Acid Heroes: the Legends of LSD

June 30, 2015

A gay story

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

Everybody is talking about gay stuff this weekend.  For a variety of reasons.  Here’s a gay story for you.

In 1976 I hit the streets of San Francisco for the first time.  I was a fucked up 19-year-old bum, basically.  Sleeping on the Fremont St. off-ramp and eating at St. Anthony’s every day, this soup kitchen in the Tenderloin.  Somehow I hooked up with this guy named Fearless Frank.  He was another homeless bum on the scene.  But he was kind and gentle and harmless.  Which is something you couldn’t say about a lot of the specimens in the Tenderloin.  And he had a good sense of humor.  So we hit it off.  Physically he reminded me a lot of Andy Warhol.  Or a cracked toymaker.   And he played up the swishy fag routine.

Originally he was from Utah from a strict Mormon family.   His family spent a lot of money on various therapies to “cure” him of his homosexuality.  To no avail.  When he was 17 he got in a drunken car crash and severely fucked up the people he hit.  His parents got sued and lost every penny they had.  So he’s 17-years-old and he’s bankrupted his family.  That was the kind of luck he had.   Fearless Frank.

So he moved to San Francisco.  The great gay mecca.  He had a couple thousand bucks in his pocket.  So he rented out a room at the Fairmont Hotel — this ultra-ritzy hotel on Nob Hill.  He ordered champagne and caviar from room service every day for a couple of days until his money ran out.   Then he hit the streets.

By the time I met him, Fearless Frank had pretty much given up on life.  He’d panhandle enough money to buy a little bottle of Thunderbird wine — which was the skid row rot-gut booze of choice during that period — and drink himself into oblivion.

After eating at St. Anthony’s we used to like to hang out and talk at this park bench at the Benjamin Swig Pavilion at 5th and Market.  In spite of it all, Frank was still bemused by life.  And he kind of accepted with equanimity that he was doomed.  And he had the fearlessness that comes from Not Giving A Flying Fuck.  I was completely fucked up myself at the time.  I Had Issues.  But I genuinely enjoyed Fearless Frank’s company.  We were just a couple of kooks.  And he had more soul than a lot of people.  If you know what I mean.

Every afternoon, Fearless Frank liked to walk from the Tenderloin to the Golden Gate Bridge.  Just for something to do.  To kill time.

“When I walked across the Golden Gate Bridge I’d look down and think of jumping off the bridge and killing myself,” said Fearless Frank.   “But the view was so beautiful I’d always decide to walk back downtown to the Tenderloin.”

Then one afternoon, Fearless Frank didn’t come back.


June 29, 2015

Feral cat pecking orders

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 10:53 pm


Moo Cat and Blondie with typical “waiting-to-be-fed” facial expressions.

Peter Labriola's photo.

Blondie, the new alpha female on the block.

This is a little weird.  A twist in the plot amongst my feral cats.

For years, Moo Cat used to bully Blondie.  She’d regularly hiss at her and slash at her and try to drive her off the scene.  Blondie never fought back. She’s always been a pretty timid cat.   She just took the abuse with a look of exasperation.

But lately it’s like the worm has turned.  The pecking order has shifted.  And Blondie is now the dominant feral cat of the tribe.  Like this morning, I put out two dishes of cat food.  One for Blondie and one for Moo Cat.  Blondie starts eating from her dish.  But then she decides, “I want Moo Cat’s dish, too.”  So she pushes her face into Moo Cat’s dish and starts eating Moo Cat’s food, too.  Blondie has taken over both dishes!

Moo Cat runs over to me, whimpering loudly at the unfairness of it all.  I’m sort of like:  “Well, that’s what you get, Moo Cat.  What goes around comes around.  The same cats you abused on the way up, you might meet up on the way back down.”

So now I have to put Blondie’s dish way over there.  And Moo Cat’s dish way over on the other side.  Just so they eat in peace.

But I wonder what happened.  I think Blondie finally got sick of taking Moo Cat’s shit.  And kicked her ass.  Settled it once and for all.  Or maybe she teamed up with this big new gray feral tom cat that’s been on the scene lately who she’s real friendly with.  And they double-teamed poor ole Moo Cat.

I swear.  Sometimes, feral cats can act just as uncivilized and poorly behaved as human beings.

Moo Cat, righteously indignant, as usual.


June 25, 2015

The Biker’s Bashes

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 8:51 pm


Peter Labriola's photo.Like most things in my life, the Biker’s Bashes started out by accident.

