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The Other Side of Haight: A Novel

The Other Side of Haight: A Novel

by James Fadiman

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Set during the infamous "summer of love" of the 1960s, THE OTHER SIDE OF HAIGHT is the story of how lives converged in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco for three short but explosive months. A motley crew of dreamers join together in a psychedelic world of drugs, sex, and idealism. As housemates Shadow Dancer and Sweeps innocently come of age and


Set during the infamous "summer of love" of the 1960s, THE OTHER SIDE OF HAIGHT is the story of how lives converged in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco for three short but explosive months. A motley crew of dreamers join together in a psychedelic world of drugs, sex, and idealism. As housemates Shadow Dancer and Sweeps innocently come of age and explore all that San Francisco has to offer, a government experiment involving LSD spins out of control. The two stories collide with tragic results, impacting each character in profound ways. Fadiman's intimate, enthralling narrative is rich with historical detail and successfully conjures up a tumultuous time in America's past.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Filled with characters so clean and clear I thought of them as friends, forgotten friends, from a long-lost landscape." -Ken Kesey (Yes, THE Ken Kesey) Bestseller Fiction List for Southern California the week of 2/25/01. "A colorful slice of the psychedelic spirit."-Los Angeles Times

Product Details

Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.83(w) x 8.81(h) x 0.96(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Wrong side of the border

The human soul needs actual beauty
even more than bread.

D. H. Lawrence

October 1, 1966
San Francisco

Some mornings, when Sweeps walked to work stoned, the Haight seemed like a ghost town and depressed him. Today, however, walking the empty streets under a sky still pearl gray with early light, his only concern was what to do with Canada Frank.

    Frank had been living in the cellar for more than a week, and refused to leave it except to eat. Hiding from his draft board, he told them. But he was Canadian. Sweeps had met guys evading the draft who passed through the Haight on their way to Canada, but never the other way around. Something had turned Canada Frank's brains into scrambled eggs.

    Inside the ballroom, it was so quiet that all Sweeps could hear was the hiss of his dust mop sliding along the wood floor and the rustle of paper and other scraps bouncing along in front of the mop head. Noticing a partly smoked joint, he bent down, picked it up and slid it gently into his right pants pocket.

    He shook his mop out through a low window into the alley Gray and brown dust mixed with face powder, body-paint flakes, pot seeds and specks of tobacco to form a multicolored cloud that drifted down onto the cracked pavement. Sweeps pulled the mop back in and continued to plough his way up and down the floor, creating a clean stripe on every pass.

    He picked up a dime from behind a chair leg andputit in his left pocket. He'd tell Frank that it was safe to come over here. It would be good for Frank to get out. He could watch Sweeps work. "In the morning," he'd tell him, "the fuzz and the folks are all deep asleep."

    Sweeps thought it was bizarre to hide from the wrong army on the wrong side of the border. He didn't like to think about what he went through to dodge his draft call. A raucous chorus of "Onward Christian Soldiers" struck up inside his head. He focused on moving the mop to shut out the unwelcome music.

* * *

It took three days to cajole Frank out of the cellar. Sweeps put piles of soap boxes and rags into a pair of buckets. He told Frank that without his help, it would take an extra trip to get all the stuff over there. "Just carry one damn bucket!" he said. Frank hesitated. Only when Moonflower put her arms around him and said, "No helpee, no eatee," did Frank finally agree.

    All the way over, Frank kept looking behind him, double-checking every moving car. As they entered the ballroom, he was still shaking his head back and forth and talking to himself After prowling through the whole building, Frank perched on the edge of a chair far from the doors, his hands stuffed into his pockets and legs pressed together, his eyes tracking the moving mop. Sweeps saw how the mop's gliding motion began to tow Frank's mind along like a dinghy behind a sailboat. Eventually, Frank slid back in the chair and seemed to unwind a little.

    From time to time, Sweeps looked over, wondering if Frank would ask for a turn like girls almost always did when he brought them along. Sweeps jabbed at a piece of gum stuck to the floor. Taking out his pocket knife, he scraped it up and uncovered a nickel. He cut away the dried gum and flashed the coin at Frank before putting it in his pocket. Frank gave Sweeps a little high sign with his thumb.

    Sweeps pulled an almost perfect joint out from under a chair cushion. It smelled of perfume. Some college dolly too scared to smoke. He rolled the joint back and forth between his thumb and first finger. No seeds or stems—first-class stuff.

