Acid Heroes

November 18, 2017

Charles M. Schulz

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 7:20 pm

 

 

I don’t know why. But for some reason I was just thinking about the interview I did with Charles Schulz in 1983. The Peanuts guy.

He invited me up to his studio in Santa Rosa to interview him. I guess I’m just wondering why he would invite a nut like me up to his scene. I was 28 years old at the time. And sort of a hippie punk countercultural underground artist weirdo. And Schulz was Mr Mainstream All-America. Hostess Twinkies and Hallmark Greeting cards and “Good grief Charlie Brown” and “Happiness is a warm puppy.”

So it was an odd meeting of the minds.

I guess he was just bored. And maybe he thought it was a worthwhile way to waste couple of hours with this nut Ace Backwords.

I interviewed him in his studio where he drew his Peanuts comic strip. There was a half–finished Peanuts comic strip on his drawing board. Which was mind-boggling to me. I had grown up as a little kid reading Peanuts. And now I was at the epicenter — the eye of the hurricane — where they were actually created.

We talked back and forth for two or three hours. I was so nervous when I got to the end of my cassette tape that I was interviewing him with — my $30 Sony cassette recorder — I accidentally flipped the cassette over a third time and recorded over 30 minutes of the tape
Completely erased 30 minutes of our immortal conversation (always regret that).

I remember at one point Schulz said he was disappointed with most interviewers. They mostly asked dull questions. I could tell it was a backhanded compliment. I could tell he was enjoying talking with me.
I guess that’s why he talked for 2 or  3 hours.

For me it was like talking to somebody who was my father. Even though we weren’t related. It was like talking to somebody who was my father.

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November 17, 2017

Some random thoughts on being an artiste

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 7:34 pm

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One of the odd things about being an artist — and that’s what I am at the end of the day, an artist (a good or bad or indifferent artist, take your pick):

You capture all these moments in time and space (that’s what artists do). And all the moments have meaning — from the profound to the sublime to the boring bullshit.

But as to the ultimate meaning? There’s no real barometer. You might produce one piece of art that is so beautiful it makes one person cry. While another person yawns. And another person thinks you’re a piece of shit.

And all three reactions are equally valid.

That probably explains why artists drink and take a lot of drugs and generally go mad at an early age.

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November 16, 2017

RECKLESS by Chrissie Hynde; a goddamn book review

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 7:19 pm

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I’m a huge Chrissie Hynde fan. So this is a treat. And just what you’d expect from a Chrissie Hynde memoir. Blunt. Honest. Witty. Perceptive. No bullshit. Straight forward. And pretty entertaining.

It starts out with Chrissie describing her childhood in Ohio, growing up as a rock’n’roll-obsessed kid. She was perfectly poised to experience the full brunt of the Rock’n’roll Revolution (high school Class of ’69, the poor dear).

Every now and then she would question her rock’n’roll obsession, thinking: “Maybe it’s time to grow up. I had two or three of those over the years. The first one was when I dumped my Beatles drawer. All the posters and magazines and paraphernalia, including my Beatles tennis shoes, went in the trash. By the age of sixteen I thought maybe it was a bit childish to keep poring over such mementos.  Thus the purge followed by intense remorse.”

And, of course, she never would grow up.

Then in 1973 she moved to London, England to pursue her Rock’n’roll Fantasy. There are a lot of great accounts of the burgeoning punk scene. She became friends with Sid Vicious, Johnny Rotten, Joe Strummer and many other punk luminaries well before they were famous. Sid invited her to share a squat with some others in a vacant building (squatting is legal in England — you can even turn on the electricity). And took part in other odd moments in Punk History. Sid Vicious took one of her little padlocks and locked it on a chain around his neck. “And I don’t think it ever came off again; not for sentimental reasons — he just didn’t take the key.”

