Esther Tela Free speaks

You woke me up


Fast forward to May of 1996.I spent much more time up on haight street then at the apartment and got to know the kids there. One of them being “manny the hippie” who ended up on letterman. We dated for a few weeks, maybe 2 months, he smacked me once, I dumped him, and he dumped me again after we got back together and then he got famous. The show aired on a Monday and he dumped me on a tuesday. It was pretty devestating but that night I went with Joe and his brothers to a Box Set show were I met Liam,who ended up becoming a very good friend and marrying and starting a family with another good friend of mine. karma I suppose . Ii got asked to house sit for a friend of mine in the city. Joe and i lived in menlo park which was 30 miles south of san fran so I took her up on the offer to house sit for a week..and ended up never going back to the apartment until years later. I just couldnt stand the what was going on at our apartment. I couldn’t figure out why Joe was being such a total prick and not paying me back the money he owed and i didnt know what to do. I ended up inviting vinnie and drew whom i had actually met back when i was dating manny, over to the house. It was a very intense night as Drew spent that first 24 hours completely withdrawling from heroin. Everything between puking his guts out, screaming in absolute pain to massive diahrrea happened but he was not strong enough and by the afternoon of the next day he snuck out and got himself a fix. Drew and I had a connection that was strong for many years, but we never started a relationship because he was a 3 needle a day heroin junky. He told me later on that he didnt want to put that habit onto me as well..even though it already was…those 2 guys took care of me.I was a sheltered little girl at that point, homegrown in the tight assed suburbs of detroit. i didnt know what else to do.i was kinda stuck between a rock and a hard place since i really didnt know anyone who could help me because besides them, Joe and this girl whom I barely knew and Liam were the only 3 people I knew in that entire big city.I could have always gone back to michigan with my mother,but who at 21/22 wants to go back home to mom?. Only a strong person willing to admit defeat would do that smart thing which i was not at the time, so the first 2 weeks of june i spent sleeping every night in golden gate park with vinnie, drew and me. A happy little family of three. Every night I would fall asleep to the chirping of the birds, the sounds of small animals in the bushes, brush and trees and of course the star or two that would peak through the bright San Francisco lights. We would park the jeep in the free spots off to one side of Golden Gate Park and then hike back to the tree where we had dropped off our gear and either vinnie or drew. Neither one of them would ever let me be alone. I was safe as long as I was with them because they were ‘known’ I was starting to get ‘known’ simply because I had a car. Most of the kids that were there were either flat out from the suburbs and faking it or a full on runaway, which I guess in a way I was even though I was 22 at this point. We would wake up and roll up our packs and sleeping bags and slowly make our way to the jeep. We would put our stuff away and pull out our toothbrushes and make ourselves somewhat clean. The next stop was the Chevron bathroom which was the only public bathroom in the main part of the haight. There was always a chance of finding a dirty hypo or even a passed out junky in there but I always just needed to go potty. Loading back up in the jeep, heading out towards the higher haight, we would eat our breakfast of pork chow fun. It was usually the only meal of the day, unless vinnie found something that was edible in the trash cans, and we would swing nugs and walk up and down the street. 3 times a day we would go to the mission and score some heroin for drew and every night we would go back to our tree in the park. June 14th came. I remember the date so clearly because the remaining members of the grateful dead played as a group for the first time since jerry had died, andthe city was crawling with all sorts of deadheads. Right before we were going to head up to the show, one of our regular customers came up and said hey kids, the cops have been taking pictures of you for a couple days now. I never actually exchanged money with customers,but would hold the pot for Drew,who would do the exchange. I was still part of it. Not a minute after our buddy walked away, the car full of undercover cops (us kids who didn’t really have a home to go home to knew what the undercovers looked like. in some instances, even knew their names. They came to care about us in a way even though they could never catch us doing anything illegal in front of them. We knew where every camera was, and which fake hippie was in fact john, or joe. We would walk down one of t he streets that had 2 cameras and point directly at them and laugh. The undercovers had been trying for years to catch Drew in the act but he was so good at eluding the cops. While walking out of the local grocery store, they would stop us and ask us how we were doing. Even thought their job was to catch us, they really seemed to have this small bit of a heart and care of us in the same tone. Almost like a father figure type role at these times. The car drove up where we were standing and they gotout of the car and went into the convinence store there. We all turned around and walked off haight street. That was the last time I ever made the forray into illegal activities. My mom must have done something right because it was definitely a path I could’ve ended up going down and thankfully did not.I have been back to Haight Street many times now that almost 10 years have passed. The most recent time, just this past year with my husband. He had never been there and with my background, being there as a tourist, I could show him a lot of things that the average person who lived there might not know. I also decided that it is a lot better then being there as a street kid.

After this close call it was decided that we should probably get out of town and the most appealing thing to all of us was to go on Furthur Tour. There was a large group of musicians, Bruce Horsnby, Mickey Hart, Bobby Wier, that were all invited to play in this day long festival type tour. It was only one day long, but was playing in many cities across the states. Jerry was gone, and phish tour didn’t start till later on in the summer so this Furthur thing was the obvious choice. The guys were doing their thing, but I was making hemp jewelry and using my culinary tour skills to make hot fatty grilled cheese to make money. I had decided since the almost bust to go legal and stay legal when it came to making money. A lot of people I knew on tour supported themselves by selling drugs, but I was not going to loosen my morals and stoop to that level. I was happy with the choice to go on this tour because after all, I am a deadhead always.
“hey..lets go up to portland oregon. I know where to get food and where to sleep and we can make some cash on stark street” Vin said.
“sure” I said.
“sure” said Drew.


March 10, 2007 - Posted by | 1996, california, deadhead, drew, haight ashbury, heroin, karma, liam, san francisco

1 Comment »

  1. Hello

    Great book. I just want to say what a fantastic thing you are doing! Good luck!


    Comment by tovorinok | July 5, 2007

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