Acid Heroes: the Legends of LSD

July 22, 2016

The final issue of the Telegraph Street Calendar

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 8:20 pm


Ace Backwords's photo.

The Telegraph Street Calendar 2004 was the 15th, and final, issue of the series.  It ran from 1990 to 2004.  And, from a personal view, I was 33 when we started and 49 when we ended.  So when we started I was a young man, and when we finished, well, I was no longer a young man.  So it spanned a pretty significant portion of my life.

One of the reasons we started the Telegraph Street Calendar was that we felt the media mostly portrayed “the homeless” in a stereotypical manner.  Either as “noble victims” or “trouble-making bums.”    First and foremost, Duncan and I wanted to present the street people as individual people.  And we looked at the street scene the way an anthropologist might study any particular tribe.  In fact, street people aren’t really all that different than any other group of people (though they certainly have their distinctive elements).  Street people eat and sleep and shit and piss  and socialize  and work (well, some of  the time) and raise children and pets just like any other group of people.  My standard line used to be:  “The street scene is just like high school, except with rattier clothes and less teeth.”

We rarely had any trouble coming up with a unique theme for each issues.  Because the street scene used to change dramatically on it’s own every year.  Due to the transcient nature of street-people and the ever-shifting circumstances of street life.  Some years stand out in my mind like colorful, zany, sunny days.  Whereas other years have a darker and more tragic resonance.  The whole project was very much like publishing a yearly Yearbook of the Telegraph street scene.  And as Duncan and I hawked the latest issue at our vending table in front of Cody’s Books, the latest arrivals to the street scene would often check in with us, as if we functioned as sort of a Chamber of Commerce for the street people.

At any rate, the whole project was a pretty bizarre adventure that thrust me into places and situations that I never in a million years expected to find myself in. As they say.  It was a trip, mon!

Here are a couple of the characters that were featured in that last issue.

JOHN D. An archetypal street bro’. Hit the Tele scene in the late 1970s and made the scene for decades.

ELIZABETH and ANNIE. Quintessential grand dames of the streets. Elizabeth goes all the way back to the late ’60s Telegraph street scene, one of the first of the Berkeley street hippies.



July 21, 2016

Telegraph Street Music, Volume One

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 9:01 pm


Telegraph Avenue Street Music's photo.One of the weirdest scenes I was ever involved in was the year I spent recording a compilation CD of Berkeley street musicians back in 1994. The “Telegraph Street Music” CD. Volume One.

I had spent the previous 9 years working as a cartoonist. Now, cartoonists are basically nerdy, introspective, mild-mannered types. The kind of people that are comfortable sitting by themselves at a drawing board for long stretches of time. So that was the kind of scene I was used to. So I was completely unprepared for immersing myself in the middle of the music scene. Musicians are the exact opposite of cartoonists. They’re wild, aggressively extroverted, exhibitionists, overly emotional. And among the most drugged-out and hard-drinking groups of people there is (I’ve read that only physicians have a higher rate of drug use than musicians). And this was even MORE pronounced among street musicians.

And it’s not hard to understand the high drug and alcohol content among musicians. They regularly gig at bars and nightclubs where booze is the stock in trade. And playing music also goes along with “partying” which is also a big drug and drink scene. And anybody who has ever pounded down a few quick beers to muster the courage to get up on stage and sing karaoke can understand that part of the equation.

Myself, I was taking a lot of psychedelic drugs back then. When I took acid and played music, my music sounded better, more profound, cosmic even. (Of course later I realized, if I really had had any musical talent I wouldn’t have needed the drugs to make it sound good. It would’ve sounded good just on its own.)

I spent a year sort of auditioning all these crazy Berkeley street musicians and setting up all these impromptu jam sessions on street corners. And there was always plenty of pot, booze, crack cocaine, speed, acid, ‘shrooms, you name it, to keep the party going. So for me it was sort of like stepping into a whirlwind of alternate mental states of mind.

Image may contain: 1 personAnyways, I managed to get the CD pressed up. 22 track of chart-topping weirdness. And I printed up a 64-page magazine to go along with it because I was into over-kill back then. And it got written up in all the local newspapers and music magazines. The San Francisco Chronicle did a big article with the big headline “The Surprise Hit of the Season.” Which was a bit of an exaggeration. But I wasn’t complaining. And KSAN — the big psuedo-hippie classic rock station — did a feature on it and played some of the tracks. And the first pressing of a thousand copies sold out pretty quickly.

I had this Peavy amp in my apartment at the time, that I’d bought from some crackhead musician for 50 bucks worth of crack (that amp had great fuzz tone for power chords!!). So I had all these street musicians tramping through my place at all hours of the day and night, partying away and making lots of music in between all the drugs and alcohol. ROCK’N’ROLL YA PUKES!! My upstairs neighbor wanted to kill me. And I can’t say I blamed him. After he called the cops on me for like the third time, I realized the party was over. I had gotten too wild for civilized company. Plus, I was four months behind on my rent, because I had stupidly spent what little money I had on recording equipment, musical instruments, pressing up a thousand CDS and printing up a 64 page magazine. So I was fucked.

