WHERE THE ’60S MAGIC REIGNS

Los Angeles Times - - ROAD TRIPS PLACES TO GO - By An­drew Ben­der

I’d never taken a tour on which the guide ad­dressed the group as “my tribe,” but it felt per­fectly nat­u­ral aboard the Magic Bus, which calls it­self a “trip” into San Francisco’s 1960s-era hip­pie coun­ter­cul­ture.

My friend Adam (a po­lit­i­cally con­ser­va­tive MBA with an un­likely in­ter­est in hip­pie coun­ter­cul­ture) drove in from the burbs, and to­gether we took the two-hour tour be­fore ex­plor­ing San Francisco’s Haight-Ash­bury neigh­bor­hood, the move­ment’s rain­bow-col­ored, tie-dyed epi­cen­ter.

About the only conventional thing about the Magic Bus Tour is the board­ing area amid the main­stream bus tours on Union Square. The bus, run by the lo­cal An­tenna Theater Co., is painted flow­er­power style, and our guide, Serene Rain, was dressed in heart-shaped sun­glasses and flow­ing hip­pie garb. Serene, who lov­ingly called us “my tribe,” passed out yel­low marigolds (for our hair, nat­u­rally) and en­cour­aged us to sing along to record­ings of Jo­plin, San­tana and the Lovin’ Spoon­ful.

As she gave us the low­down on Chi­na­town, the Fi­nan­cial District, Mar­ket Street, the Haight and Golden Gate Park in the ’60s, she urged us to open the bus win­dows, wave, smile and flash peace signs at passersby.

Serene pointed out a ’60s-era phar­macy and lunch counter, which hip­pies had nick­named “the drog­store.” It’s now Mag­no­lia Gas­tropub & Brew­ery, where Adam and I shared a dy­na­mite post-tour brunch: a smoked pas­trami sand­wich with French onion soup for dip­ping, the Hang­town Fry (fried oys­ters along­side eggs scram­bled with ba­con, spinach and caramelized onion, topped with arugula) and house-brewed beers.

We thought we’d made a se­ri­ously wrong turn when we en­tered the Red Vic­to­rian and walked in on a fig­ure-draw­ing class with nude mod­els. But all was in or­der: The Red Vic, in the Haight since 1904, does duty as a B&B, hos­tel, com­mune and gath­er­ing place.

Up­stairs, it was easy to imag­ine by­gone hip­pies in its wain­scoted hall­ways and eclec­ti­cally dec­o­rated pri­vate and shared rooms, most with­out pri­vate bath. Overnight guests might sleep next door to per­ma­nent res­i­dents who or­ga­nize house din­ners, gallery openings and those art classes.

As San Francisco cel­e­brates the 50th an­niver­sary of the Sum­mer of Love, the city is both look­ing back and con­sid­er­ing its present, when gen­tri­fi­ca­tion is a con­stant topic. Amid the Haight’s para­dox­i­cal mix of head shops and hip­ster fash­ions, vin­tage cloth­ing stores and Whole Foods, it was en­cour­ag­ing to find one-of-a-kinds such as Bound To­gether, an an­ar­chist col­lec­tive book­store, and the tie-dye cloth­ing of Jam­min’ on Haight. But per­haps no shop bet­ter em­bod­ies mod­ern San Francisco’s dual per­son­al­ity than Ben & Jerry’s, ef­fort­lessly blend­ing coun­ter­cul­ture and cor­po­rate cul­ture at the very cor­ner of Haight and Ash­bury.

Miles one way from down­town L.A.: 383

Re­sources: Magic Bus Tour, mag icbussf.com; Red Vic­to­rian, www.lat.ms/red­vic­to­rian; Mag­no­lia Gas­tropub & Brew­ery, www .mag­no­li­a­pub.com; Bound To­gether, www.lat.ms/boundto gether; Jam­min’ on Haight, jam mi­non­haight.com

An­drew Ben­der

MAGIC BUS tour guide Serene Rain, left, and driver Tipsy Love f lash peace signs.

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