Acid Heroes: the Legends of LSD

May 29, 2015

Wingnut wisdom

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 7:42 pm


Peter Labriola's photo.I thought this was a good line.

There used to be this wingnut in Berkeley who always walked around talking to himself.  So my friend asked him:  “How come you’re always talking to yourself?”  And he said:  “Because nobody else will listen to me.”

That made perfect sense to me.


May 28, 2015

How to win an argument in one easy step

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 7:09 pm


Peter Labriola's photo.You know the old joke:  “HOW TO GET INTO AN ARGUMENT:  1.) Post an opinion on the internet.  2.)  Wait a minute.”

So anyways, these two guys were arguing about some very important issue on the internet.  So the first guy posted a link that backed up his position.  But then the second guy posted a link that backed up HIS position.  But the first guy refuted the other guy’s link as “rightwing propaganda.”  But then the second guy refuted the OTHER guy’s link as “liberal media bias.”

So who can we believe??   How can we ever really know what the truth is, and who was right or wrong, and who won the very important goddamn argument??

So I decided that my new position from now on is that I only believe what I read in the blogs I write.  I haven’t lost a single argument since I adopted that position.


May 26, 2015

Wingnuts of Berkeley

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 7:44 pm


Peter Labriola's photo.Back in the day, Sproul Plaza on the Berkeley campus used to be a magnet for wingnuts.

There was a guy in the 1970s who actually plucked his eyeballs out back then.  He was a tarot card reader on Telegraph Ave.  And he was on this weird messianic trip.  He had it all planned out.  After he plucked his eyes out he was going to rush to Sproul Plaza (where all the soapbox orators and guru-wannabes hung out at the time) and deliver his great message that would save mankind and everyone would realize he was the messiah returned to earth.

It had something to do with that Biblical passage “If thine eyes offend thee pluck them out.”  Which he took rather literally.  And god knows what else was stewing in his brain.  He said the world was so ugly he couldn’t bare to look at it anymore.  But he believed that if he immediately rushed to Sproul Plaza with his gouged-out eyes and started preaching his revolutionary message to the masses, humanity would find salvation once and for all.

What he didn’t count on was the long stint in the hospital and the psyche ward after plucking his eyeballs.

After awhile he quietly returned to being a sidewalk tarot card reader on Telegraph.  Using a special deck of braille tarot cards.


May 23, 2015

Back in the day when sensitive singer/songwriters ruled the earth

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 7:13 pm


Obscure Jackson Browne fact: His real first name is Clyde.

Yesterday I spotted this Jackson Browne flier on Telegraph Avenue.  And it reminded me of the time I got kicked out of this Berkeley newspaper for making fun of Jackson Browne.

Back in the olden days, my “Twisted Image” comic strip appeared in the campus newspaper, the Daily Cal, off-and-on from 1986 to 1994.  Every semester the Daily Cal had a big election where the staff voted on which comic strips they wanted to run.  And I surely set the record for the most times voted in and then later voted out.  At least 10 times.  I’m in.  Then I’m out.   It was like every 3 months the staff realized: “Ya know, that Ace Backwords guy is kind of an asshole.”  And then 3 months later they realized:  “Ya know, we kind of miss that weird, funky comic strip.”

So anyways, I remember this one election.  I was always nervous about those things.  So I brought along my friend B.N. Duncan with me for moral support.  Just as we were walking into the jam-packed newsroom, Duncan cut the loudest, smelliest fart you ever heard.  Which was JUST like Duncan.  Who was a great guy and an artistic genius, but had zero social decorum.

So about 50 heads turned en masse and looked at us as we entered the room.  And not a particularly WELCOMING look.  So it was sort of a bad omen for what was to come.

Anyways, the entire staff was debating and arguing about the merits of the cartoonists and columnists that were vying for a place in the newspaper that semester.  And this one guy stands up and angrily confronts me.  He’s an earnest, young blonde guy; sort of a hippie-ish looking college student type, about 20 years old.

