Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco

I hadn’t been to Haight-Ashbury since 1994, when I was here with my then-boyfriend, later husband, now ex-husband but still good friend.

In 1994 we stayed with a friend’s cousin in an apartment just a few yards from the historic crossroads, an apartment where Janis Joplin used to live. The hoboes on the street claimed to remember where they’d left her stash. But surely, if you can remember the 60’s, you weren’t really there?

I went back there last Friday with Pireeni, a friend from my Oxford days, and now a successful poet living on Castro Street. I’ve been to see her a couple of times since I got here, and both times have arrived at her place a quivering wreck after negotiating the streets of San Francisco.

You’re driving up a street so steep that all you can see is the car bonnet and blue sky, and you’re just praying that the lights don’t change to red. If they do… I haven’t sweated a hill start so much since I passed my driving test 20 years ago.

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