Acid Heroes: the Legends of LSD

August 27, 2015


Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 5:42 pm

One of the unsettling things about the street scene.  You often see people disintegrating, practically right before your eyes.

I was thinking about this street chick I used to know.  Let’s call her Regina.  When she first hit the Telegraph scene in 1992 she must have been around 16 years old.  Cute as a bunny.   This adorable, red-headed, little waif.  Right out of Little Orphan Annie.  And she was an orphan, too.  Raised by adoptive parents in a nearby suburb.

Like a lot of orphans, Regina had “issues.”  Abandonment.  Rejection.  Low self-esteem.  Unworthy of love.  The usual.  But the real root of Regina’s tragedy was this “woe is me” attitude.  “Things never work out right for me,” was her eternal mantra.  An attitude that tends to perpetuate itself.

Regina had already had her first kid by age 16.  Which she put up for adoption.  Another pattern that tends to perpetuate itself.

Then Regina fell madly in love with this cute, hippy-boy acid dealer named Paul who tooled around on a skateboard.  He was following the Grateful Dead tour.  Regina was convinced that Paul was the answer to all her problems.  The solution to this state of unrequited lovelessness that she wallowed in.  “Paul, Paul, Paul.”  For awhile it seemed like the relationship was going to work out.  But, well, you guessed it.

Of course, Regina was crushed when the relationship fell apart.  Never really recovered from it.  Regina was one of those people where their latest tragedies were kind of like their favorite hobby.  It was one of her few interests.  Her problems.  That and drugs.  Periodically Regina would try and roust herself from her downward spiral.  But it was like she was an empty vessel who lacked the inner resources.

The thing I most remember about Regina was this blank look that was often on her face.  Her eyes were like two buttons that radiated no light.  She reminded me of the Raggedy Ann doll.  Pliable and wispy with no solid foundation.  And she had this constant neediness.  That she could never fill.

The last time I saw Regina was around the winter of 1999.  I ran into her on a street corner on Shattuck Avenue.  Her front teeth were missing.  Some asshole had punched them out after Regina burned him on a speed deal.  “Oh well,” said Regina with a hapless, toothless smile.  “At least it helps me when I’m panhandling because I look so pitiful.”

Periodically I would get Regina updates.  “Regina’s living in San Francisco in the Mission.” . . .  “Regina’s a junkie and a prostitute.” . . .  “I saw Regina sleeping in this back alley, she looked really skinny.”

And then, after awhile, there were no more Regina updates.


August 25, 2015

Homelessness 101: Chapter 947 “Maintaining Your Crash-spot”

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 9:11 pm

Rule number one: Never reveal your secret crash-spot to others. . . Oops.

Among my many odd claims to fame: I’m one of the few street people to ever get away with camping on the UC Berkeley campus for years at a stretch.

Now, if there’s one area where Berkeley has consistently drawn the line in that never-ending turf-war that is The Homeless vs. The Authorities, its:  NO CAMPING ON THE BERKELEY CAMPUS!!  And there’s a very obvious reason for that.  You just can’t have gnarled old trolls crawling out of the bushes and startling all the innocent, young co-eds.  It’s bad for business.

But it’s almost like a rite-of-passage when new street people hit town.  They see all the expanses of lawns, bushes and secluded doorways on the Berkeley campus and think:  “Man!   Look at all these potentially-great crash-spots!!”  Wrong. They might get away with camping there one or two nights.  But inevitably they will be woken up in the middle of the night with flashlights beaming in their faces and two or three cops standing over them, menacingly, while issuing warnings like:  “If we ever catch your homeless asses sleeping on the campus again we’ll throw you in jail!  Or worse!”  The line being drawn.

Now, generally, I prefer camping in the deep, dark woods.  And when it rained I used to have an elaborate set-up of tarps and tents to stay dry.  But after awhile that became too much of a hassle. So, after much trial-and-error, I found several doorways that were ideal rainy-night crash-spots.

One doorway in particular on the campus I’ve been using for years.  With no problems from The Man.  Or The Woman, for that matter.  And the reason I get away with it is because, unlike so many other street people, I at least have a modicum of common sense.  I carefully chose this particular doorway because of several key factors:  1.) It’s a basement back doorway that’s  a Fire Exit and is always locked, so there’s no traffic going in and out.  2.)  The building itself is usually deserted after business hours.  3.)  The path that leads to the doorway is a cul-de-sac, so there are no pedestrians — and more importantly, no bicycle cops — that will be passing by me.  4.)  I only use the doorway when it’s raining, so that also greatly lessens the chance of any pedestrians being around.  And 5.) I only use the doorway at night when it’s dark, and make sure to get my ass out of there at dawn, just as it’s starting to get light.