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Sid Vicious in the hospital with hepatitis. (photo by Chrissie Hynde)

She described Johnny Rotten as “shy but funny — troubled, though. A troubled youth” who was “wrestling with his impending fame.” And: “Johnny Rotten was a strange brew. He looked like Steptoe crossed with Joni Mitchell.” Ha ha. Chrissie worked part-time at a cleaning agency cleaning houses. “That agency would hire anybody: I even got Rotten a few jobs with them. Imagine seeing him come through the door to clean your house.” And: “Rotten eventually went on to marry Nora Forster (the only lasting love story to come out of punk that I can think of).” Who would have guessed that?

Then the book goes on to describe her struggles to get her own band together. It never occurred to her that she might become a star. She wasn’t even sure she had any talent. “I just wanted to be in a band and make a lot of noise.”

So it was more than a little overwhelming when her first album become a number one hit. And her second album was a hit, too. She goes on to describe the grueling affects of touring. The drugs, the alcohol, the egos, the pressure. Shortly after the tour ended two of her band members ODed on drugs. Chrissie Hynde had achieved success beyond her wildest dreams. But she would ruefully write: “I knew then that victories were always just the other side of tragedy.”

The book ends there. And we’ll just have to wait and see if she writes a Part 2 about the second half of her life.

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Chrissie Hynde, London, 1979, 27-years-old.

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November 13, 2017

The great Mini Scaredy vs. Moo Cat feud

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 9:16 pm
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Still Moo Cat after all these years.

 

I think the great Mini Scaredy vs. Moo Cat feud is finally beginning to thaw out.

The other night there were no feral cats at my campsite. Usually Mini Scaredy and Scaredy Cat sleep with me all night long. But it had rained during the day. So they were probably holed up somewhere getting shelter from the storm.

So around 4AM Moo Cat dares to show up at my campsite. Usually she’s afraid to get near me when her arch nemesis Mini Scaredy is around. But tonight she’s got the place to herself. So she climbs up on top of my chest and starts meowing repeatedly in my face to wake me up.

“You!” I said.

“Meow!” she said.

I give her a couple of pets and she starts purring loudly. Then she jumps on top of my backpack where I keep the food (hint hint).

I happened to have a leftover rotisserie chicken that I had ground-scored earlier in my backpack. So Moo Cat really scored. “Meat on the bone!!” Her favorite. She immediately started devouring the chicken with gusto.

But then about 5 minutes later, who shows up? Mini Scaredy. The evil one. Moo Cat immediately starts growling fiercely at Mini Scaredy (what a tough guy she is!). But for once Moo Cat holds her ground. She doesn’t run. She continues feasting on the chicken. And for once Mini Scaredy doesn’t run Moo Cat down the hill and up a tree. Instead she trots over and sits on my chest, purring loudly while I pet her.

After Moo Cat is done eating and makes her exit, Mini Scaredy trots over to the chicken and starts chowing down. About 5 minutes later Scaredy Cat shows up (the gangs all here) and takes her turn at the chicken. And pretty soon there’s nothing left of that carcass but bones and gristle.

The fat cats all go to sleep, with smiles on their mugs. Everyone is coexisting. And there’s peace in the valley (“Can’t we all get along?”) And everyone lives happily ever after (except for the chicken). The End.

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So there I was sitting there minding my own business. . .

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 8:46 pm

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I swear to God. Even when I’m just sitting here by myself minding my own business I manage to get into trouble. I’m sitting here at a computer at the library when this guy rushes up behind me.

“GET UP!! GET UP!! GET OFF OF THIS COMPUTER!! THIS IS MY COMPUTER!!” he barks. He even snaps his fingers several times like I’m some dog he’s ordering to get off the couch.

“No it isn’t. This is MY computer,” I said.

“NO IT ISN’T!! IT’S MINE!! GET UP!!”

“DUDE!!” I said, glaring at him with looks that kill. “IF I HADN’T RESERVED THIS COMPUTER I WOULDN’T HAVE BEEN ABLE TO LOG ON IN THE FIRST PLACE!!”

“WELL WE’LL SEE ABOUT!!”

