Acid Heroes: the Legends of LSD

March 27, 2017

The Cody’s corner

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 8:27 pm

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I always get a wistful feeling when I walk by this corner. I’m so haunted by my past in a way. And a thousand random memories might pop into my brain. Some happy. Some funny. Some bizarre. Some heart-breaking.

Just now as I passed I was thinking about the Summer of 1982. Remembering dropping off a big stack of TWISTED IMAGE #1 — hot off the presses! — and leaving it with the other free newspapers by the front door of Cody’s Books. It was my first real success in the world, age 26. After mostly fucking up, up to that point. So it was a triumphant moment. And it was the first (and certainly not the last) time I would leave my mark on Telegraph Avenue. It was kind of like a dog marking his territory by urinating on the corner. I guess that’s what I was doing, dropping off a big stack of my newspapers on that corner (“I’M HERE, WORLD!”).

Or — like Billy Pilgrim traveling in time — my mind might suddenly fast-forward to December of 1990. And the CBS News film crew is there to interview me and Duncan about the latest issue of the TELEGRAPH STREET CALENDAR. And I’ll think back to all the characters that were on the scene back then. And wonder where they all went. And why the hell I’m still here. . .

And it’ll keep going back and forth like that in my mind. Until I finally get to the next block. And I can stop thinking about all that crap.

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March 25, 2017

High times on University Avenue

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 8:29 pm

 

I lived in this apartment building on University Avenue in Berkeley for 13 years. 1982 to 1995. I had a studio apartment on the 2nd floor. That’s my kitchen window in the upper right corner.

I used to smoke a lot of pot back then. But I always got a little paranoid when I smoked pot in my apartment. Because the manager and his wife lived right next door to me. And I was paranoid that if they smelled my pot, they might report me to the owner of the building, who was extremely conservative, and I’d get evicted from my apartment.

Stan and Rose Mary was the name of the manager and his wife. They were a little, old gray-haired couple. He was about 70 and she was about 60. And pretty straight-laced. And back in those ancient days there were a LOT of strait-laced people who looked down on pot. It was definitely illegal back then, that’s for sure. And a LOT of people thought pot was just as bad as heroin or any other drugs.

So whenever I smoked pot in my apartment I’d always open up all the windows. And I’d blow the pot smoke out the window. Fan the smoke a little. And I never smoked by my front door, lest the pot smell leaked out to the hallway and into the manager’s front door.

For most of the years I lived there I was a pretty good tenant (aside from being a pot-smoking drug degenerate). But then in 1994 I got 4 months behind on my rent (I cleverly was sinking every penny I got my hands on, into recording and manufacturing a CD that I was convinced was going to be a big, big hit, but ended up barely breaking even).

So now I was DOUBLEY paranoid about Stan the manager. And I would dart in and out of my apartment hoping he didn’t catch me.

But then one day he caught me just as I was walking into my apartment.

“Uh, Ace, could I talk to you for a second about your rent?” said Stan.

Oh fuck! Busted!

“Yeah, I know,” I said. “I’m four months behind on my rent. I guess if I can’t come up with some money pretty soon I’m gonna have to move out.”

“Ace, this is what i think you should do,” said Stan.

Uh oh.

“Grow pot.”

“Say what??” I said.

“That’s right. You should grow pot,” he said.

“Say what??”

Now out of ALL the things I expected Stan the manager was going to say to me at that exact moment. That was probably just about the LAST thing I expected he’d say.

“Yeah, there’s a LOT of money in pot,” he said. “I’ve been growing it myself for years. And I even set up 8 other people around town with the grow-room equipment so they can grow it in their closets. And I supply them with primo seeds and plants to get them started. Then we pool the profits.”

“You’re kidding??” I said.

“Heck no I’m not kidding. Wait right here.”

Stan dashed into his apartment. And then came back with this big plastic container of green butter.

“We turn the buds into pot butter. This is pure THC. Then we turn it into edibles.”

Stan’s wife Rose Mary popped up behind him with a big smile on her face. “Here, Ace, try a couple of these,” she said, handing me two big oat meal cookies. “They’re from our latest batch.”

“Geez!” I said.

