Acid Heroes

August 15, 2017

Falling in love

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 8:35 pm

 

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It was January of 1980, the beginning of a new decade.  And I was 23. So I decided to try to be normal (I’ll try anything once).  So I bought a new set of clothes, cut my hair, shaved my beard, and applied for a job as phone salesman at the Oakland Tribune.

The phone sales department was in a big, sterile room on the 9th floor of the Oakland Tribune building. There were about 30 of us working there. We sat at these long counters under fluorescent lights, with a chair and a phone at each station, and an endless series of phone numbers to dial (“Buy the first month and get the second month ABSOLUTELY FREE!!”). The foreman and her assistant sat at their desks at the front of the room, so the whole set-up felt sort of like you were in a classroom with the teacher at the desk up front.  Anyways, one of my fellow workers was this young woman who sat at the counter across from me.  She had thick, frizzed out black hair, saucy cat eyes, and curves in all the right places. I fell in love with her the first time I saw her.  And would remain so for the next 13 years.

She sat with her back to me. So I would often study her out of the corner of my eyes. Looking for clues. She was cute in a girlish way. But with her tight jeans and blue denim jacket and the Camel filters she smoked during breaktime, she also emitted the unmistakable aura of the classic high school Bad Girl (think Joan Jett only sexier).  And she had two small, but colorful, tattoos on her forearm, which was somewhat unusual for a woman in 1980.  There was a definite wildness in her eyes, and a sense of adventure and even danger about her. But the thing that really intrigued me was the way she would stare out the window of the 9th floor in between making her phone calls, staring out at the blue sky and the clouds with this dreamy, faraway look in her eyes.  Like she was dreaming of worlds far beyond the Oakland Tribune phone sales room . . .

We had these placemats at our stations that we could doodle on while we were making our phone calls. And at the end of the day, after she had left the room, I would sneak peaks at her doodles to see what — if anything — they revealed about this mysterious creature. I remember she would jot down bits of poetry and rock song lyrics. I particularly remember one: “Oh I used to be disgusted and now I try to be amused” — Elvis Costello. And I used to draw all these wild and off-beat Kliban-type cartoons on my placemat. In the hopes that she would notice them and realize how talented and wonderful I allegedly was.

It turned out she lived in Berkeley nearby where I lived. So we’d often be riding on the same bus together in the morning, commuting to downtown Oakland. She was usually on the bus before I got on, always sitting in the back of the bus where the action was, in typical Bad Girl repose. Anyways, one morning she spotted me sitting there by myself, recognized me as a fellow phone salesman, and — probably more out of boredom than anything — she walked down the aisle and introduced herself, sat down next to me, and we chatted away as we rode the bus together. We were immediately in sync on the level of conversational rapport. You know? Where the conversation flows naturally back and forth between the two of us (it often doesn’t with two people). And she laughed at all my jokes.  Which I took as a sign that maybe we were on the same weird wavelength. And I remember — ironically enough — that it was the day after Valentine’s Day.  Because she was carrying a big bouquet of flowers  that this nut who lived on her block and who was madly obsessed with her, had given her for the holiday.  She was bringing them to work to give to the foreman to brighten up our dreary workroom. The whole ride was incredibly exciting to me.  I was a very lonely person.  And I had been pretty much a complete failure with the women up to this point. So to suddenly be sitting next to one of the most beautiful women in town was a completely unexpected turn of events. I’m not the type to indulge in braggadocio. But you had better believe I was doing everything I could to convey the impression that I was a very witty and entertaining and interesting person who she would surely want to get to know better, and possibly have sex with at some future juncture.

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Later, when I had gotten to know her a little better, I sneaked a peak at her diary to find out what — if anything — her first impression of me had been that day on the bus.  She had written something like: “I met yet another artist today.  I seem to be collecting artists lately.  Like all the useless postcards that I collect and tie up with a ribbon and put them in a box and stash them in my attic never to look at again.”

Anyways, one Friday afternoon, after we had gotten our paychecks and were getting ready to head out the door to our weekends, she approached me and said:  “Hey there’s this rock band that does Jimi Hendrix covers that’s playing at this club on Telegraph tonight.  You feel like going out for a couple beers?”

So we rode on the elevator together down to the first floor. And went out the front door of the Oakland Tribune building to the sidewalk to catch the bus together.  And from there on in it would be a weird and winding road for the next 13 years.

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August 13, 2017

Give pizza chance

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 9:39 pm

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August 10, 2017

Every picture tells a story, don’t it?

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 6:50 pm

Telegraph Avenue 1996 by Chip Gatz

Image may contain: 47 people, people smiling

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August 9, 2017

What if caffeine was illegal?

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 9:46 pm

August 7, 2017

Mini Owl the feral cat

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 7:55 pm

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Mini Owl is such a goofball. This is his favorite thing to do in the whole world. Roll around on his back on my cardboard. Ha ha.

Every morning when I pack up the blankets at my campsite, wherever Mini Owl is, he’ll come running. And start rolling around on his back on the cardboard. And he likes me to slide him around in circles. And he’ll start flipping over, back and forth, until he slides down the hill and off the cardboard. Then he’ll do it all over again. He’d do it all day long if I let him. Ha ha.

And I keep thinking: How can a creature get so much enjoyment from a simple piece of cardboard??

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One of the interesting things about all the feral cats who have shown up at my campsite over the years. Each one of them had a distinctive, unique personality. Mini Owl’s primary personality trait is that he’s extremely playful. He’s over a year old, but he’s still like a big kitten. He just wants to goof around and have fun all day long.

