Acid Heroes: the Legends of LSD

August 31, 2014

Berkeley Street Characters (no. 947 in a series): The Yoshua Man

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ace Backwords @ 9:26 pm
Photo: Berkeley Street Characters (no. 987 in a series).  The Yoshua Man.  This soap box orator has been around for decades.  He came up with this unique theory.  Jesus's real name was Yoshua not Jesus.   And all the people who believed in Jesus were going to Hell unless they switched over to Yoshua. . . Uh huh. . .For a year he was convinced the World Was Coming To An End on May 21, 2011.  He was out on the campus every day with a little chalkboard counting down the days.  Starting at 365.  364.  363.  And so forth....  When he got down to zero he disappeared for awhile.  Eventually he slunk back to the campus, in the face of much mockery and abuse.  Undeterred, he came up with a new date for the End of the World.  And started yet another countdown with his chalkboard.  Ha ha. . . . Like they say:  "Winners never quit."

The Yoshua Man has been promoting his self-styled Yoshua religion for nearly 30 years. Here he is, in front of the Berkeley BART station, confident as ever that he will soon make his first convert.

This soap box-orator — generally known as The Yoshua Man — has been around Berkeley for decades.   He came up with this unique theory.  Jesus’s real name was Yoshua not Jesus.  And all the people who believed in Jesus were going to Hell unless they switched over to Yoshua. . . . Uh huh . . . .

For a year he was convinced the World Was Coming To An End on May 21, 2011.  He was out on the Berkeley campus every day with a little chalkboard counting down the days.  Starting at 365.  364.  363.  And so forth . . . When he got down to zero he disappeared for awhile.  Eventually he slunk back to the campus, in the face of much mockery and abuse.  Undeterred, he came up with a new date for the End of the World.  And started yet another countdown with his chalkboard.   Ha ha.  . .   Like they say:  “Winners never quit.”

I tried to explain to him once:  “They call it ‘agua’ in Mexico.  And we call it ‘water’ here.  But it’s the same substance.”

He looked at me earnestly and said:  “You’ll think differently when you’re rotting in Hell.”

Shows you what he knows.  I’m going to Hades.

Photo: Hate Camp, 1991.

The Yoshua Man, 1991. “Repent and be saved in the name of YOSHUA!!!”


August 30, 2014

Signs from God

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ace Backwords @ 12:11 am
Photo: Throwback Thursday.  This is how I used to look several minutes ago.

Throwback Thursday. That’s how I used to look several minutes ago.


I’m actually thinking about quitting drinking.  I’m not actually going to quit.  I’m just gonna’ think about quitting.  That’s a lot easier than actually quitting.

The reason I’m thinking about it is because I had the WORST nightmare last night:  In the dream, I’m sitting in this chair having a complete nervous breakdown.  I’m sobbing and crying and wailing.  People are walking around me, but nobody tries to console me.  Either they don’t care, or they don’t know what to do to help me.  And I can’t stop shaking.  It’s like I’m having uncontrollable convulsions or something.  But the worst part is:  I can’t find the words to describe or explain what’s wrong with me.  Finally they come to me.  Three words.  Which I shout out amidst my sobs:  “THERE’S . . . NO . . . ESCAPE!!!”

I wake up feeling stunned.   And drained.  Not just because of the nightmare.  But because the dream exactly mirrored my waking state.  And the sad, sad state of my world.  It’s that feeling you get when you feel that everything in your life  — everything — has gone wrong, wrong, wrong.  Even my cats weren’t around to console me.  Usually, every morning when I wake up, they’re sitting there waiting for me.  But on this morning, even they had deserted me.  Adding to my feelings of rejection and total loserdom.  I figured I had probably scared them off when I was making weird noises while I was having that nightmare.  The scaredy cats.

I took this as a sign from God that I needed to make some serious changes in my life.  Needed to seriously clean up my act.  To be in such a state of despair and agony was a sign that I must be doing something terribly wrong.  And certainly all the drinking I was doing wasn’t helping my situation.

Then Rachel pointed out:  “The cats were probably freaked out by the quake.”

“That’s right!”  I thought.  And it all came back to me.  I remember feeling the ground trembling while I was lying in my sleeping bag last night.  At the time I wasn’t sure if it was an earthquake or the malt liquor.  And in the morning, it was one of the many late-night events that had been erased from my memory by all the malt liquor. But now it came back.  It turned out there had been a 6.0 earthquake in nearby Napa Valley.  And somehow, that explained everything.  Why I had been dreaming of shaking.  And why my cats had seemingly “deserted” me. It wasn’t because of me.  It was because of the earthquake.  This act of God.