“But you might want to only eat half of that cookie,” she said, proudly. “They’re pretty strong.”

I guess I should have known. Stan often did walk around the building with a big, glassy-eyed smile on his face.

“I can set you up with all the grow-room equipment you need,” said Stan

It turned out Stan even subscribed to HIGH TIMES magazine and had seen my comics in there. Which is why he thought I’d be a good person for the job.

But it was the weirdest thing. It was like being strapped down into an electric chair to be executed. But then right before they pull the switch you get a call from the Governor, who not only gives you a pardon, but tells you you just won the Lottery.

But that’s the weird thing about living in those old apartment buildings. You just NEVER know what the people next-door are really doing behind closed doors.

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March 23, 2017

“You’re so TALL!!”

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 8:36 pm

 

Dad

Everyone in my family is short. My 4 brothers and sisters and mother and father are all around 5-foot-6 or shorter. Except for me. Somehow I ended up 6-foot tall.

And I was short most of the time when I was a kid growing up. In 8th grade I was about 5-foot tall. I remember the 8th grade graduation ceremony. They lined the whole class up by size for the ceremony. I was like the 5th shortest kid in a class of a couple hundred people.

But then when I was 16 I inexplicably shot up and started to grow. I always suspected I actually WILLED myself to grow tall. You see, my big dream as a kid was to be a professional basketball player. So I really wanted to be tall. So my mother put a tape-measurer on the side of the doorway leading to the kitchen. And every couple of weeks I’d put my back to the tape-measurer and measure myself. I’d write a little line on the doorway with a pencil, of where the top of my head was, so I could see how much I had grown in the last 3 weeks.

And by the time I was 17 I had made it to 6-feet tall. I really think I WILLED myself to grow. Measuring myself over and over (don’t under-estimate the power of auto-suggestion).

So anyways, I had a bad relationship with my mother (she didn’t like me and I didn’t like her — long story). So for most of my adult life I never saw my mother or had any kind of relationship with her.

But then a couple years ago we started hanging out a bit. Every couple of weeks we’d go out for coffee. Stuff like that. And whenever she saw me she’d always say the same thing:

“You’re so TALL!!”

Mom

She’d sort of gush about it with this big smile on her face. Part of it was because most of the time when she knew me as a kid I was small. So it surprised her that I was now tall.

But after awhile it started to annoy me that she gushed “You’re so TALL!!” every time she saw me. I realized it was mostly perfunctory. She wanted to make a big show that she liked me and approved of me and was impressed with me. So she’d constantly compliment me for being tall.

But after awhile I realized that was the ONLY thing she could think of to compliment me about. I mean she was never impressed by any of my artwork or any of my accomplishments or any of my other allegedly sterling traits. But she could always say how impressed she was that I was tall. “You’re so TALL!!” It was her “go-to” compliment. But after awhile it started to feel like damning-with-faint-praise (like I said we always had a lousy relationship).

But anyways, I still to this day believe I WILLED myself to grow tall. Measuring my height over and over.

Though it could just be recessive genes.

Or it could be the milkman we had before I was born. I heard he was about 6-foot tall, kind of gangling, always wore a baseball hat, and they say he had an odd love for feral cats. And he was always delivering the milk to our house when my father was off at work.

So they could explain it too.

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I can’t get no . . .

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 8:22 pm

I’m never really satisfied. Sometimes I’ll be petting one of my feral cats. And the cat will be purring and purring. And I’ll think: “Is that it??”

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March 22, 2017

The one thing I really miss

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 6:59 pm

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.The one thing I really miss, since I stopped drawing cartoons back in 1995. Isn’t drawing cartoons. I don’t miss that at all. But I miss being a “cartoonist.” It was like belonging to a really cool club. Fellow cartoonists. It was like a secret brethren. You meet another cartoonist. And you instantly recognize them. As One Of Us.

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Mini Owl moves in next door

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 6:10 pm

 

Image may contain: catOf all the feral cats at my campsite (there are 7 at this point) I think Mini Owl is getting to be the most attached to me.

His favorite nesting spot is about 20 yards down the hill from my campsite. It’s a cool little spot. Nestled among the bushes. And it gets a lot of direct sunlight. So Mini Owl likes to lay there in his personal nest, basking in the sun.