He turns and marches off to talk to the librarians at the front desk.

Shortly after he comes walking back towards me. And I’m glaring at him every step of the way.

“My apologies,” he said. He walks past me and sets up at the computer next to mine where he has his reservation.

“No problem,” I said.

I’m usually instantly appeased by an apology. Plus, he’s drunk. And I’ve been there. So what the hell.

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November 12, 2017

An unpleasant encounter with a police officer at 2 in the morning

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 10:47 pm

 

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I don’t know if it’s the hot, balmy, feverish heat wave we’ve been having lately (last night i was outside at midnight in just a short-sleeve shirt) but last night was a little weird even by my standards.

Around 2 AM I decide to call it a night. And needless to say I got a little buzz going as I happily cut across the Berkeley campus towards my campsite in the hills. When I pass this cop who’s standing on this balcony over-looking me. He calls out to me. But I can’t make out what he said. So I just say “How ya’ doing,” and keep walking. But then I can hear the cop’s footsteps rushing towards me from behind me. So I stop and turn to face him, to see what his problem is.

“You do know it’s 2 AM and after curfew,” said the cop. “Are you involved with the campus or with any campus-related business.”‘

“Not really,” I said. “But I did work for the Daily Californian for about 10 years.”

“Could I see you ID, sir?”

“Surely,” I said. I take out my wallet, hand him my ID, and he starts running my name across the wire.The cop is a little asian guy with a shaved-head. So for some reason his head keeps reminding me of a big bullet.

“Where are you headed?” asked the cop.

“Up to the Berkeley hills,” I said, offering as little information as necessary. I considered asking him about the two people who were walking directly ahead of me, and ALSO cutting across the campus at 2 AM, and why was he jacking me up but not them. But it’s usually not a good idea to question the cop’s motives in these situations. It’s best to just try and go along with their program as best you can. Whatever that might be.

“A young woman was sexually assaulted in the Berkeley hills recently,” said the cop. “Are you aware of that?”

“No I’m not,” I said.

“You didn’t read about it in the Daily Cal?”

“No I didn’t,” I said.

“The suspect was a white male in his 40s. And you resemble the suspect.”

“I’m 61,” I said. “But I’m flattered that you think I look younger than I am.”

I can hear the dispatcher at the other end of the wire passing on some information.

“I’ve just been told that you’ve recently been sited several times for trespassing,” said the cop. “And that you were arrested recently for assault.”

“No I haven’t,” I said. “That’s a lie.”

The cop continues to grill me about the sexual assault. And suddenly I get pissed.

“WHY DO YOU KEEP ACCUSING ME OF SEXUAL ASSAULT??” I said with an angry edge to my voice. “I HAVEN’T DONE ANYTHING!!”

“Hey, WHOA! Back off!” said the cop.

“Oh I’m sorry,” I said, quickly changing gears. “I didn’t mean to be belligerant.”

I realize this little shitheel is just looking for any excuse to jack me up. So I make a point of trying not to give him one. But it’s galling. It’s perfectly fine for him to treat me rudely and belligerently. His sneering attitude during the entire exchange has been that I’m some kind of lowly dirtbag who’s guilty of some grave, but unspecified, crime, and that it’s his duty to punish me.

“I know you’re just doing your job,” I said.

(“. . .and a lousy job of it, too, you stupid fuck,” I want to add, but think better of it. The fact is, this guy is an idiot with a head full of rocks. The good cops, the smart cops, can always tell intuitively who is just minding their own business and who the real trouble-makers are. They have an instinct about it. And they can usually tell which is which within seconds of an encounter. Whereas idiots like this guy, he doesn’t have a clue. Instead of keeping the peace, he’ll spend his whole career creating one disturbance after another, that he manufactures out of thin air for no good reason. Even cops themselves will tell you, when they’re surveyed, that 25% of cops are unfit to be cops. Keep those odds in mind the next time you’ve had your fourth encounter with a cop).