But I didn’t care. I wanted to cut loose. I wanted action. I wanted to be baying at the moon at midnight without getting busted by the cops.

So I packed up all my stuff into storage, sub-let my apartment, and hit the road. I had a frame backpack with a sleeping bag, and my guitar and a leather satchel with all my recording equipment. And I set out to record Volume Two of the “Telegraph Street Music” CD from right on the streets. It seemed like a concept. So I spent a year recording hundred of hours of music, madness and mirth. But by that time, I had become so overwhelmed by the street musician scene that I couldn’t really produce much of anything with all the cassette tapes I had recorded, except to put them all in a big box and stash it in my storage locker. Where they sit, thankfully, to this day. THE END.

Ace Backwords's photo.

Davey Starr


Ace Backwords's photo.

The fabulous one. The Rick Starr 8-by-10 glossy photo.


Ace Backwords's photo.

X-Plicit Players


Ace Backwords's photo.

Ace Backwords

Ace Backwords's photo.

Hate Man.

Ace Backwords's photo.

Michael Comatoes


Ace Backwords's photo.

Anthony Bledsoe.

Ace Backwords's photo.

Katie Marin

Ace Backwords's photo.

Craig “Issy Jones”

Ace Backwords's photo.


The Cowardly Feline

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


Ace Backwords's photo.
Moo Cat is such a coward. The other cats are always chasing after her and running her off because she acts like such an asshole. And she’ll go running down the hill with her tail between her legs, climb up a tree, and cower up there until the other cats finally leave her alone.

But you should have seen her last night. Oh, what a tough cat she was. It was around midnight and I put out some cat food for her, when this raccoon showed up and tried to horn in on the action. I shooed the raccoon away. And then I sort of stood there by Moo Cat’s side while she was eating, to guard the cat food and keep the raccoon at bay until Moo Cat was finished eating.

When she was done eating, I got in my sleeping bag, and Moo Cat sat on top of my chest. But when the raccoon returned, Moo Cat decided to show off her awesome power. She did this sort of fake-lunge in the raccoon’s direction. And then started growling fiercely at the raccoon, showing off her fangs to let the raccoon know she’d rip his lungs out if he made one more move in her direction. The raccoon did in fact back off and trot down the hill. But it was only because I — this 195 pound human being — was lying right behind Moo Cat backing her up all the way. If I hadn’t been there, you can bet Moo Cat would have been sprinting down the hill with her tail between her legs.

Ace Backwords's photo.


But you sure couldn’t tell Moo Cat that. She gave me this cocky, jaunty, “tough guy” look, like: “I sure showed that damn raccoon who was boss, huh?” Then she slept peacefully by my side for the rest of the night.

I swear to God, Moo Cat cracks me up.


July 20, 2016

July 20, 1969

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 10:27 pm


On this date in history. July 20, 1969.  Man walks on the moon.  And another man, Ted Kennedy, drunk-drives his car off a bridge. Leaves a woman trapped in his car to die. Never calls the police. Instead rushes off to consult with his lawyers and advisers to concoct an alibi. Never serves any jail time in spite of committing multiple felonies.

Instead returns to the Senate to serve out his terms with the other criminals in Washington DC.

Of course it’s one of the great ironies. One of the great “coincidences.” One of the great examples of cosmic synchronicity.

John F Kennedy is the guy who launched the whole NASA “let’s get to the moon” program.

And Ted Kennedy crashed his car into the drink at almost the exact same time.



Victor the Mexican Paul McCartney

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 10:22 pm


Ace Backwords's photo.
Just ran into longtime Berkeley street person Victor, staggering down the Ave. He looks like he’s been through the mill. And he probably has.

Victor is known as “the Mexican Paul McCartney.” Because he’s a street musician and he can play virtually every Beatles song. Which he belts out with heavy Mexican accent.

Whenever he sees me (or sees anybody for that matter) his standard greeting is “Ahh, my REAL partner!!”

Victor is almost completely blind. From a drunken car crash. He wanted to purchase some booze at the little liquor store on the corner of University below Sacramento. And he drove his car right through the front window and all the way to the counter (that’s ONE way to get to the front of the line!)

My favorite Victor story. It was a cold, wet winter night and a bunch of us homeless street people were all hanging out on Sproul Plaza. Victor didn’t even have a jacket let alone a sleeping bag. So he started acting really drunk. When the cops showed up he got really belligerent. So they handcuffed him and hauled him off to the drunk tank. But just as they were stuffing him into the back of the cop car, Victor turned and smiled at me and gave me a big wink. Victor would have a warm place to sleep tonight

Victor. My real partner.



July 19, 2016

Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 9:32 pm


Ace Backwords's photo.
Yesterday I happened to stumble across a copy of this book free-boxed on the sidewalk. FEAR AND LOATHING ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL ’72. By Hunter S. Thompson. 505 pages. Its like a relic of a bygone era.

Hunter S. Thompson’s first two books were classics. HELL’S ANGEL’S and FEAR & LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS. This was his third book. And it has some very interesting elements. Thompson hadn’t yet been overwhelmed by his persona and by drugs. And it was damn interesting that he could take his counterculture underground slant and interject that into the mainstream of American politics. In 1972.

