Today I'm going to tell you about my little corner of the city, the Lower Haight. Most people know Haight Street from the glory days of hippie bands like the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Starship, but that refers to the other end of Haight Street, which is known as the Haight Ashbury neighborhood, aka Upper Haight, or simply The Haight. The area I'm talking about, where I've lived for the last 5 years, is the lesser-known end of the street, which is closer to downtown and is a different neighborhood entirely.
Let me clear up one little thing before I go any further. I've heard Haight Street pronounced a lot of different ways, but the correct way sounds just like HATE. This of course leads to many plays on words for the local business names; there's the Love & Haight deli, the Haight to Wash launderette, and Haight Mail email service. I'd love to open a beauty salon for the sole purpose of calling it Don't Haight Me Because I'm Beautiful.
Though just 18 blocks long, Haight Street has a distinctly different culture as you go from Haight Ashbury to the Lower Haight. While Haight Ashbury is certainly interesting and has some great shops and restaurants, it also has a strong undercurrent of hippie burnout drug culture that is completely distasteful to me (if I filmed a show there, I'd call it Everything I Haight About The 60's). It is also filled with tourists most days of the week, which can be fun, but which also robs the area of the feeling that anyone actually lives there. Lower Haight is more of a locals' neighborhood and is filled with funky little bars, friendly local shopkeepers, and great, cheap restaurants. There aren't any sights or tourist destinations in Lower Haight, but it's a vibrant little neighborhood and is lively from the early morning until the wee hours most days.
Upper Haight: it turns out the obnoxious street kids have been there since the 60's.
On the weekends an older gentleman sells newspapers near Haight and Fillmore, live jazz music spills out the doors of Cafe International, and the outside tables at Cafe du Soleil are packed with people and their dogs. On sunny days the huge front windows of Danny Coyle's pub are thrown open and the chatter and cheers of people watching the game can be heard, as the smell of stale Guinness wafts out to the sidewalk. Mickey's Monkey, an excellent local antique shop, piles furniture out on the sidewalk so you can browse as you walk by (this is how I ended up with my antique Singer sewing machine), and the many medicinal marijuana dispensaries perfume the air with a distinctive odor. Many of the buildings in this area are adorned with interesting street art, and then the whole neighborhood is filled with the beautiful Victorian, Edwardian, and Queen Anne architecture that San Francisco is known for.
Haight Street is one of those places where it seems like anything can happen, and frequently it does. Just a few weeks ago I walked down the street and returned a few moments later to the sight of flashing lights and firetrucks. A Muni bus had taken out a fire hydrant at Haight and Fillmore, and the geyser of water shot up higher than the tops of the buildings and flooded out the entire corner, including the brand new Indian restaurant that had opened only a few days earlier. The opposite corners of the intersection were packed with onlookers (including me), who of course had their cameras and cell phones out to capture the spectacle.
In case you're wondering, Mark and I won't be moving far from this part of the city; our new place is only about a mile from where I live now (and a mere 6 blocks from Mark's), and is an easy walk to either end of Haight Street. I'll leave you with a few more photos of my little corner of San Francisco.
What a Muni bus does when it's not running over fire hydrants.
O'Looney's is one of the louder buildings in the neighborhood, and Molotov's has the cheapest pints on Haight Street.
Cafe International is a relaxed little hangout.
Local color in its various forms.