I took this as a sign from God that I should continue on as an alcoholic for the time being.  I went to a bar and ordered a pint of beer.  And after the third beer I started feeling a little better.

I sat there at the bar.  Awaiting further signs.


August 28, 2014

Keef is back!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ace Backwords @ 6:36 pm
Photo: Cats are legendary for their ability to make themselves at home.

Me and Keef back in the good old days. Cats are famous for their ability to make themselves right at home. Ha ha.

Keef (of the Mick & Keef twins) is back!  At least I think it’s Keef.  This morning, she came within about 30 feet of me.  Sort of studied me for awhile.  And then slowly sauntered back up the hill.

It could be another cat.   There are a lot of gray tabbies in this world.  But I doubt it.  A feral cat that wasn’t familiar with me would never be that bold in approaching me.  Cats in the wild are extremely cautious.  And for good reason. 

I haven’t seen Keef in over a year.  Which is about 4 years in cat years.  So who knows how well Keef remembers me, or how she was factoring it in her cat  brain.

Keef is one of the cats that I sort of consider “semi-feral.”  Because I’ve been feeding her since she was a little kitten, so she would come right up to me and let me pet her, just like a normal housecat.  Whereas the feral cats that weren’t touched in the first 6 months of their lives, rarely seemed to warm to human touch.  (I always thought that Sigmund Freud was kind of a quack.  But he was probably onto something regarding how crucial those first months of a baby’s life were, and how it affected our lifelong behavior patterns.)

It’s tricky, by the way, to compare cat years to human years.  Cats mature much more quickly, relatively speaking, than humans.  By the time a cat is 2 years old it’s a complete adult.  So the first 2 years of a cats life are equivalent to 20 years in a human life. So you’d say 1 cat year equals 10 human years. But after that, their development slows down.  And for the rest of their life, 1 cat year equals about 4 human years.  Now you know. . .

Keef was one of the more mentally well-adjusted of the feral cats (unlike that nut Moon Cat).  Keef always seemed happy and on top of things and really enjoying her life.  A very contented cat,  she seemed to relish things  a bit more than the others.

I’ll always wonder how the feral cats survived so well during the 10 months I was gone.  I suspect they ate a lot of insects.  Because I used to watch them hunting.  Or more accurately, their attempts at hunting.  And I know how difficult it is for them to actually catch a prey.  Only once did I actually see them catch one.  I blinked my eye and just like that, Scamp — one of the quicker and better coordinated of the cats — had a blue jay in her mouth.  Several times I’d see them pounce right on the back of a squirrel.  But the squirrel always managed to scamper out of their grasp.  It was funny to watch the cats right before they lunged at their prey.  Their entire bodies would stiffen and tense up.  Except for their back legs, which they were sort of pumping up and down — almost like revving a car — to give them extra spring for that initial rush.  And they’d be staring intently at their prey, and their mouths would often be going up and down like they were practicing biting the prey.  Then — boom! — they’d be off like a shot.  But the birds and the squirrels were usually just a little too quick for them.

After I packed up my campsite, I left a can of tuna fish in the catfood dish. . .   Keef will be back.

August 27, 2014

Drugs and alcohol

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ace Backwords @ 8:18 pm
Drugs?  I’ve tried ‘em all.  And I’ve gotten pleasure from all of them.  Aside from downers, opiates and pain-killers. Which just made me groggy and bored.  Had minor flirtations with crystal meth and crack cocaine.  Unitl I realized the high wasn’t worth the damage. As well as the annoying Laws of Diminishing Returns (the more you did them, the less you got from them)

Did about 300 LSD trips, from age 17 to age 40.  At one point I thought acid was a kind of spiritual medicine that was expanding my consciousness.  Eventually concluded it was garbage that was scrambling my brains.

Pot I started smoking when I was 16, and kept smoking until I quit about 3 years ago. I would go through long periods where I’d smoke pot every day.  Or I’d go for years without smoking it. Or I’d smoke it semi-regularly.  I mostly liked pot because when I played music it made it sound better, deeper, more emotional.  But pot often turned on me.  It could make me hideously introspective.

