Herb had a VW van. The ultimate of Hippy transpiration. There was a driveway at the side of the Unicorn that led to a double garage and some backyard space. It was wide enough for the van to clear with an inch on either side, and Herb would shoot down it at 30 MPH. Scared the shit out of me the first time I took that ride.
I was tripping with a friend one time, Jack Tuttle. I’d been in the Army with him in East Africa. Jack was new at the drug and started getting very paranoid. I started getting very paranoid about his getting very paranoid, so I called Herb although I didn’t really know him all that well. He came and picked us up and drove us to the beach—the ocean. It was beautiful . . . the waves, the sound of surf. Jack calmed down right away and started getting philosophic. “Some say that life began in the sea....” Stuff like that. Herb was like that. He’d go out of his way to help a person if he could.
Herb let people crash in a small loft that was over the entrance as you came in. One long timer sleeping there was an artist. He began painting the ceiling . . . on his back, on a jury rigged scaffolding. He was good, it was wonderful work. Took him months to do and was masterpiece. You could get lost in it. The bathroom walls contained some good poetry. I remember one about a guy awake, late at night, candle burning, girlfriend asleep in his bed . . . a siren in the distance. Wish I’d wrote it down. I think I did, but long gone now.
The Unicorn itself was gone after a few years. The Haight got really rough in the late 60’s. Lots of crime. More than one storefront on Haight Street got boarded up with plywood. Cops arresting people every day. I saw them cuff a guy who was carrying a flute with a lead pipe inside it. I had two motorcycles stolen. Guys would sneak though any apartment they could get into, trying doorknobs. My door’s center pane was frosted glass. One night, around 3:30 AM I woke up and saw a silhouette cast by a hall light on my glass. I kept a Colt 1911 45 auto by the bed. Sat up and held it thinking well, if he comes in I’ll turn the light on and the gun will back him off. If not, it’s loaded. Thank God the door was locked. I have digressed again.
One day the Unicorn was closed—no warning. Later it became a little Asian grocery store. I lost track of Herb for a while, then rediscovered him months later. He had opened up a little restaurant on Mission Street, south or Market. Organic food, and tea. Another funky, homey sort of place. Good food. Herb was with another girl, much younger than himself, but you could he cared about her and was good to her. I forget the name of the place. Then it too disappeared, well actually it was Herb and the girl who disappeared. The little restaurant was been run by someone else. I ran into Herb a month or so later and asked him what had happened.
There was a gang called, Tribal Thumb, ex-cons released from San Quentin.
“They told me to get out, or get hurt . . . bad,” Herb told me. “And I did.”
“Why didn’t you contact the police?” I asked.
“They don’t care—a little hippy place like mine. Nobody cares.”
That was the last I ever saw him. Haven’t thought about him in a long time, but remembering now. He was an interesting guy.
I wonder where he is today.