We ran into Mr. Flowers last week as he worked on a new shrine between Clayton and Cole, so we stopped for a while to chat with him.
As you've probably noticed (so have we), the Haight Street shrines have been multiplying steadily over the past few months. The newest ones are cropping up on the block between Clayton and Cole, and the new additions will be tributes to the Rolling Stones and Neil Young. We stopped last Thursday afternoon to chat with the custodian of the shrines, a man who goes by the name Jimmy Flowers. He was set up on the sidewalk with flats of flowers, a few succulents, a bag of potting soil, bunches of bamboo stakes and garden string. Curious passersby, like us, stopped to talk with him too. Here's what we learned. First, we've only been in the neighborhood for a few years, but it turns out Mr. Flowers has been building shrines on the street since the late 1980s. (You know that big succulent in the plot outside the former El Balazo? He planted that one--more than 10 years ago.) He took a recent hiatus, he said, because for a while they were getting ripped up and trashed, but he's been ready to give it another go. "If people just let them grow," he said, "Haight Street would be one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in the city." At one point there were, by his estimate, over 80 shrines on the street, including 3 dedicated to Janis Joplin. He estimates the shrines cost about $200 a pop to install these days, which he funds from streetside donations and his own pockets. What does he want in return? "Just a little love and respect."
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported Jimmy's name to be "Timmy."
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