All the other feral cats. They like to hang out with me at my campsite. But eventually, they eat their breakfast, and hang out for awhile, and then head off in different directions to their personal, private nests.

(All these years I’ve never been able to figure out where their nests are. When I thought Scaredy Cat had popped out a litter of kittens, I tried to find out where her nest was. But I never found it.)

But Mini Owl sets up his nest (his pad) just 20 yards down the hill from my campsite.

So every morning, after all the other feral cats have split, and I’m packing up my campsite, Mini Owl (whos hanging out at his nest) will hear me packing up and come trotting back up from his nest to say goodbye to me.

Usually I’ll give him an extra treat before I go. This morning I had this big, leftover turkey leg to give him. So he really scored.

I think he’s a little more attached to me than the other feral cats. Because he lingers around right to the last minute before I leave.

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March 21, 2017

The psychic power of cats

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 6:50 pm

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We were talking about the psychic powers of cats.

My friend Linda’s cat was always waiting for her at the front door of her apartment whenever she came home. Linda always just assumed the cat heard Linda’s feet when she was paddling down the hallway. And came running up to the door to greet her.

But then one day I was hanging out at Linda’s apartment by myself while Linda was out. Suddenly Linda’s cat went running to the front door and sat there. 5 minutes later Linda showed up.

How the cat knew Linda was coming, I have no idea.

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Telegraph Avenue 1982

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 5:52 pm

 

The first time I really got a taste of the Telegraph scene was in the summer of 1982 when I moved back to Berkeley from Eureka. For 3 months I lived with my friend Duncan in his dusty little hotel room on the 4th floor of the Berkeley Inn. The famous poet Julia Vinograd lived down the hall. And all sorts of weird and interesting people lived there.

The Telegraph Avenue scene was like a little village back then. A town within a town. And people talked about “the Telegraph community” with a straight face. There was cheap rent all over the place (Duncan was paying $110 a month for his room). So you had all sorts of people living there. Bohemians, artists, writers, people working low-income jobs, welfare cases, street crazies, druggies, etc.

You’d go out on the Ave and you’d see the same people every day. Hanging out at the coffee shops and the street corners and Sproul Plaza. And I guess that’s what gave it it’s “community” feel. There was a guy who rented out a little office on Bancroft and published a regular Telegraph newsletter — I forget the name but the sub-title captured the flavor of the scene: “Struggle and giggle.” And my pal Duncan published a little magazine: TELE TIMES: Telegraph Avenue’s Tight Little Monthly. And people on the scene were constantly launching new and weird artistic ventures, utopian ventures, revolutionary ventures. You name it.

Just about every street vending spot was jammed with street vendors back then, from Dwight Way to the campus. Selling their colorful hippie-esque arts and crafts. And tourists would flock to the Ave specifically to get a taste of that.

Most of the street vendors are gone now. There’s just an ever-dwindling hand full of oldtimers.

And most of the places that made Telegraph Avenue special are long gone too. Cody’s Books. The Med. Fred’s Market. Mario’s. Comics and Comix. Cafe Innermezzo. Shambala Books. Universal Records. The Reprint Mint. Shakespeare Books. And, of course, the Berkeley Inn.

Nowadays the scene is mostly just made up of the ever-growing hordes of college students. And homeless people. Which doesn’t make for much of a scene. But that’s the way the cookie crumbled.

It’s hard to believe it was 35 years ago. 1982. But when I do the math I guess it’s so. And most of the people from back then — “the Telegraph people” — are long gone, too. Which makes me wonder why I’m still here. . . I guess I’m too dumb to figure out anywhere else to go.

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Yet another weird and odd scene in a seemingly endless expanse of weird and odd scenes

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 5:45 pm

 

So there I was last night. Hanging out by myself. Minding my own business. Trying to write a story on my cellphone. Way in the back there. In this fairly private and secluded spot. This cul de sac. When these three guys show up. Standing over me. And announce they want to hang out back there with me.

WHEN THERE ARE PLENTY OF OTHER GODDAMN SPACES IN THIS BIG UNIVERSE OF OURS WHERE THEY COULD ALSO HANG OUT!!!!

