Doomsday's Children

The entire city of San Francisco braced itself in uneasy anticipation as young people started pouring into the Haight. They came in droves, a ragtag army of tattered pilgrims who'd gone AWOL from the Great Society. Propelled by a gut-level emptiness, they rode the crest of Kerouac's bum romance, searching for kicks or comfort or a spiritual calling--anything that might relieve the burden of nonliving that gnawed at their insides. They believed that it would be like the newspapers said, that somewhere at the other end of the rainbow was Haight-Ashbury, the Capital of Forever, where beautiful people cared for each other, where all would be provided and everyone could do their own thing without being hassled.

But the Haight was hardly a paradise during the so-called Summer of Love. The early days of acid glory had receded into memory along with the pioneering spirit that once sustained the hip community. Things were getting rougher on the street, and a lot of kids left when the vibes got too heavy. Those who remained were quick to learn the meaning of Bob Dylan's adage about the rules of the road having been lodged: "It's only people's games that you got to dodge." Young runaways had a hard time finding a way to earn a living or even a place to sleep. Some took to begging for spare change, but the transient rut didn't hold much in the way of good luck. It was enough just to avoid getting caught in the wicked undertow of the drug scene, which claimed more than a few victims in the Haight. Most of the newcomers were less interested in gleaning philosophic or creative insight than in getting stoned as often as possible. They smoked or swallowed anything said to be a psychedelic, and when the visions grew stale they turned to other drugs, especially amphetamines. That such charms were addictive or potentially lethal mattered little, for the dangers belonged to the future, and the future was a slim prospect at best, too improbable to acknowledge with anything but a shrug. For these people Haight-Ashbury was the last hope. They had nowhere else to go. They were the casualties of the Love Generation. You could see them in the early morning fog huddled in doorways, hungry, sick and numb from exposure, their eyes flirting with vacancy. They were Doomsday's children, strung out on no tomorrow, and their ghostlike features were eerie proof that a black hole was sucking at the heart of the American dynamo.

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An excerpt from Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties and Beyond, by Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain (Grove Press)
Copyright 1985 by Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain
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