Late one morning in the winter of 1970, when Mare Abidon was a young woman of thirty, with blond hair that streamed down her back, she stood outside her San Francisco apartment holding a cardboard box and prepared to say good-bye. The box in her arms brimmed with the remnants of the life she was leaving behind, and all the lives that came before that: art supplies from school, horn jewelry purchased on the street in India, and batik granny dresses from her years in the Haight. Len was waiting in his truck nearby. Brooding Len with the dark beard and strong arms, who had made Mare’s heart skip a beat the first time she laid eyes on him years ago at the post office.
Instead of feeling melancholy about the life she was leaving behind, Mare was brimming with excitement. The Beast, Len’s old green Chevy, was loaded down with their belongings and ready to carry them north. Six years earlier, Mare had arrived in San Francisco with her new husband, Gene. When her marriage fell apart a year later, she fled to the Haight-Ashbury. What a refuge the Haight had been. The neighborhood was brimming with creativity and hope. The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, and Jefferson Airplane all called it home. The Diggers served free soup down the Panhandle from Mare’s apartment. The Haight was famous the world over. During that summer they called Love, even more dreamers flocked to San Francisco. There was such a spirit of freedom and communalism to the place that, for a moment, Mare really believed love could conquer all.
But then things took a darker turn. Some of Mare’s friends started shooting heroin. A severed arm was found in the back of a car in the neighborhood, and hate began creeping in. Early one morning, when Mare was walking back from her graveyard shift at the post office, someone in a passing car screamed out the window at her:
“Get a job!”
Oh, leave me alone, Mare thought. I have two.
In addition to working the night shift at the post office to pay the bills, by day, she was an art student. What had started out as a way to find herself and gain some confidence years ago in Michigan had evolved into a full-blown passion. Mare honed her painting and sculpture skills with classes at San Francisco State and the University of California at Berkeley.
It had slowly dawned on Mare that she wasn’t the kind of person who could work and do her art on the side. Then one of her Berkeley professors made it clear that this was a futile endeavor anyway.
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