Alcohol, I started drinking when I was 16.  And immediately liked it.  I’m mostly a beer-o.  But when I was 19 I spent a year drinking burgundy (I thought there was something “bohemian” about drinking red wine).  I mostly considered booze a goof. It shuts off my mind and stops me from doing so much goddamn thinking (my brains is kind of wired as a Meaning Machine and it’s constantly regurgitating data.  But the booze shuts that part down and gives me some relief).  Some of the best times in my life have simply been sitting across from a friend and slowly getting schnockered together, as the hours got more and more golden.  Just sitting and talking really.

For most of my life I was a “weekend drinker.”  Go out with the boys (and girls) on a Friday night and tie on a good one.  Get a little wild. . . . What turned me into an “everyday drinker” was when I started doing the street vending job full-time.   I’m an extremely shy, self-conscious person.  So I found the non-stop dealing with all the customers to be very painful, awkward and draining.  But after pounding a couple quick cans of OE I’d start to lighten up.  I began to actually enjoy talking with people.  In a weird way, the alcohol made me a nicer, friendlier person. 

I once went four years where I was completely straight.  1997 to 2001.  That was the only period of my life where I wasn’t taking one substance or another.  Probably not coincidentally, that was one of the happiest and productive periods of my life.  I had s clean line in my head back then.



Human relationships

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ace Backwords @ 7:29 pm
Photo: Considering I'm nearly 58 years old and went 30 years without going to a dentist and in between I drank an ocean of malt liquor. . . I have surprisingly good teeth. . . None of this life makes a damn lick of sense, does it?

Considering I’m nearly 58 years old and went 30 years without going to a dentist, and drank an ocean of malt liquor in between, my teeth are in surprisingly good shape . . . None of this life makes a lick of sense, does it?

Human relationships can be funny.

For years there’s been this one guy who I regularly pass by as I’m walking around the streets of Berkeley.   We always say hello to each other.  He always say:  “Hello there, Ace.  How are you doing today?”  And I always say, “How  you doin’, my man.”  Then we exchange brief pleasantries, and then go on our separate ways. . . .    I have no idea who he is.  Or how I got connected to him.  Evidently, in the distant past, I had some kind of brief exchange with him.  And then, for the next 5 years, I’m kind of required to say hello to him every time I pass him on the street.   Weird how that stuff happens.  He’s a nice guy.  So I’m always friendly.  But its just a little weird to be connected to somebody that I have no idea how, or why, we ended up connected.

Do you guys get stuff like that, or is it just me?



August 25, 2014

To forgive is divine. To apologize is embarrassing.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ace Backwords @ 8:29 pm
Tags: , , ,

When I was a bike messenger we used to call it getting “doored.” As in: “That sonofabitch doored me!”

We were talking about the subject of apologies yesterday.  Saying your sorry and stuff.  Which reminded me of something.

This one time, I’m riding my bike.  Blasting down the street at top speed.  As I always did back then.  And just as I’m passing this car that’s parked on the curb, the guy in the driver’s seat opened up his door.  Right into the bike lane.  I hit the door at top speed.  Anyone familiar with the Laws of Physics knows this is a bad thing.  My bike came to a complete and sudden stop. I went flying over the door and into the air.   As if having been shot out of a catapult.  I did several graceful somersaults in mid-air in slow-motion (exaggeration).  Before crashing to the ground and skidding and bouncing across the pavement for several yards.  Before I, thankfully, came to a stop.  I got up with fists clenched and death in my eyes (in other words:  “KILL!  KILL!  KILL!”).  I’m generally in a bad mood even on a good day.  So you can imagine how I felt.  My pants were torn and I could feel the blood dripping down my leg.  My bike was lying in the middle of the street in a strangely mangled form.  I walked over to the guy in the car to have a few words with him.  Perhaps even more than a few words.  He said:  “Oh man are you alright?  I’m sorry.  I fucked up.”  I was immediately placated.

I’m a big believer in apologies, I guess.

August 23, 2014

Strange and wondrous is the human mind

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 12:07 am
Ace Backwords's photo.

We were talking about how crazy people with crazy minds can sometimes have strange mental powers. . .  There’s this one crazy Berkeley tweaker chick.  I’ve known her since she was a 17 year old runaway.  I’d often see her panhandling on Shattuck Avenue. Completely nuts.  All the meth she was slamming really took her brain to this strange place.  This eerie occult realm.  Sad.  But she also had these weird kind of psychic powers.

