Mini Scaredy, queen of the universe

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Mini Scaredy is one of those cats that LOVES to be petted. If she could get away with it she’d have me petting her all day long. Ha ha. And when she starts to reach ecstasy from the petting experience she rolls over on her back and rubs her back on my cardboard matting over and over with a big smile on her face as she stares up to the sky. And if I stop petting her she meows over and over which translates into English as “MORE!! MORE!! MORE!!” Ha ha.

Elizabeth

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Elizabeth and Annie, 2003.
Was wondering whatever happened to Elizabeth. I haven’t seen her, or heard anything about her, in at least 3 or 4 years. . .

One of Elizabeth’s claims to fame: She was one of the first of the Berkeley street hippies, hitting the Telegraph street scene around 1967. And remained a part of it down through the decades. The ’70s, the ’80s, the ’90s, the ’00s. While almost everyone else came and went, Elizabeth remained. And it gave her a poignant, tragic aspect. Like everyone else had moved on, while Elizabeth had been left behind.

Often loud and cantankerous, especially if she was drinking, she was given the nickname “Sea Hag,” due to her skinny, boney figure and ornery manner. She usually didn’t talk to people so much as screech and squawk at them. Her brains were somewhat pickled from all the drugs and alcohol, and she was hardened by all the street years — hard as nails with an inpenatrable surface armor (as well as generally being oblivious of what anyone thought of her). Picture a squawking, abrasive hillbilly woman from the mountains, and that was her demeanor.

But she had a soulful side, too. One night when she was in one of her moods and particularly acting up, I gave her a copy of Terri Compost’s photo book of People’s Park. And Elizabeth spent the entire evening quietly leafing through every page, every photo. Each picture, each face, conjuring up a thousand memories of the years gone by. Elizabeth had a strong identification with the Telegraph street scene. It was probably the only community she had ever been part of. And sometimes we would both reminisce about all the people and places past (much to Hate Man’s annoyance, he HATED that “Good Old Days” crap, ha ha) and Elizabeth would get a wistful, faraway look in her eye.

Though she could be hard to take, I always had a soft spot for Elizabeth, and was always courtly towards her, lighting her cigarettes and referring to her as “my dear.” Which she enjoyed, remembering the days when she had been a beautiful young hippie woman with the men circling around her, seeking her favors.

Like many Telegraph expatriots, Elizabeth ended up living in Oakland where the rents were cheaper. But she’d regularly return to Telegraph, as if driven by some homing pigeon instinct. And you could usually hear her coming from a block away, squawking and screeching. Ha ha. She always came to the scene alone, and left the scene alone. Until a couple years ago when she stopped coming.

Elizabeth

I’m not what you would call a “morning person”

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So I’m in my usual crappy, hungover, morning mood. Made even crappier by a disturbing dream I had the night before. So I pack up my campsite and head on down the road, when one of the compartments on my backpack breaks. FUCK!! IF ITS NOT ONE THING ITS ANOTHER!! That feeling.

So now I’m looking for a spot where I can sit down and repair my backpack. But every bench I pass is occupied by someone. Finally I spot a vacant spot on this ledge by this little shed. So I sit down there and start working on my backpack.

BUT WOULDN’T YOU JUST KNOW IT?? I’m not there 20 seconds when a workman shows up carrying a can of paint and some boards. He’s going to do some repair work on the shed. So of course I’m in his way and have to get up and move somewhere else.FUCK!!

So I’m just about to start screaming at the top of my lungs and never stop screaming (that feeling) when the workman turns and looks at me with a big friendly smile and says:

“Cool shirt.”

“Thanks,” I said.

“I used to have one of those shirts back in the day,” he said. “I wore it so much, I wore it out.”

“Psychotic Pineapple,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said. “Do you know when they broke up?”

“They might still be together,” I said.

“I gotta’ get me another one of those shirts,” he said.

“I think you can find the guy who did it, John Seabury, on-line. He might have some,” I said.

“Thanks,” he said. “I’ll look him up.”

I gave him a friendly smile and headed on down the road.

It was a nice exchange. And it actually pulled me out of my crappy mood for several whole minutes. Ha ha.

An awkward encounter at McDonald’s

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It’s 3 in the afternoon and I just woke up. Hung over beyond belief. Haven’t even washed up yet (restrooms on the campus closed for weekend). Trying to choke down a 2 dollar McDonald’s hamburger and get some life-saving coffee in me. When I hear those 4 words I dread.

“Are you Ace Backwords?”

He’s a young guy, early 20s. “I read your book in the library. It practically saved my life.”

He’s standing over me talking away. Nice guy. And I’m flattered. Soft-spoken (thankfully). But I can barely hear him. And I can barely follow what he’s saying. And I’m in no shape for socializing. Plus I’m embarrassed. Whatever high opinion he had of me from reading my book is now probably slightly lowered. I tell him I really can’t talk right now. But he starts telling me a story about something that happened to him in People’s Park the other day. Then he asks if he can buy me anything. “I owe you one,” he says. “I’m fine,” I says. After a bit more awkward exchanges he leaves with a big smile on his face.