In 1982 I was publishing an underground punk rock newspaper, Twisted Image.  I was also working full-time as a San Francisco bike messenger.  So I always kept a stack of the latest issue of Twisted Image in the basket of my bicycle.  And in between making my deliveries I would drop off copies at all the hip record stores, book stores and rock clubs in San Francisco, in the hopes of drumming up advertisers.  That’s how I ended up talking to Dirk Dirksen inside the legendary On Broadway theater one afternoon.

“Listen,” said Dirksen, taking note of my nifty bike messenger uniform.  “I can’t afford to take out any more ads right now.  But how about this?  Let’s put on a bike messenger show.  We could get bike messenger bands to play.  And you can take all the money at the door.  And I’ll take all the money at the bar.  Then you can write about it in your newspaper.  That way we get publicity and you get money.”

“Sounds interesting,” I said.

Thus began the Biker’s Bashes.  And my unlikely career as a concert promoter.

The first Biker’s Bash turned out pretty good.  A lot of people showed up (bike messengers liked to party).  And the bike messenger rock bands were pretty good.  And there were only a couple of fights. Which wasn’t bad considering the bike messenger scene.  And that savvy Dirk Dirksen made out like a bandit because bike messengers drink like fish (you build up a powerful thirst pedaling up and down the hills of San Francisco 8 hours a day).  The show ended abruptly when the guitarist in the last band got hit on the head with a beer can (sorry, kids, no encore tonight!).  But a good time was had by all.

Peter Labriola's photo.That first Biker’s Bash generated a bit of excitement.  So we decided we wanted to put on more these Biker’s Bashes.  The whole bike messenger scene was a pretty dynamic and vibrant subculture back then.  1982 for God’s sake.  There were a lot of artists, writers, musicians, poets and film-makers that worked as bike messengers.  So there was a wealth of artistic talent for putting on multi-media shows of all persuasions.  And, unlike so many of the other artsy subcultures in San Francisco at the time — which tended to revolve around the latest trends and fashions — the bike messenger artists were a very unpretentious and down-to-earth lot.  There was a blue collar ethos befitting of people who worked extremely hard, sweating their asses off on a bicycle all day long.

But the problem was, Dirk Dirksen would only give us weekdays at the On Broadway theater.  The weekends were reserved for all the big-name punk rock bands like Black Flag and Dead Kennedys.  But Friday night was when all the bike messengers wanted to party.

So then somebody — probably Jason or Dog Paw or Pete Moss — came up with the bright idea of putting on weekend Biker’s Bashes at this other happening rock venue, the Farm. . . .

I remember that first Farm show.  I remember hanging out alone with Jason inside the empty Farm building an hour before the show was about to start.  Jason was an interesting cat — a black dude with a day-glo Mohawk.  And well-respected amongst the other bike messengers.  But we were both nervous as shit.  We had never really put on a show all by ourselves before.  We weren’t even sure if we knew what we were doing.  So we were worrying, wondering if anyone would even show up.  Or if we would have the bomb of all-time on our hands.

And then Dog Paw and a bunch of other bike messengers came rushing into the Farm carrying case after case of beer.  Which we ended up selling at the make-shift bar in the kitchen area.  And it was like the cavalry charging in to the rescue with fresh supplies.

And at that point I knew we had a party on our hands.  And the rest, as they say, is history.


June 18, 2015

Happy Father’s Day

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


Peter Labriola's photo.My father was a Methodist minister.  I hated the guy for years.  But that’s another story.  Anyways, when I saw this card in the window of the card shop, I had to send it to him for Father’s Day.  It was appropriate for several reason.  Because he was a minister.  And because he used to paint versions of this painting back when I was a kid.

Generally I found my father’s preaching pretty dull.  But he did develop one good schtick. Before he was a preacher he’d been a commercial artist.  So he had artistic skills.  So he used to put on these special church services called “Chalk Talks.”  He’d be up there on stage by the pulpit with his easel.  And during the course of the hour-long service he would do a chalk drawing of a Biblical scene.  He had it timed so that he’d have the chalk drawing finished just as the service was coming to a close.  And while he was painting, different people would get up there and read Biblical passages or give testimonials, and musicians would play songs, and the choir would sing.  So it was a pretty varied show.  And it was kind of fascinating for average people to see a piece of art being created right before their eyes.

