The Orkustra's Story by Bobby Beausoleil San Francisco, 1966. Narrow Victorian façade houses, gaunt and quaint, squeezed together side-by-side like musty books in the library of a lunatic. The roller-coaster streets arranged with about as much apparent forethought as a casual toss in a child's game of pixie sticks, each hilltop offering up it's own unique vista, each vale a haunt of subtle intrigue. Elegant old theaters, dilapidated warehouses, eateries and clubs and coffee houses, places of commerce, places of worship, houses of the holy and the unholy, all gracefully suffering the same kind of slow decay that time and salty sea mists inflict on coastal communities. The noise, the din, an ever-present song: machines and voices, music from windows and doorways, in clubs and concert halls; wavelets lapping at the piers on a wharf, the deep bellow of distant fog horns. Twinkling spires supporting colossal bridges spanning the placid waterways, countless city lights sparkling their reflections on the bay like diamonds, like the stars of galaxies. The fairyland gardens of Golden Gate Park, a living testimonial to the vision and determination of one man, and the wisdom of city fathers who allowed him a free hand to create them out of the wasteland. Cops walking their beat on Haight Street, dressed for another era in dark blue double-breasted coats adorned with rows of shiny brass buttons. Unruly traffic on a confusing disarray of highways and byways; the buzzing hustle of an electric streetcar, the more stately bustle of a clanking trolley. And the people-young and old, rich and poor, sane and senseless, revered and misunderstood, fastidious and unwashed, drunk and sober, stoic and passionate, godless and born again-of every kind and color; a port city's rich and pungent brew of diverse cultures. To one who until just a few months earlier had been in the choking grip of the glitz and stucco squalor of the greater Los Angeles area, being absorbed by the rollicking energy and rich ambiance of San Francisco was like being dipped in mother's milk. It seemed an enchanted place to me. To this day it remains the only city I have ever truly loved. What has this to do with The Orkustra? Quite simply, everything. Only in that brief and unique period in San Francisco's history could a band like The Orkustra have been brought into being, for it was as much an expression of the times and the environment as it was an expression of the collective imaginations of the band's members. My arrival in the San Francisco bay area preceded by a couple of months the otherwise uneventful passage of my eighteenth birthday in the fall of 1965. A young vagabond in colorfully mismatched clothing, less than ten dollars in my pocket, I wandered the area aimlessly at first, all of my hopes for the future resting on my ability to play a few chords and riffs on the Epiphone electric guitar I was packing. Accompanying me was Snofox, a mid-sized white dog of uncertain genealogy, my ever-faithful friend and traveling companion. We stopped for a couple of weeks in Sausalito, and it was nice, but too exclusive and removed from the action. Berkeley was a busy hub of activity, but too collegiate for my tastes, and North Beach reminded me a bit too much of the blinking neon-infested Hollywood Boulevard I had left behind. By a series of happy accidents, we soon found ourselves in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district, and it was just right. At that time, the Haight was a relatively quiet low-rent community, charmingly seedy and run down, very nearly a ghetto in places. Bordered on two sides by Golden Gate Park, and with it's affordable rentals, the area tended to attract aspiring artists and musicians, and their respective camp followers. This was the Haight-Ashbury district as I found it. In altogether too short a time it would undergo a drastic transformation. The Haight Street Merchants Association was already conspiring to make the Haight a thriving-and hence profitable-center of counter-culture activity, and young people were beginning to drift into the area in
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