“I was DEEPLY offended by that comic strip you did about Jackson Browne,” he said, wagging his finger at me.

I had done this comic strip parody about Jackson Browne —  a sensitive singer/songwriter who was so sensitive he was constantly sobbing and weeping for the plight of the world.  And in one panel he was plugging his latest hit album, “Portrait of a Wimp,” and the album cover had a photo of Jackson Browne’s sensitive face with tears streaming down it . . . Not particularly one of my better comics.  But when you’re cranking out a strip every day you can’t be too picky.

“Your comic strip isn’t CONSTRUCTIVE!!” he huffed.

“Well, I never thought the role of a comic strip was to be particularly constructive,” I said in my defense.

Which was the best I could muster at the time.  Because I’m terrible at speaking in front of large groups of people.  I always think of the things I SHOULD have said an hour later, when it’s too late.  (Like I could have mentioned that this professor at UCLA  had written me, asking permission to use some of my cartoons as part of her curriculum.  That’s pretty constructive.  Or maybe she thought Jackson Browne was a little wimpy, too.)

But the blonde guy went on and on with his righteous harangue against me.  It was obvious I was a public menace and the Daily Cal — that major metropolitan newspaper — had a moral obligation to banish me and my unconstructive cartoons from the public prints forevermore . . . Or, at least until they voted me back in 3 months later.

But yeah, I got trounced in that election.  Which was a blow to my ego.  But I learned a valuable lesson.  Hell hath no fury like a sensitive Jackson Browne fan scorned.


May 19, 2015

Good morning, campers

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ace Backwords @ 6:43 pm


Peter Labriola's photo.Lazed around at my campsite until 2 in the afternoon, feeding my feral cats and listening to the Giants game on the radio (Giants won 9 to 8!!).  What the fuck, it’s Sunday, the day of rest.  And tomorrow is Malcolm X Day, an official holiday in Berkeley.  So I’m taking it easy.  I wake up woozy, as usual, from all the booze I drink.  It occurred to me last night that almost all of the different drinking partners I’ve had over the years are gone.  They’ve either dead or they had to give up drinking because their bodies broke down or they got into programs (one guy takes these pills that make him sick if he drinks alcohol).  So I give myself points for stamina if nothing else.

Trudge down to civilization.  Well, People’s Park.  Buy a Virginia Slim from Hate Man for 50 cents.  Before I even light it, a fight breaks out on the lawn in front of us.  Three young street guys and a chick with a skateboard are chasing after this other street person, a big, loony-acting guy with no shirt on.  The chick whacks him on his side a  couple of times with her skateboard.  Another guy whacks him from behind.  He almost goes down on the ground but scrambles to keep his balance.  So he avoids getting gang-stomped, but just barely.  They’re chasing him all around the lawn.  The loon can’t decide whether to run away or fight back.  So they’re all dancing around each other.  The chick grabs a guitar lying on the ground — I assume it’s his — and hurls it at a tree.

Peter Labriola's photo.“I think that’s Woodhead,” said Hate Man as he intently watched the action.  “He’s been doing meth and acting crazy all morning.  He’s been feuding with Mad Max who threatened to kill him.  And I heard someone scream, ‘I’m going to get my weapon!’  And someone else was shouting, ‘Get out of the Park nobody likes you!'”

The shirtless loon leaves the Park, and then comes back with this woman for back-up.  They both have big sticks in their hands that they’re waving around.

“Geez, it’s like a bunch of cavemen,” I said.

“Yeah,” said Hate Man.

I stubbed out my cigarette before I half-smoked it.  “I gotta’ go get some coffee and wake up,” I said.

And that’s how my day started.  How is yours going?


May 16, 2015

Going out of business

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 10:03 pm


Peter Labriola's photo.I always get a sad feeling whenever I see a business going out of business.  Often, I watched them when they were setting up their business in the first place.  Putting all the pieces together with a great sense of hopefulness.  And I’ll think of all the hard work and money they invested.  Ending up with broken dreams.