    As they walked back, Sweeps asked Frank where he'd come from. After looking around to see if anyone was nearby, Frank spoke in a very low voice. "There are lots of small islands off Vancouver. Some have villages, some just a few houses. A few got no people at all. I hid on one after I run away from the hospital. In the mornings I'd go down to the beach with a knife."

    "What for?"

    "Oysters! Low tide. Pry them loose, cut 'em open. Spit on 'em. Ones that squirm, you eat. They taste salty, feel like slime. When you bite down, the insides mix with the muscle—that's mostly what they are."

    Sweeps suppressed a shudder.

    "I'd stand there in water up to my ankles and eat two dozen. Carry me most of the day

    "Saw an owl one night—big-eyed mother. Scared the pee out of me. That night I was afraid even to build a fire. But I knew I could find enough berries and—" Suddenly Frank stopped and pointed. "Look!"

    A man wearing a dark overcoat and matching hat was getting out of a cab in front of a three-story Victorian four or five houses away. The doorway moldings were sharply outlined in blue and white trim, and the top floor windows were rose- and lavender-tinted stained glass. The driver unloaded a large leather suitcase and a matching smaller one from the trunk. The man paid his fare and the cab pulled away

    Sweeps whistled through his teeth. "That's no hotel. It's a cat house."

    "It's Langwater," Frank said in a hushed voice. He shrank behind Sweeps into the shallow doorway of the Print Mint. When the door of the Victorian opened, the man picked up his suitcases and went inside.

    "Hey, man, he's gone," Sweeps said. "He's come to get a piece of ass, but not yours."

    Frank remained frozen.

    "Oh, come on." Sweeps reached out his hand.

    Frank bolted past Sweeps like a greyhound coming out of the gate. "I never should have come with you," Frank hollered over his shoulder. "I'm fucked, royally fucked! He's come to take me back."

    Back in the house, Frank made straight for the cellar and locked himself in. Sweeps hung up his cleaning tools and went to his own room. He ducked his head going through the low doorway and waved at the Ted Williams poster on the far wall that proclaimed:

If you don't think too good,
don't think too much.

He lifted the worn copy of the I Ching off his pillow and lay on his mattress, staring up at the small sloping window. Frank is truly crazy. If we'd left a minute later, nothing to sweat about. But what do I know, maybe anything would have set him off.

* * *

In the cellar, Canada Frank whimpered. He struggled against the nurse giving him the injection. The other nurses stood around his bed laughing. One pointed to his penis, which was getting smaller and smaller. He tried to reach for it but found that they'd strapped him down. He wanted to scream but didn't. He was afraid Dr. Langwater would hear him and punish him again.

* * *

In the living room of the Victorian, David Langwater, M.D. met with the assembled research team. He did not hide his displeasure with the rate of progress or his irritation with the staff's defensiveness.

* * *

Two days later, Nitrous Eddie ran up the stairs. "Up! Up!" he shouted. "Spring has sprung. Eden has returned to River City. There is an excess of joy in Mudville! Arise, you louts and loutesses. See the day that God hath wrought."

    Behind her closed door, Moonflower shouted, "Eddie, shut the fuck up."

    "Our house is our castle. Home is where the heart is. The family that smokes together jokes together."

    Sweeps pulled his door open. Eddie was hopping back and forth on the landing. "Eddie, for god's sake, what is it?"

    "You don't know? You really don't." Eddie stopped his dance and looked at Sweeps. "Canada Frank has crept out—to find himself a new paranoid haven. We are free of his dark cloudness. Also his piggy appetite."

    "You sure?" Sweeps barely concealed a yawn.

    "Would I trouble my friends with a will-o'-the-wisp rumor? Would I lie? Scratch the second question. His hideout is bare. Not a trace that he sucked upon us—not a matchstick, nor a gum wrapper, probably not a fingerprint."

    From behind her door Moonflower said, "Hip, hip, hooray. Now shut up or I'll have your balls for breakfast."

    Eddie scampered downstairs. "Yes, my big-breasted thrush," he called. "I hear and obey." He ran down the hall and into the living room, yipping cheerfully to himself.

Meet the Author

JAMES FADIMAN, Ph.D., is an adjunct full professor at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto, California. His numerous articles have appeared in the Island News, PanGaia, Sufi Magazine, Palo Alto Weekly, and Perspective.

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