That doorway has served me well over the years.  So I was slightly horrified when I passed by it the other morning and noticed that a homeless couple had decided to use it as their crash-spot.  They were a young hippie couple.  A white guy and his black girlfriend.  And they were lolling around in the doorway like it was their living room.  Their possessions and their garbage were strewn all over the site.  And they were lounging in their sleeping bags, sitting up leaning against the wall, smoking cigarettes and having a loud, animated conversation.  At 11 o’clock in the fucking morning.  As students and teachers and grounds-keepers and (sooner or later) cops all passed by them.

Of course, it was just a matter of time before they got rousted by the cops.  And, worst of all, from my perspective, my faithful and beloved and hitherto secret crash-spot will now be on the cop’s radar.  As a potential homeless crash-spot.  And will become a regular part of their nightly rounds of patrolling.  It might be months, or even years, before that spot is rehabilitated to the point where I can start using it again.  Darn, darn, darn.

So many street people, simply never seem to grasp one of the enduring truisms of street life:  “Invisibility is next to godliness.”   In other words, if nobody notices you, nobody is going to complain about you.  Which is why I’ve honed my stealthy skills to the point of near-perfection.

One of the more clunky street people once said to me, sneeringly:  “You do everything on the sly, don’t you, Ace.”

I said:  “You better fucking believe it!”

August 22, 2015

Touchy feely

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 9:40 pm
Tags: ,
Ace Backwords's photo.

Blondie with her typical “would-you-point-that-damn-thing-in-another-direction” facial expression.

I’ve been feeding Blondie the feral cat for 8 years.  But I’ve never touched her.  Except for once or twice when my hand accidentally brushed across her head while I was trying to put the cat food in the cat food dish (Blondie was so eager to get at the food that she pushed her head in between the dish and my hand).  She would always recoil at the human touch.  She’d immediately jump back 10 or 15 feet away from me.  Then she’d sort of glare at me.  Like I had violated her or something.  Cats.

So this was a bit of a surprise.  This morning I was at my campsite, lying on my side eating a turkey and swiss cheese sandwich.  When Blondie suddenly touched me.  She sort of swatted at my back with her paw.  As a way of getting my attention.  Ya’ know?  Like:  “Would it really kill you to share some of that turkey and swiss cheese with your faithful feral cat?”

So I rolled over on my back and gave Blondie a good, long look.  Because it was like we were entering new juncture in our relationship (as it were).  And, to my surprise, Blondie actually climbed on top of chest.  Stood there staring at me for 10 or 20 seconds. Like she’s thinking:  “Ya know, all these years I’ve always kind of wanted to do this.  And now, here I finally am. The king of the mountain.”

Then she hopped off my chest.  I gave her a big chunk of turkey and swiss cheese.  Which she gobbled up as if she was starving to death.  And we both lived happily ever after.  The end.

Blondie the feral cat

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 9:00 pm


Blondie the feral cat, moments before she obliterated me with her X-ray vision.


August 20, 2015

My world and welcome to it

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 10:00 pm


August 19, 2015

Other homeless people

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 8:22 pm
Ace Backwords's photo.

Some guys never quite get the hang of “no-trace” camping.

My friend Blue used to say :  “The worst thing about being homeless is other homeless people.”  It can seem that way sometimes. This guy spent 3 days camping near my campsite.  And this is just SOME of the garbage he left behind. It took me 3 hours and 3 trips to the dumpster to clean up all of his crap.  Adding insult to injury, it had rained so his junk was all wet and covered with mud.

I’ve spent over a decade sleeping outdoors.  And I’ve never had any problems with cops, neighbors, merchants or security guards, etc.  But I’ve had CONSTANT problems with other homeless people.  They make loud commotions that draw cop heat.  They trash out the scene with their garbage.  They steal stuff from my stash spots.  They even sometimes attack me physically.

When I was younger I used to feel more of a sense of camaraderie with my fellow “street bros.”  But nowadays, when I see another street person headed towards my campsite, all I think is:  “Fuck.  Here comes trouble.”  Bro.