At this point another cop on a motorcycle pulls up for back-up. So that changes the dynamic.

“The dispatcher just told me that they were wrong about the tresspassing charge,” said the cop. “But that you were arrested for assault. Why did you lie about that?”

“Because it happened way back in 1995 and it was completely bogus and the charges were dropped the next day and I had completely forgotten about it. That’s why. Aside from that I’ve lived in Berkeley for 40 years and you can run my name across the wire and you’ll find that my record is pretty clean.”

The cop continues to harangue me, looking for any angle to get at me. Finally I just say: “Whatever you want from me, I’m here for you.” (I don’t want to give him ANY excuse to accuse me of resisting, because I know he’s just looking for any excuse to throw the cuffs on me.)

So finally the cop hands me back my ID. Along with a sneering threat: “But if I EVER catch you on this campus again after curfew I’ll BLAH BLAH BLAH!!”

At this point I’m not even listening to him. I just cheerily wave good-bye (and good riddance) and say “You men have a good night.” And turn and head up the hill.

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Spawning

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 10:08 pm

 

 

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Like I said, a lot of the buildings in Berkeley have memories for me. Like the Intermezzo Cafe on Telegraph. Whenever I pass by it I’ll often flashback to a sunny afternoon in the summer of 1982. And, as always, I’ll count the years back in my mind and think: “Could it have really been 35 years ago? How did it all go by so quickly?”

I had left Berkeley for a year. But I had moved back because I wanted to get back with Mary who I was madly in love with. The problem was, she had hooked up with this 17 year old high school punk kid with a mohawk who was her new boyfriend. So, in an effort to win back Mary, or at least shoe-horn my way back into her life, I decided to publish a punk rock underground newspaper. Mary loved music, and she loved the music press (she always had a big stack of back issues of CREEM in her bedroom). So I knew she wouldn’t be able to resist (the things we do for love, huh?).

Anyways, one sunny afternoon in 1982 I happened to be walking by the Innermezzo Cafe. I was crashing in a little room at the Berkeley Inn across the street at the time. Mary happened to be drinking bottled beer at the window seat at the Intermezzo and when she saw me walking by she came running out to the sidewalk to greet me.

“PETER!!” she said (she was one of the few people who still knew me by real name before I got gobbled up by the Ace Backwords thing).

“MARY!” I said.

“Hey, I’m drinking beer with my friend Neil. Come inside and join us for a beer.”

Mary’s hair was short and jet black and spiked in the punk rock style. And she was wearing a black leather jacket with studs on it. And she was on crutches and she had a big cast on her leg that was covered with punk rock graffiti.

“What happened to your leg?” I said.

“I broke it slam dancing in the mosh pit at a punk show at the Elite Club,” she said.

I bought a beer and sat down alongside Mary. “Peter, this is my friend Neil Anderthol. He plays in this band called the Geeks,” said Mary. (everybody had funny punk rock names back then)

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I shook hands with Neil Anderthol. He looked sort of like a punk rock version of the Squiggy character from the “Laverne & Shirley” sit-com. He had the greased back hair of a ’50s greaser. And a black leather jacket. With the plastic arm off a baby doll sticking out of the back of his jacket. I guess as a macabre joke. We both looked at each other warily. I could instantly tell that Neil had the hots for Mary. He was doing this big, exaggerated performance trying to impress Mary with his witty and humorous quips. I could always spot that kind of fake act. Because I was doing the same thing. Going out of my way to try and impress Mary.

Mary was an incredibly sexy young woman. She oozed sex appeal from every pore. And she effortlessly attracted a band of suitors everywhere she went. They would be circling around her like a pack of wolves. And Mary loved nothing more than to pit them against each other, competing for her affection. Mary was into blood sport. You gotta take your kicks where you find them.

“I interviewed Lee Ving of Fear backstage at the Elite Club last weekend,” I said. Name-dropping to impress Mary

“Oh really. That is so cool!” said Mary, impressed. (Neil slumped noticeably back in his seat — score one for ole Ace)

“Yeah it’s gonna be the big feature for TWISTED IMAGE #1,” I said. “Hey Mary would you like to be the record review editor?”