Anyways, I got into the habit of giving her money as a birthday present every year.  19 dollars when she turned 19.  20 dollars when she turned 20.   21 dollars when she turned 21.  And so on.  I forget how that started.  I think I did it because she was so self-destructive.  I wanted to encourage her.  Like:  “Every time you make it through another year you get an extra dollar.”  It was just a little symbolic thing I was doing.

So anyways, the year she turned 32 I was flat broke.  Didn’t have any money. But I had food stamps.  So I took her to 7-11 and told her:  “Just buy up about 32 dollars worth of food.” 

So she’s randomly grabbing stuff off the shelves.  Some beef jerkies and soda and candy and sandwiches and potato chips and whatever.  So I was vaguely stunned when the cashier rang up the bill and it came to exactly 32 dollars and 33 cents.

Now if it had come to $32.32, now THAT would have been really spooky.

                                   *                                       *                                                          *

I tried to help her, but she was hard to help.  This one night I saw her huddled in a doorway on Shattuck in the pouring rain, freezing her ass off with nothing but this ratty, little blanket for warmth.  So I gave her this really nice down sleeping bag I had. . . .  The next day I noticed she had traded the sleeping bag to some guy for 20 bucks worth of meth.  Oh well.  At least she was warm for one night.  Or at least feeling no pain.

Another night, same thing.  She’s freezing in a doorway. So I offered her this really nice down jacket I had.  It was not only an expensive jacket, it was warm as hell. It was like wearing a sleeping bag practically.  And she was a small person and it was a small jacket, so I figured it wouldn’t fit anybody else on the scene, so she wouldn’t be able tor trade it away this time.  But when I offered it to her she started screaming at me:  “Get that thing AWAY from me!!  I almost got KILLED this one time because of a jacket like THAT!!!” 

Oh well.  I’m sure it all made perfect sense on some alternate plane of reality.

Another time I spot her in a doorway and she’s writing away in this journal.  Really concentrating hard like she’s working on a master thesis.  I asked her what she was doing.  She said:  “I’ve decided to invent my own language with my own letters.”  The page she was working on was covered with all these peculiar symbols and their corresponding definitions, which were equally peculiar.  It almost sort of made sense. 

She was a little peculiar, that one.  Still is.

August 20, 2014

Telegraph Avenue street performers

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 7:25 pm
Tags: ,
Telegraph Avenue street performers.
Play Video
Click on picture to play the video

August 16, 2014

Breakfast in Feral Cat Land

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 6:32 pm
Tags: ,

The ever-cautious Blondie approaches the food dish.

Photo: The ever cautious Blondie approaches the food dish.  Feral Tom immediately switched over to the other dish to prevent Blondie from getting at the food. As if to say:  "Its mine!!  All mine!!"  Cats.  Ha ha

When Feral Tom noticed Blondie headed for the other food dish, he immediately switched over to that dish to prevent Blondie from getting at the food. As if to say: “It’s mine!! All mine!!” Cats. Ha ha.

Photo: Blondie the haunting feral cat.  I've had a dysfunctional relationship with Blondie for 7 years.  Have known her since she was a wee little kitten.  So we know each other pretty good.  For example, its 1:08 AM right now and I'd bet money that Blondie is waiting impatiently at my campsite for me to show up with some food.  I'm drunk and still down on Telegraph (just saw Ted at Kips).  I better get my ass in gear.

Blondie does this weird thing where she stares at me for long periods. I can never figure what she’s thinking.

Photo: Moo Cat.  Doing her immaculate grooming ritual that she does after every feeding.  Some of you have an attitude about feral cats.  Like they're grungy, dirty, disease-ridden alley cats.  Not so.  They're clean and beautiful.  Most of them.  And the same goes for most homeless people too. It can be difficult to stay clean when you're homeless.  Too bad.  I don't find the smell of soap so wonderful.  Or the bullshit people spray on their armpits out of some nuerotic compulsion foisted on them by Wall Street advertising executives convincing them that humans smell bad so some schmuck can make money selling them a product to camoflauge their natural smell..... I dont like most colognes either.

Moo Cat doing her after-eating grooming ritual. I think some people think feral cats are all grungy, dirty, disease-ridden alley cats. But all the feral cats I’ve known are extremely fastidious and clean.

Photo: Moo Cat.  In the middle of the action, as usual.

Moo Cat. In the middle of the action, as usual.

Photo: I'd really like to sue that darn, irresponsible Feral Tom for child support.  Sheesh.  He popped out two kittens while I was living in Arizona.. . .

