High Times Greats: ‘It Happened In The Haight’ By Cookie Mueller

For the May, 1986 edition of High Times, Cookie Mueller relived the moment when San Francisco’s magic turned to madness.

To celebrate the March 2 birthday of underground icon Dorothy Karen “Cookie” Mueller (1949 – 1989), we’re bringing you her story “It Happened In The Haight,” which appeared in the May, 1986 issue of High Times.

The following story takes place in Haight-Ashbury in 1967. It is a sample day from the period based on my personal experiences. The facts are exactly as I remember them. Nothing is exaggerated.

The golden age of the Haight did not last long. Late in 1968, a new element appeared in the neighborhood. Unlike the high-minded peace-lovers who founded the community, the new arrivals were sub-intelligent, violent, sleazo types who carried guns, stole drugs, and raped girls. Heroin appeared on street corners where there previously used to be free LSD. The street got ugly.

The few hippies who remained decided to form a vigilante squad—their own police force actually—but this didn’t work too well. Eventually the slime took over and the place got really low-down. One of my friends put it this way:

“Remember when you walked down Haight Street and everybody was smiling and bright? There was actually a light around these people, a bright aura. When the sleazos moved in, the first thing I noticed was the darkness around them, their gloomy auras. The neighborhood got dirty. There was garbage and broken whiskey bottles all over the place. One couldn’t go barefoot anymore. One couldn’t even live there anymore. It wasn’t safe.”

At first glance one might not be able to tell the difference between the new sleazos and the hippies. Both groups had long hair. Both were of all races. But the new group was so unlike the former. There was something in the eyes, something in the faces, something rough, uncivilized, brutish, bitter. They looked the way a German Shepherd does after being kicked for many years…all scarred up and potentially lethal. Charlie Manson is a perfect example of the type I’m trying to describe.

Anyway, it all died in 1968. Even the tourist buses stopped coming. I’ve heard the Haight is nice again…different, of course, but nice. Even so, the spirit of that era can never be duplicated. It was a very special time in history. There was a sense of communal movement, a feeling of oneness with everyone. I’m glad I was part of it.

Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco, California, 1967; Near Easter

An earthquake woke me and rolled me off the mattress onto the floor. It was nothing too unusual considering the San Andreas fault. All the buildings along Page Street were crooked from past tremors. This one was 4.6 on the Richter scale and struck at the uncivilized hour of 10 a.m.

It was too early to get up, but I decided I couldn’t sleep any longer in the same bed with this person who I liked just fine yesterday when we liberated two T-bone steaks from the Safeway Supermarket—which we cooked and ate, much to the disgust of the vegetarians I lived with. After the steaks we drank a gallon of cheap Napa Sonoma red wine and dropped Owsley purple barrels. But now he was sweating too much in bed, staining the one sheet I owned with all that wasted power from his pores. It meant he couldn’t hold his liquor or his drugs, which irritated me so much I had to escape.

I went to the bathroom quietly so I wouldn’t wake the eleven people I lived with. My roommates were spread out among five bedrooms, one of which was a glassed-in porch off a kitchen that overlooked a dismal cement courtyard. We shared this courtyard with another building where Janis Joplin lived. On some mornings I could see Janis rattling her pots and pans in her kitchen and sometimes we talked across the concrete abyss like housewives.

After I put on my eye-makeup (a throwback to the time when I teased and bleached my hair—no one else wore eye-makeup in the Haight…an occasional dayflower or third eye on the forehead perhaps, but definitely no eye-makeup), I went out on Haight Street looking for something novel. The first thing I saw was a school bus painted black with the words HOLYWOOD PRODUCTIONS (one “L” was missing in Hollywood) scrawled in gold by what appeared to be a retarded person. A tall, hambonish-looking guy was sitting on the bus stairs. He had nicotine stains on his index finger. I asked him for a cigarette. “No cigarettes,” he said, “but why don’t you come in and smoke a joint with us?”

