There were times I thought I'd be killed. The world was full of teeth and claws and benevolent violence. Some days were beautiful, when I was alone and not in a city. In 1965 I was sent by the large auto parts company I worked for to Northern California to assist a district manager that had taken a header off the front of his motorcycle and fractured both his forearms. The company was mid-60's conservative, on the opposite side from the Movement, and since I was the youngest rep and viewed as somewhat of a loose cannon I was the logical choice to go down and lend a hand. On weekends I drove in from Lodi to San Francisco to have a look. I'd heard the names Kesey, Brautigan, Ginsberg, wasn't really familiar with their Message. And there I was on Broadway under the shadow of Big Al's flashing neon with the fabled Jazz Workshop right across the street. The marquee announced Ahmad Jamal would be there that night. The new guy Jamal who had blasted right to the top of the jazz charts would be right there, tonight, in person.
I wandered around in my white shirt, slacks, short hair and black loafers, watched people dressed very differently, smiling, smiling at Me! I walked a few paces and entered a bar, ordered a drink. About five minutes later a beautiful girl sat down next to me. Smiled. We talked. She said she had to go but promised to be back, and after she left another beautiful girl sat down. And smiled. I made two dates as I recall, not knowing then that they were on break from the strip joint two doors down, but no matter, I liked them and also met a couple guys there too and got so hung up talking and watching people time just hung there, in the cordage smoke from their cigarettes and my amazement. My reflection in storefront windows was an alien image compared to the ones close by talking quietly, t-shirts and coveralls, long hair moving in the breeze. Young Jamal came out and said "Good Evening," looking right at me, played three sets without accompaniment, alone at the piano, lost in it, and so were we.
There was palpable peace in North Beach then, in the middle of all that humanity from everywhere in the country, violence simply wasn't on the menu. In that place and others, for a short, fragile time, you could imagine a world of Peace.