Acid Heroes

October 26, 2014

I see ghosts everywhere I go in this town

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 9:37 pm
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I see ghosts everywhere I go in this town. I’ll give you an example.  This morning I was washing up in the basement men’s room in Barrows Hall.  It was early Sunday morning and the building was mostly deserted, so I knew I could get away with “bird-bathing” in the sink without getting caught.  I go to a lot of trouble to keep clean.  Because I have enough insecurities and fragile-ego issues as it is. So the last thing I want to worry about is that I smell bad on top of that.   And I’m incredibly stealthy.  So I never get caught in the act.  Because the last thing I want is for other people to know I’m homeless.  There’s a bit of a stigma attached to being a Homeless Person, so I try to camoflauge that fact from the public at large.  Except for in these blogs where I’ll shoot my mouth off about any manner of personal shit. So anyways, after I was done washing up, I glanced at my face in the mirror.  And I saw this old man staring back at me.  This tired, old, 58-year-old man, sort of at the end of the line with his life.

But then I had this flashback.  I remembered looking at myself in that exact same mirror in that Barrows Hall men’s room, 32 years ago as a 26-year-old boy/man.  And it was like  looking back at another lifetime.  And yet both world’s were  connected by the looking glass mirror in between. . . . . . . .

*                                                                *                                                *

It was 1982.  I had been invited to Barrows Hall to do a radio interview at KALX — the campus radio station — who had their studio right across the hall from the men’s room.  They were interviewing me about a benefit concert I was putting on that weekend.  How that came about was:   I had just published the third issue of this underground punk rock tabloid I was doing back then.  And this guy — this concert promoter-wannabe  —  approached me about doing a benefit concert for the paper.  The guy had sort of this dream of becoming the next Bill Graham of punk rock concerts.  And I had this dream of becoming the next Jann Wenner of punk rock publishing.  And that’s what things were like back then.  If you had an idea or a dream of doing something, there would immediately be 10 other guys showing up who had similar dreams.  And you’d be off to the races.

The guy picked Ollie’s — this lesbian bar on Telegraph in Oakland — as the venue for the big benefit concert.  I had no idea of how to put on a rock concert.  I barely knew how to publish a tabloid.  And the other guy knew even less than me.  But we were all game for anything back then.  I had interviewed the Lewd, this fairly well-known San Francisco punk band, in the previous issue.  So I asked them to play at the benefit concert.  And they agreed.  So that was a good start because they could draw a couple hundred people.  And the other guy, the would-be promoter, got seven bands that nobody had heard of and couldn’t draw flies, to also play.  So we were in business.  I xeroxed off a bunch of fliers with the Lewd as the head-lining band.  And he set up the interview at KALX to promote the big show.    So we were in business.

Then, two days before the show, I get a phone call from the lead singer of the Lewd telling me that the band had just broken up.   Welcome to the  world of rock’n’roll.  But we were still hopeful at that point.  Because we were too stupid to be otherwise.  And as Mickey Rooney or some other asshole once said;  “The show must go on.” When we got to Ollie’s the night of the show, the place was pretty empty.  It was a pretty big-sized dancehall with a big stage in the back.  But evidently, the lesbians who mostly made up the clientele of the club, weren’t interested in being subjected to seven unknown rock bands mostly made up of 20-something white men.   So whatever crowd we managed to generate would solely come from our personal efforts at promoting.  So, in other words, we were in trouble. Even more discouraging, the legendary punk rocker, Iggy Pop, just happened to be playing that night at the Berkeley Keystone theater, just down the street from our show.  And that would  siphon off almost the entire punk rock crowd that we were hoping  would attend our big show.

So anyways, to make a long story short, almost nobody showed up.  At one point, early in the show, this guy burst in with these three huge posters he had printed up at the print shop where he worked:   “I so much LOVED the front cover you did for your last issue that I blew it up as a poster, and I wanted to give you guys some copies as a gift!” he exclaimed.  So that was great.  And we hung one up as a back-drop behind the stage.  And we felt a momentary sense of hopefulness.  Until he said:  “I just wanted to drop these off.   But now I’m off to go see Iggy Pop.  Good luck with your show.”  And even he didn’t want to stick around.  So all hope was now gone. The seven unknown rock bands grinded through their bland and generic and unmemorable performances.  To a smattering of applause, as they say.  And as the evening wore on, the would-be promoter began to express more and more anguish.  Back of the hand to the forehead, loud groans about the “hundreds of dollars and hundreds of work-hours” that he had invested in the show.  And now it was all for naught.  His grand dream to be the next Bill Graham was not to be.  And that was sad.  But I still had a good time, because it was a dull, but vaguely pleasant, night in a bar.  And I hadn’t lost any money.   Plus, I was 26-years-old and I knew I had many, many more nights of glory ahead of me, and all the time in the world to achieve my life’s goals. . . . . . . . .

*                            *                                         *

And then I snapped back from my reverie.  And I’m back in the present moment, looking at my tired 58-year-old face in the Barrows Hall men’s room mirror.  And the entire memory of 1982 had sort of passed by in my mind in a blink of an eye. But its like that everywhere I go nowadays.  Seeing ghosts from my past.  I’m like Billy Pilgrim, the character in the Kurt Vonnegut novel,  Slaughterhouse 5, who gets “unstuck in time” and randomly travels back and forth to different  scenes from his past and his future. And then I stepped out of the men’s room.  And just for a second, I caught a quick glimpse of my 26-year-old self darting into the KALX studio to do the big interview.  And then he was gone.



  1. Great blog!!!!!!!!!!!

    Comment by Head for the hills — October 27, 2014 @ 5:59 am | Reply

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      Comment by Joe Schmoe from Kokomo lowest of the low — November 17, 2014 @ 9:20 am | Reply

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