I followed him in and sat down among paisley throw pillows, bare mattresses, and hanging sand candles. The interior was painted sky blue with splashes of red. Five or six girls were lounging around inside. They looked my age, but seemed younger. Maybe it was their dull eyes, maybe it was their girly prattle, but they seemed like dumb, happy ducks quacking at each other and I immediately felt superior to them. There was something missing here, faulty brain synapses, low wattage cerebral electrolights, maybe. One of the girls asked, “Would you like to join us? We’re traveling up and down the coast in this bus.” Everyone thought it was a good idea if I joined them. I thought it was rather sudden, but these kids were just weaned from Wonderbread and Cheese Doodles into free love and peace. They were disgustingly enthusiastic.

I tried to picture myself traveling “up and down the coast” with them but my blood turned cold. “I don’t think so,” I said. “I have a flat here with eleven other people and I’m sort of set up, you know? What’s the situation on this bus? I mean, how many of you are there?”

“There’s eight right now. Six girls and two guys. You should really wait for Charlie to come back from the store before you decide. He’s the one to talk to. He’s really far out and spiritual. He’s in there buying oranges for us.” She pointed to the Korean fruit store. I decided not to wait, so I thanked them for the joint and left looking for a diversion from this bunch. (It wasn’t until years later while reading “The Family” that I remembered that bus. It was described in the book exactly as I remembered it. Those girls were Susan Atkins, Squeaky Fromm, Mary Brunner, etc., and I missed meeting Charlie by five minutes.)

Next, I noticed a group of women gathered on the sidewalk. I thought this was odd since it was long before the days when women felt it was their duty to exclude men in their conversations. As I got closer, I realized the blonde in the center of the group was extolling the virtues of Jimi Hendrix, after having fucked him the night before. It all seemed pretty silly to me since I’d fucked him the night before she had.

I moved on to Golden Gate Park. As usual, the sky over Hippie Hill was dark with frisbees, kites, and sea gulls. Hundreds of hippies’ dogs were barking and walking on the people laying on the grass. The air was thick with the smell of marijuana, patchoulie oil, jasmine incense and Eucalyptus trees. The music was deafening. Black guys were playing congos; white guys were playing flutes, harmonicas, and guitars. It was as crowded as Coney Island on the Fourth of July. Hippie Hill was like this every day of the week.

I ran into some friends and sat around drinking wine. Around noon I stopped back at 1826 Page Street. An acid capping party was in progress. It was the sort of party that only happened where an acid dealer lived. The object of the party was to put acid powder into gelatin capsules, but since the acid assimilated through the skin, everyone got pretty high. Consequently, the party usually went on in shifts and when someone got too stoned to continue, another person would take their place. So when Kirk, one of my roommates, dropped out, I slipped into his place in front of a large mound of white powder. After filling around 300 capsules, I decided I was quite high enough. Someone took my place and I went back out on the street.

I walked down Page Street, which runs parallel to Haight. The sidewalk was lined with dealers and hippies. The acid was beginning to take effect, so I dropped into a Catholic church to cool down. The doors were open, probably because it was close to Easter. The church was empty except for an old lady sitting in a pew who didn’t notice me. The altar was tastefully decorated in purple and gold. The atmosphere was peaceful.

Since I wasn’t raised Catholic, the confessional fascinated me. I looked into every booth. There were booths on both sides of the priest’s box, but the priest’s box looked the best. It had a velvet armchair and gold and purple raiments hung over the backrest. The booth was bathed in blue light. It looked so comforting on acid…a great spot to sit for a while, I thought, so white and holy. I wasn’t a Catholic so it wasn’t a sacred spot to me. I didn’t know one wasn’t allowed inside. I was tripping my brains out and I think even if I had been a Catholic, it wouldn’t have mattered. I went in, sat down and decided to stay until I stopped peaking on the acid.

A minute later, the door opened. A man entered and quickly closed the door. We were cramped in the narrow, tiny space. He had glasses and short hair, which immediately led me to mistrust him. (In those days, the longer the hair, the more versed one was in the scene.) He was shaking like a chihuahua in a snow storm. I thought he must be a custodian and expected him to discreetly ask me to leave. Instead, he fell on his knees. His glasses fogged up. He began sweating. He wasn’t an employee, just a pervert and no greater fantasy could have been his fortune than to discover a stoned, hippie chick in his confessional box.