But it was pretty much Thompson’s last gasp as an artist.

When I was a 17 year old kid in 1974 I read this book several times with fascination. I was a budding hippie wannabe at the time. And I felt guys like Hunter S. Thompson were psychedelic sages who were delivering insights that were way more profound than the mainstream consensus reality.

A lot of his political “insights” today seem a bit stale and dated by today’s standards. But there you go.

*                                           *                                   *

A favorite Hunter S. Thompson story that George McGovern often told.

Hunter Thompson, George McGovern and his wife went out to dinner at this swanky restaurant. When the waitress showed up Hunter Thompson said.

“I’d like to order four beers.”

The waitress said:

“Why do you want four beers. There’s only three of you.”

Hunter Thompson said:

“I could care less what those bastards are drinking. I want four beers for me.”

Ha ha.

*                                                     *                                                       *                                               *

All the other reporters on the campaign trail avidly read Thompson’s accounts every two weeks when they came out in ROLLING STONE. They were envious. He was writing about all the things they said in private but were afraid to actually publish.


July 17, 2016

One of my favorite photos.

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 9:24 pm

This is one of the favorite photos I’ve ever taken.  I’m not sure why.  But I always loved this photo.

I think I like how the photo captures the fleeting nature of life. How we’re all here dancing in the moment. But our bubble will burst all too soon.

The person on the bench is this obese crazy black street woman. She’s been around for years. I used to see her sometimes late at night in the basement of the UC parking garage, actually sitting inside the dumpster, eating away at all the day-old pastries they throw in there.

Usually she’s just quietly sitting on a bench with a sad, soulful look on her face.

All kinds in this world of ours.

The shadow at the top of the photo, by the way, is the guy blowing the bubbles. And the other two shadows are his kids. He’s this middle-aged black guy who sometimes comes to the Ave with his wand and soap bucket and  gets everybody dancing along to his bubbles. Always adds a touch of magic to the scene.

July 15, 2016


Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 10:52 pm


Ace Backwords's photo.

Moo Cat.  She hates pretty much everybody!!

I’ve been lonely all my life. Even when I’m surrounded by people I’m still lonely.

I can be a fairly charming bastard (or at least I can fake it). And if I wanted to hang out with 20 “friends” I could pretty easily arrange it.

But there was just something off about me. I could never really connect with others. “We’re born alone. We live alone. And we die alone.”

That’s how its always been for me.

I guess that’s why Moo Cat has always had a special place in my heart. She can’t get along with ANY of the other feral cats. She’s a complete loner. Lives her life completely alone in total isolation.

Except she really likes me.






July 5, 2016


Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 9:58 pm
Tags: , ,


Ace Backwords's photo.
I’m an incredibly high-strung person (“at great tension, highly excitable or nervous, edgy”). I suppose you could describe me as “mercurial” (“changeable, volatile, fickle, flighty, erratic, animated, lively, sprightly, quick-witted”). Which is a wonderful trait for an artist to have. Because you’re constantly zinging back and forth across the highs and the lows of the vast spectrum of human reality.

But its not necessarily a wonderful trait for a human being to have in general. That’s for damn sure. It sure doesn’t make for a placid, peaceful existence. That’s for damn sure.

I think if I could do it all over again. Do my life over. I wouldn’t be an artist. I think I’d prefer to be a librarian.


July 1, 2016

Feral Cat Turf Wars: Round 7: Scaredy Cat vs. Moo Cat: In the battle for food dish supremacy

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 9:53 pm
Tags: , , ,


Scaredy Cat, nursing a scratched eye from Round 6.

This morning I was hanging out at my campsite with Scaredy Cat. When I noticed Moo Cat at the bottom of the hill, cautiously inching her way up the trail towards us.

When Scaredy Cat spotted Moo Cat she immediately stiffened and gave Moo Cat the Big Stare, like two gunfighters facing off at the OK Corall.

Suddenly, Scaredy Cat let out a screeching war-cry and tore after Moo Cat in full sprint. Moo Cat let out a “yelp” and turned on her heels and ran for her life. Ha ha. Scaredy Cat chased her all the way down the hill to the creek, and all the way up the next hill before I lost sight of them.

I was surprised. Because I didn’t think Scaredy Cat had it in her. She’s the most gentle and peaceful feral cat I’ve ever known. And she’s much smaller than Moo Cat, too. But apparently she’s had enough of Moo Cat’s shit.

Moo Cat acts tough. But its all a bluff. A Cowardly Lion routine. She’s all bark and no bite. And apparently Scaredy Cat has called her on it.

Its obvious that Scaredy Cat and Moo Cat can’t coexist. One of them has to go. Or get their ass killed. And it looks like its gonna be Moo Cat. Which is a shame. Because they’re my two favorite cats.

Later, Scaredy Cat trotted back to my campsite with a look of triumph on her face. Like, “I sure showed her ass, huh? I’m B-A-A-AD!!”

Ha ha. Cats. I swear to God. Sometimes they act just like people.

Next Page »

The Rubric Theme. Create a free website or blog at


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 49 other followers