Then, after he finished the chalk drawing, the lights would go out.  The church would go completely dark. And then my Dad would start turning on different lights attached to his easel.  He painted the picture with fluorescent-colored chalk.  So the picture would change before people’s eyes as the different day-glo colors popped up.  Then for the grand finale, my Dad would utter a few solemn and profound profundities (ha ha).  And then the lights would go on and the crowd would go wild.  Followed by backstage scenes of groupies, drugs and debauchery (kidding).

But all and all, it was a pretty effective bit of show biz.  And different churches in the area would hire my Dad to do the gig at their churches.

So anyways, Happy Father’s Day to the all the Fathers out there!

June 15, 2015

Alcoholism is a form of self-imposed stupidity

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 9:05 pm


Peter Labriola's photo.Alcoholism is a form of self-imposed stupidity in a way.

Right now I’m trying to get music from my transistor radio.  Because when I’m drunk, music soothes my savage soul.  But the damn piece of junk radio refuses to generate sound.  So I’m trying to figure out what the problem is. I jack up the volume switch.  Nothing.  I fiddle around with the channel-changer switch.  Nothing.  I change the batteries.  Put in fresh batteries.  Still nothing.  Maybe there’s a loose wire in the radio.  So I shake the piece of junk vigorously several times.  Still nothing.  No sound, no music, is emanating from the damn radio.

I’m just about to give up and smash the radio to bits, and resolve myself to a night of no music.   When I suddenly grasp the solution.  I didn’t have the headphones on my head.  That immediately explained why I was hearing no sounds.  I put the headphones onto my head.  Problem solved.  They’re playing a Bee Gees song on the radio.  “Living in a World of Fools.”  Appropriately enough.  My night is saved.  I have beer AND music.

I go to the restroom to splash some water on my face to help me sober up.  Realize too late, I still had my glasses on.  So now my glasses are soaked with water and I can’t see where I’m going.

Like I said.  Alcoholism is a form of self-imposed stupidity.


Life is a mixed bag of nuts

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 8:48 pm


I’m having another weird day.  In a seemingly endless series of weird days. . .

This afternoon I was sitting in McDonald’s pounding one of those one dollar large coffees.  Which is an excellent deal, by the way.  This woman sidles up to me.  “Are you Ace Backwords?  Would you sign a copy of your book for me?  You’re a brilliant writer.”

She pulls out a copy of my SURVIVING ON THE STREETS book from her backpack. . .  I have no idea how she recognized me sitting there in McDonald’s.  Or how long she’d been walking around with a copy of my book in her backpack looking for me.  Of course I’m flattered.  But it’s a weird, complex scene to have to factor before I drink my first cup of coffee of the day.

Then I go to People’s Park.  There’s this insane lunatic named Derrick — he’s COMPLETELY crazy — and for some reason he’s decided that he hates my guts.  Lately, whenever I sit down somewhere in the Park, he immediately shows up and sits directly across from me.  Glaring at me with his insane, lunatic eyes.  He’s one of those guys just seething with rage.  Today he keeps screaming at me:  “QUIT BOTHERING ME!!  QUIT BOTHERING!!”  Which is an odd request considering he’s the one that’s constantly approaching me.  To further illustrate his point, he starts violently jabbing this metal stick into the dirt over and over, in simulation of a knife that he’d like to jab into my chest.  Like I said.  He’s completely nuts.

So that’s disconcerting.  And yet another weird, complex scene that I have to factor. . .  But at least I’ve gotten my coffee in my by this point, so I’m ready for action.

But it reminded me of something I said to one of my Facebook friends yesterday.  She told me that she thought I had “a brilliant mind.”  Which is nice.  But I told her in all honesty:  “Over the years I’ve had so many people tell me I’m brilliant.  And so many people tell me I’m an idiot.   I’ve given up trying to keep track one way or the other.”

This life is a mixed bag of nuts, ain’t it?  The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.


June 14, 2015

Synchronized drinking

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 8:34 pm


Peter Labriola's photo.I’ve got it perfectly timed this evening.  Just by the time when I start getting really drunk from the Olde English, that’s right when the battery to my cellphone will be wearing down.  Preventing me from posting any drunken, embarrassing comments on the internet that I will sorely regret tomorrow . .

See, when you’re an alcoholic you have to plan ahead and think these things out.  What can I say.  I’m a savvy guy. . .

Unless I’m already too drunk and don’t realize it.  And this is another one of those embarrassing internet posts I’ll find out about tomorrow . . . Hmmm . . .  Ah fuck it.  I’ll worry about it tomorrow.