The acid rendered me pure and guileless, so I didn’t recognize a sexual deviant. I just didn’t think about sex on LSD. I felt more like a flaccid fungus, inhuman and unphysical.

‘‘Let me eat you,” he said in a barely audible voice. ‘‘Please, let me eat you.”

Even on acid, when the strange is accepted, I thought it rather odd and unbecoming for a supposedly religious man to be saying such things. Perhaps it was a hallucination. Where did this guy materialize from? He wasn’t in the church when I came in. I said something like, “No, my son, but you’re forgiven. Please leave me now to my prayers and solace.” But he wouldn’t leave. He grabbed my shoulders and tried to hold me down. By sheer adrenaline force, I managed to push him off, jump over him and run out the door, past the pews and back into the eye-damaging sunlight of the street.

A flatbed truck came lumbering toward me, carrying amplifiers, guitars, drums, a group of hippies and THE GRATEFUL DEAD. I must have looked shaken for they stopped, extended a hand, and pulled me onboard. Suddenly, we were on our way to San Quentin to give a free concert for the prisoners. Not much happened out there, but the prisoners liked it.

By the time I reached home, everyone was shooting heroin to come down from the acid capping party. I helped myself to some and laid down for a bit.

A friend named Patrick, who I hadn’t seen for a while, woke me up and urged me to visit his new guru, Anton LaVey, America’s foremost demonologist and devil worshipper. It sounded interesting, so I went.

First, however, we had to stop at Patrick’s sister’s house to borrow her car. She was having what appeared to be a sit-down dinner for a bunch of Indians. However it turned out it wasn’t a dinner at all, but an authentic peyote ceremony. Her husband, a full-blood Sioux chief, was presiding while four other Indians munched on peyote buttons. We ate some and they asked us to return the next day so we could all drink each other’s urine and get high all over again. I thanked him and promised to return, but I kept thinking how inappropriate it was—all these Sioux Indians sitting in Patrick’s sister’s high-rise, pre-fab apartment performing an ancient ritual that should have been done on the plains and under the stars. It was a sad sight, those red men in polyester outfits sitting on plastic chairs. What would their ancestors have thought?

When we got to LaVey’s house, which was painted black, all of it, down to the drainpipes and Victorian woodwork, Patrick asked me to sit in the living room and wait for him to return. It’s not easy to frighten me, it never has been, but this place was definitely spine-chilling. LaVey entered wearing velvet robes. He seemed surprisingly cordial and human. He brought some sort of liquid for me to drink. Patrick returned carrying a bag. LaVey nodded to Patrick and left.

“We’re going to have some fun now, Cookie,” he said. “We’re going to Mount Tamapious to evoke one of Beelzebub’s footmen. Whataya say?”

It was fine with me. I was pretty sure LaVey was a fraud supported by naive fools like Patrick…although…at the same time I couldn’t dismiss the creepy feeling I got inside the house.

As we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, Patrick told me he had personally performed a black ceremony that resulted in the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper strike. I decided Patrick was nuts.

The summit of Mount Tamapious was entirely too dark. There was hardly a moon that night and the trees, rocks, even my own feet beneath me were frighteningly distorted. Maybe the knowledge this spot had been a sacred Indian burial ground had something to do with my sudden fears.

Patrick opened his bag and produced a blood-stone talisman, a jar of blood, a black handled knife, a bag of herbs, the hooves of a goat and a black book. He scratched two nine foot circles and a pair of pentacles in the dirt. After seeing this, I began suspecting Patrick might be dangerous. I knew enough from books about the black arts to know when someone was serious.