“Boy would I!!” she said.

I finished my beer, shook hands with Neil and Mary. And made my exit. And the whole thing was like the opening scene in what would be a really exciting movie.

Neil Anderthol went on to write a love song about Mary called “Spawning” where he likened falling in love with smashing your head against rocks in the hopes of getting laid. Mary would have that affect on more than a few men over the years.

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A young woman on Shattuck Avenue

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 10:02 pm

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Somebody posted this one on the internet the other day.

She was a somewhat mysterious woman who hung out on Shattuck for a month around 1999. Sometimes she’d be with her shopping cart. Other times I’d spot her late at night, all by herself, sitting on the sidewalk, dressed in an expensive skirt and high heels as if she was going out on the town (or possibly hooking), with a suitcase along side her.

She had a boyfriend with facial tattoos who seemed in a constant rage. Giving him the impression of an angry clown.

I asked her on a couple of occasions if I could take her photo. And I took a series of them (this one was the best). I gave her a couple of bucks and copies of the photos in exchange.

Never imagining it would later be immortalized by Crumb.

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https://acidheroes.wordpress.com/2013/03/29/1918/

November 8, 2017

Miss LaPointe

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ace Backwords @ 8:26 pm

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I remember my freshman English teacher. Miss LaPointe. Man she was hot. She was red hot. She was a very attractive woman. Even her name was hot. Miss LaPointe. I think she was French. Talk about being “hot for teacher.”

Nobody ever cut Miss LaPointe’s class. The room was always packed. People would be fighting to get front row desks. There would be people lined up in the hallway. Standing Room Only. Hoping to get a seat in the classroom.

Miss LaPointe wasn’t TRYING to be sexy. But she was so beautiful she couldn’t HELP being sexy. She’d wear these conservative 3-piece suit kind of outfits. But with the first couple of buttons of her blouse unbuttoned. Just enough to give you just a hint of her cleavage. And every now and then she’d bend over to get something from her desk. And for a split second you’d think that one of her breasts might pop out. And there would be an audible gasp. And every male in the class — as well as several of the female lesbians in the class — would be riveted with our attention. It was a classroom learning experience for all of us.

But the thing I most remember about Miss LaPointe. She was a great English teacher. Every book she turned us onto was a classic and well worth reading. Stuff like Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” (“Tell me about the rabbits, George.”).

But the thing I most remember was this one classroom writing assignment. “OK,” said Miss LaPointe. “I want everyone in the class to be silent for the next 15 minutes. And I want you to write down whatever thoughts happen to randomly pop into your head. Whatever you happen to be thinking, just write it down ”

That seemed like a pretty novel approach. And I would spend the next 40 years of my life as an artist doing exactly that.

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November 6, 2017

Cats are so smart

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 9:36 pm
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Scaredy Cat

 

Cats are so smart.

The last couple nights I’ve been camping in a different part of the Berkeley hills. Last night, one of my feral cats, Scaredy Cat (one of the smartest of the bunch) managed to track me down. She wakes me up in the middle of the night meowing over and over. She’s calling out to me. She’s pretty sure it’s me. But she’s not completely sure. Because I’m some lump sleeping in the darkness in an unfamiliar spot. So she’s afraid to approach me. And her meowing is sort of saying “IS THAT YOU? IS THAT YOU?”

I call out to her with some of my usual catch phrases. “You big fat cat!” and “Come and get your food!”

She finally realizes it is me. Comes over. Climbs on top of my chest. Purring loudly. It’s a surreal scene. Her face is sillouetted in the moonlight as she presses her face up to mine.

I get out my backpack and feed her a leftover turkey and cheese sandwich and a slice of sausage pizza. And she sleeps along side me all night long.

Cats study us, and our behavior. And figure out ways to adapt along side us. They’re pretty smart.

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