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I just had yet another weird and odd scene. In a seemingly endless expanse of weird and odd scenes.

It’s 8pm on a Sunday night. And I’m hanging out at this little nook and cranny on lower Sproul Plaza on the Berkeley campus where there’s an outdoor outlet where I can charge my cellphone and sip my beer and babble on with my latest Facebook post (Telegraph Ave 1982).

When these three high school-age kids, probably 17-years-old, are suddenly standing over me.

“Hey is that an outlet? I need to charge my cellphone,” says one of them.

“Yeah it is,” I said. “But don’t charge your cellphone here. I want to be by myself right now.”

“I want to charge my cellphone in that outlet,” he said. “There are two outlets. We can both charge our phones.”

“No. Not here,” I said. “I’m trying to write something. I need to concentrate. I don’t want any company.”

“No I want to use that outlet,” he said. He takes out his battery charger.

“No you’re not,” I said

“Yes I am,” he said.

I stood up and gave him a good look at Ace Backwords. “Listen. There are all sorts of outlets right down there by the benches on lower Sproul. Go use those ones.”

“No I wanna use this one.”

“No. Go somewhere else. I’m trying to write. I don’t want people around.”

“We’ll be quiet.”

“No go away.”

“You want me to swing on you?” (so the possibility of physical violence has now been added to the equation).

“No I want you to go away.”

“Dude. Sit down.”

“DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO!” I said with an extra edge to my voice.

“Sit down.”

“DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO.”

“Dude, stop looking at me ”

“YOU STOP LOOKING AT ME.”

He averts his eyes for a moment and then says. “I stopped looking at you. But you’re still looking at me.”

“WELL YOU’RE STILL LOOKING AT ME.”

One of his toadies says. “Hey you don’t got to make a big drama out of this.” (the dynamic is that there are three of them and only one of me — these punks wouldn’t have been very brave if it was just one on one)

“Listen I’m gonna plug my cellphone in,” he said moving his charger toward the outlet.

“NO YOU’RE NOT.”

“Yes I am.”

“NO YOU’RE NOT.”

So we’re standing there facing off.

But then I realized my cellphone is already 97% charged. And I had finished writing my Facebook post about Telegraph 1982. And I’m almost out of beer. So I’m ready to leave anyways. But it was just a face thing. So I said:

“Oh for crissakes. You can charge your damn cellphone. I’m leaving.”

I pull my charger out of the outlet and start to pack up.

“No you can stay here,” he says. He puts his charger back in his pocket and the three of them start to leave. Which surprised me. I guess it was a face thing with them, too.

So I quickly pack up and head off. But as I pass the three of them — who are still loitering in the general area — I say:

“Hang tough, men ”

“You too, ” they said

I wanted to let them know that every conflict doesn’t have to end in a macho battle to the death. And I have a grudging respect for anyone who is willing to stand up to a monster like me (but they’re usually more stupid than brave).

And they headed back to the outlet to charge their cellphone.

And I headed off to a part of the Universe that didn’t include those three assholes.

So the story had a happy ending for all concerned.

Ha ha.

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March 18, 2017

Family secrets

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 8:58 pm

 

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Guns and alcohol. What a GREAT combination!!

My mother’s father — who was a Native American Indian — used to go berzerk when he drank whiskey. He’d rampage through their house with his shotgun threatening to kill the entire family. My mother’s mother would lock the whole family in the bedroom and they’d be hiding under the bed, listening to him rampaging through the house, smashing things up and cursing and yelling. Finally, he’d pass out. And they could come out of the bedroom.

Then one day he went off into the New Hampshire mountains by himself with his shotgun and blew his brains out.

At least that’s what my mother always used to tell me as a kid.

Then, a couple years ago, I was talking to my Mom about that incident. And my mother said:

“No, that never happened. My father never committed suicide. I never told you that.”

“What happened was, my father was having an affair with another man’s wife. So the guy shot him and killed him. Shot my father in the back outside of a bar. It never went to trial because back then, if you were messing with another man’s wife? They felt you deserved to be shot.”

But that’s what it was always like in my family. Nothing was ever as it seemed. And the officially-told version of all the family stories, usually turned out to be not true.

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