It got so dark that the edge of the mountain disappeared and the earth beneath my feet was no longer visible. Patrick told me to stand in the middle of the circle. He said I would be okay since this was the protected spot. I thought, if this was the protected spot, then why wasn’t Patrick standing there with me? But I stepped inside the circle anyway and Patrick began reading from his black book. Just as I was beginning to relax, sure this was all ridiculous, I heard something with little feet running toward us from the distance, screeching with a voice that was half human, half bird. It was definitely not imaginary. For what seemed like a light year, I tried to categorize the sound…but fear overtook reason. I felt my body go ashen as the thing got closer. The little hairs on my body rose and waved like a wheatfield in the wind. For the first time, I knew the feeling of one’s hair standing on end. I looked at Patrick, who was obviously not in command of the situation. He looked like someone being disemboweled.

If this was a test of courage, I lost. If this was a ritual for human sacrifice with me as the victim, I won because I didn’t wait around to find out. I couldn’t stand it. No one with a shred of sanity would have been able to stand there.

So I left Patrick to his evil deed, left him in the dust the way a roadrunner would. I ran faster than I ever had in my life, probably crossed paths with the footman himself, jumped into the car, took the keys from under the floor mat and tore down the side of the mountain, tires squealing around the narrow precarious curves, gunning it full blast to the Golden Gate Bridge. When I finally saw the bridge lights (fear had altered my vision), the superstructure was melting and the houses on the other side were disintegrating. I wanted to scream to the passersby but they looked shockingly inhuman. The road rose and fell like storm swells in the sea. I was sure someone or something was in the back seat behind me.

When I got home, I leapt out of the car and ran inside so scared that everyone was horrified (most of them were on STP and THC). They calmed me down and soon we were back in Patrick’s sister’s car and on our way to Winterland to see Jim Morrison and distribute the Blue Cheer acid that had gone through the laundry by accident, since that’s where Susan had stashed it the day before. Mark hadn’t known it was there and washed the whole load (about $400 worth of the stuff) with the detergent Cheer. Now the whole batch of acid was Blue Cheer and Cheer combined. We planned to give it away free, providing, of course, people didn’t mind the accompanying side effects of the detergent.

Jim Morrison was good, as usual, and so was the acid. We even handed a lump of the goo to him on stage and he happily ate it. After the concert, we left to smoke opium at home, leaving Kathy and Eve to go backstage to fuck Morrison. While smoking the opium and listening to KMPX (the best radio station at the time), we heard an unfamiliar song. I was elected, since we didn’t have a phone, to go out into the three o’clock morning and call KMPX to get the title of the song.

While I was in the phone booth, a black man with short hair (again) walked up and stood behind me. I thought perhaps he was waiting to use the phone, but no, when I finished, I found he was waiting for me.

“How do you like Stokely Carmichael?” he asked.

“I don’t care one way or the other about him, really,” I said, unsure of the relevance of the question.

“Would you like to meet him?” he asked.

“Not really, not right now. It’s a little late don’t you think?” I answered.

But he drew a gun from inside an Iceberg Slim book. I looked around feebly for help. There was none.

“Come with me and we’ll meet him,” he said.

We never did.

Actually, it would have been nicer to meet him because it turned out this was rape. It wasn’t even done well and he was stupid to boot, just like the young girls on the Manson bus. But he did give me a musical jewelry box from his trunk and I ingeniously cajoled him to drive me back to my neighborhood by telling him I had wall-to-wall carpeting, air-conditioning, a huge color tv set, and heroin waiting for him. When we got into the neighborhood, I saw a few big hippies walking by and flung the door open. Clutching the music box, I threw myself out of the moving car. The hippies pounced on the car and pulled the guy out. I guess he thought they were going to beat him up, but hippies didn’t do that sort of thing. They believed in messing up minds instead of bodies. I felt sort of sorry for the guy because he wasn’t real bright, so I knew he was scared.

When I got home, a bit shaken once again, everybody was shooting crystal methadrine. They got upset for a minute when I told them the rape story. Kirk asked me why I was the one to have all the fun. I told him I was the lucky one, but I didn’t feel lucky. I felt slightly ajar.

They offered me some meth and we ushered in the dawn talking about aesthetics and Far Eastern spiritualism. We recorded the conversation—not realizing what seemed like earth shattering insights on Methedrine would sound foolishly cyclical the next day.

But it was already the next day…time for me to go back out on Haight Street and get lucky again.

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