August 17, 2015

Good grief, Charlie Bukowski

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 9:02 pm
Tags: ,

In honor of Charles Bukowski’s birthday (it was actually yesterday but I was drunk and I missed it — I think Bukowski would understand) here’s a comic strip about Bukowski.



August 16, 2015

Coming of age

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 9:28 pm
Tags: , , ,

The summer of 1970.

I had a very happy, innocent childhood.  Up to the 6th grade, age 11.  When my family suddenly packed up and moved to a new town.  And then everything started to spin out of control.

For whatever reason, today I happened to be thinking about one particular moment.  It was the summer of 1970.  I was 13 years old.  And I traveled back to my childhood hometown — High Bridge, New Jersey — to visit with my best childhood pal, Harry Drew Joffman.  And we were hanging out in front of his house on Church Street, reading our Mad magazines and Spiderman comic books, and trading our baseball cards.  When Vallerie Lizzy showed up.

Two years ago, Vallerie Lizzy had been this yucky, mousey 6th grader with glasses and cooties.  But now, two years later as we were about to enter our freshman year of high school, Vallerie is wearing this cool, little cotton halter-top that accents that she’s sprouted breasts.  And she’s wearing these skin-tight, bluejean hot-pants that accents the V of her crotch. And her bare long arms and long legs are tanned a golden brown.   And she was kind of smirking at me, like, “I’m not a little girl anymore.  I got it going, dude!”  She had her hand on her hip, like, “I got the power now!”   And she did.

Suddenly, my Spiderman comic books were no longer as interesting as they had once been.  And of course I was fascinated by Vallerie’s budding beauty.  But, sadly, I also knew:  It’s not going to be so innocent from here on in.  It was that moment when you first realize that you’re no longer a little boy, but that you’re heading into something else.  Something new and mysterious.  And it could be trouble.


August 14, 2015

Fame — and probably everything else in this life — is fleeting

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 7:03 pm
Tags: , , ,


Ace Backwords's photo.

Amoeba Records

This is the side window of Amoeba Records on the corner of Telegraph & Haste.  For 15 years they had a laminated copy of a San Francisco Chronicle article in the window.  The article was about this CD I recorded in 1994.  The headline was “Surprise Local Hit CD,” or something like that.  With a color photo of me, Duncan and the Hate Man standing in front of Amoeba Records with copies of the CD.  They sold a ton of copies of the CD at Amoeba Records.  Which I guess is why they had the article posted in the window.

For years I walked by that corner.  Thousands of times.  My main hang-out spot, my vending table, was right across the street.  And every time I passed by the window I would look at the article out of the corner of my eye.  It was like a talisman.  Like a sign that I belonged here.  This was MY scene.  But with this other weird twist.  Over the 15 year period, I kept aging, kept looking older.   But the photo of me kept looking the same.  So, over the years, it was like actually watching myself aging before my eyes.  As my past self, the 1994 Ace Backwords, kept drifting farther and farther into the past.

Then one day, I walked by Amoeba Records and looked up at the window and the article was gone.  They had taken it down.  And I thought:  “Fuck.  I’m gone.”  And I felt sad.  And strangely diminished.

I guess fame is fleeting.  Especially local hit type fame.

Ace Backwords's photo.


August 13, 2015

The cat in the pack is back

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 7:43 pm


Ace Backwords's photo.I never cease to be amazed at how quick and stealthy my feral cats are.  This happens all the time.  I’ll be all by myself at my campsite.  And I’ll roll over on my side to get something out of my backpack, which is lying next to me.  And then when I turn back around, there are three feral cats sitting there about three feet away from me, staring at me.  It’s like they materialized out of nowhere.

You see, they always react to the sound of me opening my backpack.  It’s like a signal they can hear from miles away.  Because that’s the sound they associate with me opening my pack  and getting out the cat food.  But it’s amazing.  It’s like there are no cats, and then I blink my eyes, voila!, instant cats.

And Moo Cat does this other thing.  Whenever I start to open my backpack she gets so excited, she jumps right on top of my pack.  Food time!!  And she keeps jumping all over it.  I have to explain to her:  “You’re not making this any easier.  I can’t get the food out of the pack with your fat ass sitting on top of my pack.”

Eventually she grasps the wisdom of my words and I’m able to get the food out.  But I guess it’s just kind of a Pavlo’s Dog reaction  . . . Though I’m sure my cats would hate to hear their behavior described in dog-like terms.


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