A feral kitten showed up last week for the first time. Probably about 6 months old. I let the cats decide if they want to be petted. Sometimes if a feral cat isn’t touched early in life, they never acclimate to the human touch. . . . I’m sure Blondie is the mom. She watches over her, protectively, while the kitten is eating. It’s a pain in the ass (because now I got to trap them and get them fixed). But one nice thing. Blondie was getting a little jaded, as aging cats will get (she’s about 50 in human years). But lately she’s been like a playful kitten again. Romping around in the woods and scratching at tree trunks.

Photo: The dastardly one, Feral Tom.  Making kittens and then refusing to pay child support.

The dastardly one, Feral Tom. Making babies and then refusing to pay child support.

August 15, 2014

Nature’s little bastard: The Raccoon

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 6:53 pm

Raccoons at night. Nanaimo, Canada

Last night I dumped out a big pile of food for my feral cats at my campsite.  Within a couple minutes this pack of raccoons showed up and ran my cats off.  Five or six of them.  Big, hairy mothers.  The raccoons snarled viciously at each other as they’re fighting over the food.  Raccoons are like a mob of lowlife thugs.  A nasty critter.  But very intelligent.  I have total respect for them.  They were about five feet from my sleepingbag while they were eating.  I watched them in the darkness with fascination.

All the other critters in the woods cower in fear in the face of human beings.  We’re six-foot tall, with big brains and amazingly agile fingers.  Plus, weapons.  Top of the food chain we are.  And the other animals recognize that, and respect that.  Except the raccoons.  They have absolutely no fear.  They stomp around the woods like the neighborhood bullies.

I remember the first time I confronted a raccoon in the woods. I jumped up and shouted:  “BAHAARGHH!!  BEAT IT!  SCRAM!! GET LOST!!  NOWWWW!!!” while making all these very fierce gestures.  The raccoon just sat there staring at me with those blank raccoon eyes, like:  “Yeah.  Whatever, dude.”

And a nasty, vindictive critter, too.  This one night I was trying to drive them away from the cat food. So I threw a rock at the raccoon and beaned one of them on the head.  I could hear him screech in the darkness.  A direct hit (usually I miss  — I sucked at baseball — so it was very satisfying to finally nail one of the fuckers).  But the raccoon got back at me later.  He waited until I went to sleep.  Then he grabbed my backpack.  Unzipped it with his nimble fingers.  Took out my cellphone and tossed it in the creek.  Ruined it (65 bucks down the drain!).  Then he took my glasses out of the case and scratched up the lenses.  I’m still wearing those scratched-up glasses.  Bastard.  Ha ha.  I have grudging respect for the raccoons.  They’re tough and they don’t take shit.
I’ve spent 8 years as a homeless guy, living amongst those raccoons.  Some times I’ll even feed ‘em if I have some extra food.  I admire them in a weird way.  They can appear vicious.  And they are.  But they’d never physically attack me.  Unless I’m stupid enough to try and corner one of them, and they have no choice but to defend themselves.  And you better believe they could do some damage.  They have the strength of a miniature bear.  And the quickness and agility of a cat.  When you see how quickly they can dart straight up a tree, it is an impressive sight.
But they can really be annoying.  They’ll do stuff like this.  One night I had a leftover roastbeef sandwich in my backpack.  I knew the smell would attract a pack of blood-thirsty raccoons.  So I used my backpack as a pillow so I could keep track of it while I was sleeping. I wake up in the middle of the night and a goddam raccoon is actually tugging at my backpack.  He’s trying to drag it away from me. Pull it right out from under my head.  Ha ha.  Nature’s masked bandits.
And wouldn’t you know it?  Those damn raccoons got me again last night.  It was 1:18 AM.  And I had a big slab of fresh turkey and cheese for my feral cats. I was planning on saving it for the morning.  Because I knew the raccoons were on the scent.  Pack of thugs.  But when I showed up at my campsite, only Feral Tom, the feral tomcat, was hanging out. No sight of the raccoons anywhere.  And Feral Tom looked forlorn and hungry.  So I tossed him the food.  He gets to eat it for about 30 seconds, when the pack of raccoons descends like vultures on the food.  Pounced on that food. They had been lurking, hiding in the bushes.  Just waiting for me to show up.  They’re a very intelligent creature, raccoons.  They study me, and monitor my behavior.
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