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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

What We Found (And Did Not Find) in the Aftermath of 4/20

Posted By on Tue, Apr 21, 2015 at 2:00 PM


click to enlarge KATE FRASER
  • Kate Fraser

By the time I got to Hippie Hill last evening, it was almost 7 p.m. and the crowds were thinning. I’m a very infrequent pot smoker, and missing the real action was almost the point. I wanted to see what Golden Gate Park looked like as the day was winding down.

Supposedly, 10,000 people showed up on a foggy Monday, and although only a small fraction remained by the time I rolled up, the traffic on Fell Street was nightmarish. It was a biggie, though. A friend of mine who lives across the street from Kezar Stadium got a “Special 4/20 Report” from the SFPD Park Station, and people were setting up equipment before the sun came up. I overheard a lot of excited talk about “Haight-Ashbury,” which is a good indicator that lots of people were from out of town.

click to enlarge KATE FRASER
  • Kate Fraser

For all the talk of busting anyone who set up a concession, the cops were surprisingly tolerant. As late as 7:45, vendors were still selling pipes on folding tables, and people were giving away bottles of water (whether out of stoner camaraderie or because they didn’t want to have to carry it out, I don’t know). I’m not suggesting the SFPD turn on the water cannons or anything, but why would anybody take them seriously if they don’t make good on their word? Next year will inevitably be the same, no matter how many neighbors grumble.

But oh man, the garbage. Cleanup crews moved unmolested through the horde, picking up detritus piece by piece even as it was still accumulating, the way you can move among the Borg when they determine that your species isn’t worth assimilating. Even Phil Ginsburg, the head of Rec and Park, was out there, picking up trash.

click to enlarge PETER LAWRENCE KANE
  • Peter Lawrence Kane

And what a lot of trash there was. To be clear, it is definitely everyone’s personal responsibility to pick up after themselves, but human nature is human nature. Every available receptacle was completely overflowing, with recycling neatly piled up beside every blue bin, and that was only a tiny percentage of the total waste, at least some of which is avoidable. The whole point of getting drunk and high is not to care so much about life. You go to the park with friends, sit on a blanket, smoke, hang out, walk around, forget where you were, get distracted — eventually, garbage just piles up and even well-intentioned, considerate people have nowhere left to put it. If there were more cans, or if they’d been emptied more frequently, we’d have a prettier park.

Still, I found some weird stuff. Besides the cigarette butts and beer bottles and McDonald’s wrappers and Solo cups and the Swisher Sweets and the infinite Doritos bags, there were butane cans, half-eaten Jell-O shot cups, Wonder Bread wrappers, Gatorade bottles, and a bunch of Krispy Kreme boxes. I found scratch-off lottery tickets, large bags of ice melting on the grass, olive oil, a prescription bottle of cough syrup (with the label torn), lots of hangers, dozens of business cards for the founder and CEO of Nor Cal weed delivery, piles of salt from a pretzel vendor, thick cardboard boxes like the kind you get at Costco, tarps, blankets, clusters of tamale wrappers, a sign reading “To sober to have talent” [sic], Lunchables, RC Cola, charcoal briquettes, sunglasses, Capri Sun, a camera case, Yoo Hoo, Street Sheets, Sunny Delight, and aluminum baking pans with all manner of sauces, bones, and leftover mac-and-cheese.

click to enlarge PETER LAWRENCE KANE
  • Peter Lawrence Kane

What I did not see were any cans of Red Bull or any other energy drinks, or fights (although allegedly some did break out). There was one white hippie chick arguing with an old Rastafarian, but otherwise it was about as harmonious as it gets when you put thousands of intoxicated young people in one place. We’re talking Bonnaroo-level peace and love here, not a Bay to Breakers-level shitshow. I didn’t see any puking, any crying or public meltdowns, any especially shameless public urination, any off-leash dogs misbehaving, or anyone who needed medical attention. And these people were fucking high as shit. (The party kept going, too. I got on a packed 33-Stanyan at 8:00, and people were openly smoking blunts on the bus.)

But the most conspicuous absence was smartphones. Although Instagram is full of shots of exactly 4:20 p.m. and we all text our friends to make plans, virtually no one was preoccupied by a little screen, oblivious to reality for minutes on end. People came for genuine community, and they got it. That has real value. It might almost be worth a mountain of trash one day a year.

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About The Author

Peter Lawrence Kane

Bio:
Peter Lawrence Kane is SF Weekly's Arts Editor. He has lived in San Francisco since 2008 and is two-thirds the way toward his goal of visiting all 59 national parks.

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