Standing at the corner of Haight and Ashbury, I look for hippies, activists, and progressive thinkers covered in tye dye from head to toe. I expect to see nothing less than the manically multi-colored and moderately insane. This is Haight, after all. What else would anyone expect from such a notorious intersection?
But what do I find as the centerpiece of the once capitol of urban counterculture? A Gap clothing store.
Yes, my brothers and sisters of this generation deprived of anything exciting — I find the boring, mundane, and thoroughly mainstream corporate clothing chain, Gap. It sits there, right on the corner, immediately next to the historically coveted street sign declaring to the world that this is Haight Ashbury. Yes, this is the most far out place on the planet. Yes, this is exactly the location where a chain conglomerate such as the Gap could never enter. Or at least it used to be.
How could this have happened? What went wrong? Could Haight Ashbury sell out?
In the 60s, people journeyed to Haight for a number of reasons. Many went for the electric kool-aid and mary jane. Many went for the sheer experience of becoming one with the anti-traditional counterculture. But most went because they wanted to do something, to try something, to be something that was divergent from what everyone else in the world was doing. They wanted to be the most vivid, the most colorful, the most in-your-face, loud group of day-glow progressives on the planet, and they wanted YOU to know that you don’t have to settle for what is standard.
In the 90s and now 00s, we don’t really have a Haight-esque capitol to aim for in such coming of age pilgrimages. We don’t really have an underground scene that is so audacious that the mainstream can’t help but be intrigued. We are officially in the 00s now, and sometimes it’s hard to think that our generation is not much more than just that, just 00. Arriving at Haight Ashbury only to find that formidable Gap, the black hole of color and individuality, has made me become even more discouraged. It seems that no matter how hard we try to be unique, no matter how hard we try to go against the grain of Abercrombie and Starbucks, we will never have a taste of the flavor that so many had before us.
I am occasionally optimistic that it is still possible to defy that which is expected. But such optimism it hard to maintain. I stand silently thinking that maybe things are only going to get worse — that maybe individuality for the sake of individuality is past and is slowly fading away. Hopefully this is just a phase. I pray that the colorless quality permeating my peers is just a fad, like the Haight Ashbury culture seems to have been.
Archived article by Lauren Beene
Red Letter Daze Contributor