June 12, 2015

Eat, drink and be drunky, for tomorrow we wake up with a hangover

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 10:19 pm


Peter Labriola's photo.My drinking is starting to get a little off the hook. I wake up every morning feeling like crap, thinking:  “I need to take a break from this shit.”  I’m full of dread and anxiety.  As well as embarrassment over some of the stupid stuff I might have said or done the night before when I was drunk.

But by the time 6 o’clock in the evening rolls around, I can hardly wait to buy that first beer.  And half-way through the first 40, all of my anxieties and worries have magically disappeared.  And by the time I’m into that second 40, I’m starting to feel that soaring sense of freedom and joy that comes from Not Giving A Flying Fuck.

This might sound like rationalizing.  But I kind of agree with Bukowski.  He often wrote quite graphically about the harsh affects of his alcoholism.  But he always maintained to the end that booze saved his life.  That without the buzz, the release and the temporary respite from his demons that he got from alcohol, he would have killed himself a long time ago.

It’s 3 o’clock in the afternoon right now.  Three more hours until 6 o’clock . . .


Descent into madness

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 10:06 pm


Peter Labriola's photo.I had a nervous breakdown in December of 2005.  In part it was the result of a 3-day binge snorting crystal meth.  But the drugs were more of a symptom than the cause of the breakdown.  My life simply no longer worked.   That was the problem.

“Everything in my life is contracting!” I often said back then.

My friendships and personal relationships were getting more distant and cold.  My art and writing career was apparently washed up.  My day job was a dead end. I no longer felt part of any kind of community.  I was fucked.

But the worst thing was this feeling of emptiness.  The sheer pointlessness of my life.

“When one door closes, another door opens up,” was the way my life used to be.  But now it was like all the doors were closing on me, one by one.  It was like I had painted myself into a corner that was getting smaller and smaller.

I couldn’t figure out what was causing this process.  Let alone come up with a solution.  I could only watch as it played out, with this growing sense of despair.

Part of it was simply my wiring.  I’ve always had this nutty, crazed side to my psyche.  Part of it was the result of some very harsh life experiences which had warped my soul in a way.  And part of it was simply that this world can be a tough, tough place.

Loveless.  Joyless.  Seething with anger and bitterness.  Riddled with anxiety and dread.  Haunted.  Heart-broken by life.  Boo-hoo for poor ole’ Ace Backwords. . . .

Now it’s ten years later.  2015.  And it’s been like a 10-year nervous breakdown.  Like a slow-motion descent into madness.  Whatever that missing piece was in my life, I haven’t been able to replace it.

I once watched this Alcoholic Anonymous-type documentary where all these addicts talked about why they got into drugs and alcohol.  And the common denominator was kind of a spiritual emptiness.  “I was never comfortable in my own skin,” explained this one woman.

Maybe that’s a lot of it.


June 11, 2015

Life amongst the riff raff

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

Peter Labriola's photo.I had an odd scene the other night.  One more odd scene in a seemingly endless series of odd scenes.  I’m hanging out in People’s Park  around 11 o’clock.  Drinking my beer as usual.  It’s an hour after park curfew.    And all of us bums are supposed to be out of the Park by 10.  But I’m enjoying watching some Youtube videos on my cellphone.  And the oldies channel on the radio is playing some great tunes.  So I’m in no hurry to get off my ass.

Suddenly these two cops swoop down on me from behind.  Give me the ole’ flashlight-in-the-face treatment.  Ask for my ID.  Run my name across the wire.  “Last name Labriola.  L as in Lincoln . . .”  Etc., etc.  I guess they want to make sure I’m not a degenerate or a criminal or have outstanding warrants.  I’m being real fake obsequious.

“Oh man, I’m sorry!” I said.  “I had no idea it was after curfew!  I was distracted by these Youtube videos.”  Etc. etc.

When in truth I’m just trying to distract the cops from noticing the cup of beer sitting at my feet like a ticking time-bomb.  Just that one little cup could turn into a dreaded $240 “open container” ticket.  Or if the cops are in a bad mood, they might even handcuff you and drag your ass off to the city jail for the night.  Which has happened to me once before at this very spot.

But then one of the cops said something odd:

“Ah, don’t worry.  We’re not here to hassle people like you.  We just want to get the riff-raff out of the Park.”

I sort of chuckled to myself as I shuffled off to find another, more private, place to finish my beer.  I was smug that I managed to fake my way through the situation. . .  And here I thought I was among the riffiest of the riff-raff.   I guess I’m a higher class of bum than the general riff-raff.  Ha ha.



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