Brushes with greatness at McDonald’s.

A bad dream

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When I wake up from a bad dream my cat are always laying there sleeping peacefully. And I think: “I’m supposed to be the human with the large brain, but in a lot of ways those cats are smarter than me.”

Wake up from a terrible dream. I’m over at a friend’s apartment late at night, and we’re doing lines of cocaine and drinking hard liquor and having an enjoyable time. When he tells me in this confessional voice: “There’s something I should probably tell you. You know all those boxes of your stuff you’ve been storing at my place? Well the other night somebody broke into the building and stole some of your stuff.”

“Oh no,” I said. “What did they take? Is this going to upset me?” I want to prepare myself for the worst because I store all of my valuables there.

“Yes it’s pretty bad,” he warns me.

“Well what did they take?”

He mumbled something but I can’t make out what he’s saying.

“What?” I said.

But he keeps mumbling and whispering like he can’t face telling me the bad news.

“WHAT??!!” I shouted, getting more frustrated and angry and alarmed by his inability to communicate.

“WHAT DID THEY TAKE!!!!!!” I screamed.

“They took your textbooks,” he said.

“WHAT DO YOU MEAN THEY TOOK MY TEXTBOOKS??? I DONT HAVE ANY TEXTBOOKS!!!”

But he refuses to elaborate.

So it keeps going back and forth like this. Me trying to find out what I lost. And him — for whatever reason — refusing to tell me. This failure to communicate.

I’m so angry and frustrated, I’m on the verge of grabbing him and shaking him to try and get the truth out of him.

Finally he says: “I’m not going to take any more of your abuse,” and storms out of his place and down the road.

So now I’m standing there alone in his apartment. Not sure what to do. Finally I pack up my stuff and leave.

But as I’m walking down the street I realize I’ve accidentally taken some of his stuff. So I go back to his place.. He’s back inside his apartment, I can hear him in there loudly carrying on, he’s drunk and shouting, like he’s partying wildly. When he sees me he shouts “YOU AGAIN!! GO AWAY!!”

“I came back to return your stuff,” I said. He’s in there with a beautiful petite young Asian woman who he’s partying with, doing more coke and drinking. And he’s way drunk, speaking very loudly, almost out of control, which is uncharacteristic for him — he’s usually very mild-mannered..

“I apologize for getting upset with you earlier,” I said. My friend is a nice guy so I feel bad about being abusive. I leave his stuff by the door and walk off.

And then it starts raining as I’m walking. “THIS IS UNBELIEVABLE,” I say to myself. “HOW CAN IT BE RAINING IN AUGUST???” I start crying. It’s like everything in my life is just set up to go against me. And there’s nothing I can do except be punished over and over.

This dog is walking alongside me, looking at me with compassion. These big, brown doe eyes. He starts rubbing against my legs and nestling against me. I hold him in my arms and start petting him. And then I wake up

Sheesh.

The Great John Lennon Toronto Peace Festival — the festival that never was

In the wake of the great Woodstock peace ’n’ acid festival, John Lennon took one last stab at the great Peace Guru role. His latest caper in 1970 was to produce the great John Lennon Toronto Peace Festival. Feel the vibes. Which would be “bigger than Woodstock,” naturally.

Lennon hooked up with his latest guru — this big, fat nut named Dr. Hambrick. Hambrick claimed to be “in contact with supernatural beings from another planet who would arrive on earth to save us from our own self-destruction.” Hambrick’s goal was to “capture The Beatles because The Beatles would be the earth force by which the supernatural powers could act in concert to bring peace to our chaotic planet.”

So Dr. Hambrick had a sensible plan for bringing about world peace.

And Hambrick had indeed captured John Lennon with all this talk. Lennon was enthralled by all this stuff, about getting to meet supernatural alien creatures from outer space (Hambrick would personally introduce Lennon to the critters), and especially his exciting new role as Savior of Humanity.

So John ’n’ Yoko and the whole crew went off to Denmark for a big “retreat” to plot out the big John Lennon Toronto Peace Festival. The whole crew decided to trip on some REALLY STRONG ACID to help align their vibes to the big task ahead of Saving Humanity. So they passed this little dish around with “some black sticky stuff that smelled like medicine,” and they all ate it and they all got high.

“Like really high, like a completely nonphysical feeling,” said John Brower, the Peace Festival promoter who was along for the ride. At the peak of the acid trip, according to Brower, Lennon suddenly had a Major Revelation. He pounded his fist on the table and exclaimed to his manager Allen Klein: “HITLER WAS RIGHT. YOU’VE GOT TO CONTROL THE PEOPLE!”

Only now, instead of like Hitler controlling the people for war and all that bad stuff, John Lennon, the Great Man, would control the people for peace. Cool.

Then Dr. Hambrick laid his next brain-storm on the tripped-out multitudes. Hambrick had invented this amazing “two-passenger car that looks like a plane that goes on the ground or flies in the air, and it never needs fuel, its powered by psychic energy.”

