had broken up with the man in August, they had gotten together in September. I was startled, but accepting. They shared a love of politics and of substances. Probably a better fit. But I had gotten to see Janis Joplin!

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