I had watched these guys spend a lot of time preparing to launch their new store on Telegraph and Durant. Called “Earth’s Bizarre.”  So it was hard to get a read on exactly what it would be.   They had spent several months painting the front of the building in colorful colors.  And when you peaked through the slits of the boarded-up front windows it looked like they were filling the building with all sorts of mysterious and magical-looking objects.  So there was a great sense of curiosity and anticipation about what they were cooking up.  It seemed like one of those mad dreams that a bunch of starry-eyed hippies used to dream up back in the old days.

When they finally opened up around Christmas, I had a sense, the first time I went in there, that the place was doomed as a business model.  Which was sad.  Because they had collected all sorts of weird and wondrous merchandise.  Life-sized Buddha statues.  Full suits of armor.  Vintage electric guitars that had once been owned by the likes of Bob Dylan and Keith Richards (starting at $20,000).  All kinds of expensive, hand-crafted art objects and curios.  A real eclectic mix.  And a welcome change from the usual bland and generic corporate chain stores that now dominate Berkeley

Peter Labriola's photo.But I couldn’t help wondering:  Who was gonna’ buy this stuff??  I mean, the Tele neighborhood is mostly made up of poor college students living in cramped hovels.  Even if they could afford to buy the stuff, where the hell would they put it?

Four months later, the dream was over.   “They were paying $11,000 a month rent,” explained Hoodie Dave, as he watched them loading their inventory into U-Haul trucks.

It’s always a shame when cool things can’t afford to exist in this harsh world of ours.  Fragile dreams often don’t come true.

I remember this other budding entrepreneur who came up with this crazy, original idea for a business on Telegraph a couple of years ago.  A restaurant that sold nothing but breakfast cereals.  Cheerios, Captain Crunch, Sugar Frosted Flakes, etc.  The store looked so zany and cool with all the different cereal boxes on display.  “The idea came to me one night in a dream,” said the owner.  Unfortunately, I guess it didn’t occur to him in the dream that since cereal is so cheap and convenient to prepare at home, most people wouldn’t be willing to pay extra to have it prepared in a restaurant.  The poor guy struggled along for a year until he finally packed it in.

It’s a cool thing when somebody comes up with an original idea that nobody had thought of doing before.  I guess the problem is:  There’s often a reason why nobody had thought of doing it before.

Ace Backwords's photo.

Peter Labriola's photo..

May 15, 2015

Graduation Day

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 7:30 pm


It’s a weird experience living in a college town.  It’s sort of like a Dorian Gray trip.  Everyone around you remains eternally young, eternally 18 to 22.  Only you age and grow old.

I first started hanging out on the Berkeley campus around 1992.  I was 35, but a fairly youthful 35.  And my comic strip was appearing every day in the campus newspaper.  So I felt a part of the whole scene.  When I walked across the campus, students would hand me their fliers just like they handed them to the other college students who passed by.

But as the years drifted by, I got farther and farther removed from the scene.  It was like, everyone else graduated and moved on with their lives.   But I remained trapped in this kind of purgatory, like an eternal student.

There’s kind of a Peter Pan element to many street people.  Lost little boys who never grow up.  Living lives mostly devoid of adult concerns like families, homes and careers, many street people live in a permanent state of adolescence.   So many of them remind me of the 17-year-old high school stoners that used to hang out in the parking lot getting stoned all day.  Eternally trapped in that twilight zone.

In 1990 I published the first issue of the Telegraph Avenue Street Calendar.  For awhile it was a bit of a sensation on the Berkeley scene.  So it was slightly disturbing to me when I realized the other day that virtually every college student on the Berkeley campus today hadn’t even been BORN yet when that first issue came out

I guess that can happen sometimes.  As you grow old, you get this sense that life has passed you by.