Well, this is just the coolest. So the big plan now was for John ’n’ Yoko to fly one of those psychic-energy planes right over the crowd at the freakin’ John Lennon Toronto Peace Festival, and right up onto the stage. How’s that for a grand entrance (let’s see Paul McCartney top that one!). And even better, they’re gonna’ mass-market these psychic-energy cars, and you had better believe that those babies will sell like hotcakes, because you don’t even need fuel to fly them And, best of all, all the profits from the psychic-energy cars will go directly to the John Lennon Peace Foundation!

So this is just the coolest of all. Awesome.

What a guy. John and Yoko would hit the stage (to thunderous applause) and bring peace and love to earth. Restoring the cosmic balance of the cosmos, saving the world, and bringing harmony to humanity. All in a day’s work.

Now keep in mind: They actually believed this stuff. And, considering that John Lennon’s real life had already been so spectacularly unbelievable, I guess anything could seem possible to him at this point. And when you factor in LSD, with its peculiar messianic, hallucinatory, and exaggerating properties (as if Lennon’s life wasn’t already exaggerated enough) it’s little wonder that Lennon ended up having no IDEA which end was up. Myth or reality? Christ, just gimme’ some truth, he cried. Whatever that was.

Alas, the great John Lennon Toronto Peace Festival collapsed in a sea of bad vibes and organizational chaos (Lennon changing his mind with every new drug trip didn’t help matters). In a desperate attempt to save the sinking festival, Lennon wrote an impassioned plea to ROLLING STONE magazine — that crucial organ for all your latest Lennon updates — entitled: “HAVE WE ALL FORGOTTEN WHAT VIBES ARE?”

In the article, he wrote:

“Can you imagine what we could do together, one million souls (plus TV link-ups) in one spot, praying for peace. We could change the balance of energy power. On earth and therefore, in the universe.”

So it all made perfect sense.

But alas and alack, the people had indeed forgotten what vibes are. Darn. And, like so many of the hippie pipe dreams of the ‘60s, the great John Lennon Toronto Peace Festival went up in smoke.

WOODSTOCK: THE ORAL HISTORY: A goddamn book review full of peace and love (and some of the other stuff, too)

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This is the best book I’ve read about the Woodstock festival. WOODSTOCK: THE ORAL HISTORY by Joel Makower. The first half of the book deals with the people who actually put the festival together (which is a fascinating story in itself). And the second half of the book deals with how they dealt with it, as they were completely overwhelmed by the situation. Which was intense beyond belief (they were expecting maybe 50 thousand people and then got over-loaded with a half million people) (and deal with THAT motherfucker).

Basically Woodstock was put together by four Jewish guys in their early 20s. The two guys that bankrolled it were two rich kids with trust funds who were looking for some way to spend their money and have some action. They had never even produced a concert before. So they started out with Woodstock as their first event. Ha ha.

The third guy was Micheal Lang — the young hippie boy with the Dylan/Donovan hair who rode around on his motorcycle and embodied the “hippie ethos” of 1969 (he was groovy). He had put on a couple of low-level hippie rock concerts. So he was the expert.

The fourth guy was Artie Kornfeld — this young hippie guy who worked for one of the record labels as the “house hippie” and scored a couple of hits and was their only connection to the Music Business (he spent the concert stoned out of his mind on LSD and was basically pretty useless).

It took the two kids who put up the money over a decade before they worked their way out of debt. Ha ha.

Groovy.

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I always opine that the main legacy of Woodstock was that it perpetuated what I call “the psychedelic hippie myth.” This notion that a half million people were able to live together for 3 days in peace and harmony and brotherhood — in spite of many obstacles — because of the sheer grooviness of the psychedelic hippies. They were so full of love and cosmic wisdom that they demonstrated to the entire world a new and far more advanced mode of existence, man. Back to the Garden, and all that. Expanding their consciousness. The Love Generation. It was the Dawning of the Age of Aquarious, I tell you.

And the media certainly laid it on thick. Larding the Woodstock Nation with flattery and praise.

But when you read this book, you find out that what saved the day wasn’t cosmic hippie grooviness. But that the two young guys who bankrolled the festival quickly realized the potential disaster they had on their hands. And started writing out checks left and right for hundreds of thousands of dollars to put out one potential fire after another. And if they HADN’T done that, the whole thing very well might have spun out into one of the biggest disasters of all time.

And just 6 months later the Rolling Stones would find out that hippie good vibes would not save the day at Altamont. And in fact, the Stones had walked right into that disaster precisely because they had naively BELIEVED in the Woodstock myth.

An ironic epilogue: The day after Altamont the San Francisco Chronicle ran a frontpage story extolling Altamont as “Woodstock West,” with an excited narrative about the alleged grooviness that had flourished at the festival. That’s how eager the media was to advance that particular narrative.

A narrative that largely lives on to this day, I might add.
 
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