cover image My Summer on Haight Street

My Summer on Haight Street

Robert Rice Jr. . Fox Point, $14.99 paper (288p) ISBN 978-0-615-76758-1

Rice provides an informed, if surface, glimpse at the turmoil of 1967 as three young Milwaukee men ponder their future amid the escalating Vietnam War. To narrator Bob Ralston, reviewing events as he prepares for retirement, the Summer of Love in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury was irresistibly alluring. Straight-arrow John Haus enlists in the army, while Jim Gaston opts for the alternative lifestyles of a commune and ashram. Ralston's initial enthusiastic embrace of San Francisco becomes tempered by exposure to radical ideologues. Along with the diverse paths the three friends take, Rice weaves a mosaic of Vietnam violence, radical bombings, and FBI vigilance, with side glimpses at such onetime cultural figures as Timothy Leary. Forced, in a somewhat contrived incident, to choose between the dominant culture and the counterculture, Ralston opts to follow his convictions rather than his fears. Rice's handling of his complex subject evokes the anguished arguments of the times, while adroitly avoiding simplistic conclusions. This look at a bygone era will provide period survivors some reminiscent moments, while offering a kind of abbreviated tour to those interested in a time when things could seriously be described as "groovy."