May 13, 2015

The Hermit

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 9:08 pm


Peter Labriola's photo.There are some people on the street scene that are TOTAL loners.   There’s one guy who’s been on the Telegraph scene for 20 years, and I’ve never once seen him talking to another person.  Nobody knows his real name.  The few people that notice him refer to him as  the Hermit.

The Hermit is short and pudgy, with ratty blonde/gray hair and a ratty beard.  He kind of looks like a big rat.  He even sort of gnaws at his lower lip.  Usually wears four or five shirts and jackets.  The “layered look.”  Which makes him look very round.

For 10 years he set up by himself on Sproul Plaza, just on the periphery of the huge Hate Man street scene.  Like I said, he never talked, but every now and then he would make these high-pitched, squealing animal sounds when he was feeling very frustrated and unhappy.  It was a sound of raw pain.  I’m not sure if he’s even capable of communicating in words.  He’s pretty out there.

I’ve always admired him because, unlike so many street people, he never causes trouble or acts up.  He keeps his pain to himself.   And he’s TOTALLY self-sufficient in a way that few people are.  He never goes to the free meals.  Scrounges all his food from garbage cans.   Collects snipes all day and rolls them into cigarettes.   I’ve never once seen him with money, or go into a store and buy something.

I’ve spent years scrounging around myself, so I often pass him on our respective routes.  I never make eye contact.  All he wants is to be left alone, and that’s not too much for any man to ask.

For the last year his main hang-out spot is an out-of-the-way bench on C****** Ave.   He’s savvy at finding these little pockets of space in the congested urban landscape where he can sit and exist.   The throngs of college students pass him by every day, barely noticing him living amongst them in the shadows.   I’ll see him sitting there, smoking his butts and staring off into space.   Who knows where he came from, or how he ended up like this.   You assume he has no family.  Maybe he never did.   And he obviously has no friends.   He is all alone in this world in a way that few people are.   I suppose you could classify him as a feral human.   In the way that he lives completely outside the bounds of society.  He is truly a stranger in a strange land.

One time I couldn’t resist.  I had my cellphone out and I secretly took a photo of him as he passed me.  I probably shouldn’t have.  And I wouldn’t think of publishing it.  Maybe I shouldn’t even be writing about him.


May 10, 2015

Have a very feral Mothers Day!

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 10:43 pm
Tags: , , ,


Ace Backwords's photo.A rare shot of Moo Cat and her mother, Blondie, in the same frame.  Moo Cat is often mean to Blondie.  When I put the cat food out, Moo cat will often rush up to Blondie and start throwing slashing punches at Blondie’s face.  To drive her away from the food.  But Blondie is too quick.  She always dodges the blows.  But she never fights back.  She just looks at Moo Cat with this exasperated look.  Like:  “What is your PROBLEM, girl?”  Then they forget about it and eat their breakfast.

Sometimes I want to say to Moo Cat:  “Is that any way to treat your MOTHER?  Don’t you remember when you were a little kitten and Blondie used to take the hot dogs I put out and put them in her mouth and carry them back to her nest to feed you and her other kittens?”

I guess feral cats aren’t very sentimental.  HAPPY MOTHERS DAY!


May 9, 2015

Happy Mothers Day

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 6:15 pm


Ace Backwords's photo.My Mother.  I hated her for years.  And she hated me for years.  Nowadays we mostly get along.  We both agreed: Hey, we both might be assholes.  But we’re really not that much better or worse than anybody else.  So let’s lighten up on each other.

Her maiden name was Patricia Gearwar.  A Native American Indian name.  Her father was one of them redskins.  (OH!  How politically incorrect of me to refer to the pigments of somebody’s skin) (So don’t give me any shit when I’m red-faced drunk from drinking alcohol).

I always wondered if that was why I had such a bug up my ass.  To have a maiden name like that (it’s on my goddamn birth certificate).  Gearwar.  As in “Geared For War.”


Anyways, I digress.  Happy Mothers Day everybody.


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