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August 5, 2017

Rubber bands

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 7:32 pm

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It’s funny, the odd things that jog your memory. . .

Hate Man hated to spend money on things.  Just about the only thing he spent money on was tobacco. He must have spent a thousand bucks a month on tobacco.  For himself and for anybody at Hate Camp who wanted a smoke (“25-cents for rollies.  50-cents for Slims.  Or PUSH!”).  And in his later years he got on food stamps, which he mostly used to buy his beloved Haagan Das ice cream, or half-and-half and big bags of sugar for his coffee.  But just about everything else, Hate Man scrounged, dumpster-dived, or bartered.

And there were certain items he was always on the look-out for.  Like rubber bands.  Hate Man had zillions of little packets of stuff amidst his mounds and mounds of stuff. So he always needed rubber bands to clasp the stuff together. So for years, whenever I was walking around town, if I happened to spot a rubber band lying on the sidewalk, I’d pick it up and bring it back to Hate Man.

But now, Hate Man has been dead for four months.  And yet to this day, every time I spot a rubber band on the sidewalk, I’ll momentarily stop for a split-second and think of picking it up and bringing it to Hate Man.  And it’ll remind me of Hate Man.  I’ll think: “Hate is dead now. He sure won’t be needing any rubber bands wherever he is now.”

But it’s funny. Out of all the possible things I could remember Hate Man for.  It’s rubber bands, of all things, that constantly remind me of him.  I suppose I should have mentioned it in my eulogy to Hate Man.

“Hate Man was a great man. And he used many, many rubber bands during the course of his lifetime.  Rest in peace, Hate Man, you hateful old bastard!”

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August 2, 2017

I think that I shall never see . . .

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 9:12 pm

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All my feral cats are expert tree-climbers. They start practicing their tree-climbing skills at an early age. And they get pretty good at it, for cats.  But they’re no match for the squirrels and raccoons in that department.  All that practice has served Moo Cat well, since Scaredy Cat runs her up a tree just about every time Moo Cat comes into “her” territory. Poor ole’ Moo Cat.

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August 1, 2017

1998

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 7:53 pm

 

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1998 was an interesting year for me. I was at the peak of my powers.

I had spent the previous two years doing intense Kundalini Yoga meditation on a daily basis. So my mind was in a very high space. Clean and clear and powerful. Plus I had gone several years with no drugs or alcohol. So I was sharp as a tack.

And one of the odd bi-products of doing Kundalini Yoga. You pick up these weird spiritual powers. I suppose you could call them “occult powers.” Along the lines of the concept of: “Whatever you think will manifest.” (This concept would later lead to my spiritual downfall, but that’s another story)

Anyways, one hot summer night in 1998 I was hanging out on the corner of Telegraph & Bancroft with my bicycle, talking with a friend of mine, Jaguar. It had been nearly 100 degrees all day long, just sweltering heat, but it was 8 o’clock now and it was finally cooling off a little. So me and Jaguar were chilling.

When a car full of high school kids pulled up to the corner. Evidently they had been out joy-riding. Because one of the kids had this big plastic machine gun water pistol. And he suddenly stuck it out the window, pointed at me, and fired. And the blast of water was just about as powerful as a blast from a fireman’s hose. It almost knocked me and my bicycle over. And I was instantly soaked with water.

“HAW!! HAW!!” all the high school kids laughed.

And then they blasted their car engine and peeled rubber making a sharp left turn down Bancroft Avenue. Laughing all the way.

“I’m gonna get those fuckers?” I said.

“You’ll never catch them,” said Jaguar. “It’s impossible.”

And it looked hopeless. That stretch of Bancroft was 3 long blocks without a stop sign. And all downhill. And they were in a car and I was on a bicycle. And they had a head-start.

But I jumped on my bike and tore off after them anyways.

Then out of nowhere a cop car suddenly manifested. And he tore after them too, cop car lights flashing.

The cop car caught up to them a couple 100 yards down the road and pulled them over to the side of the road.

I pulled up shortly after on my bicycle and I was still so pissed I rushed at their car to confront them.

“BACK OFF!!” shouted the cop.

“Those fuckers blasted me with their water pistol,” I said.

“We’ll handle this,” said the cop.

Which they did. The kids ended up getting their car towed away by the cops. Which I’m sure cost them a pretty penny. And i got the satisfaction of staring them down with my “That’s what happens when you fuck with Ace Backwords” look. And they sure weren’t laughing and going HAW HAW at that point.

 

But that’s what it was like for me back in 1998. I always won. I always prevailed. Back then. It was like I had magic on my side.

It sure isnt like that NOW. Ha ha. *sigh*

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July 31, 2017

Walkin’ along, singin’ a song

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

 

Every now and then I’ll be walking down the street when, for no apparent reason, I’ll suddenly get this feeling:

“Man, it’s great to be alive!!”

. . . . . . But not very often.

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July 30, 2017

I once read this Kurt Vonnegut short story that posed an odd question: “What are people for?” Sometimes I still wonder about that question

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 9:43 pm

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There’s a guy who’s been hanging out on the Berkeley street scene for 20 years, basically doing nothing for 20 years. He’s got this spot that he hangs out at every day, sitting on the ground leaning against a tree. And he basically has two modes: a.) lying on his back reading a paperback, or b.) lying on his side sleeping. If he has a third mode I haven’t seen it.

Periodically he’ll rouse himself to get up and go to one of the free meals, or scroungs around in the garbage cans for food. Then its right back to his spot.

In the evening he packs up all his stuff, walks across the street to a doorway. And goes to sleep. And in the morning he wakes up and basically does the same thing all over again. For 20 years.

When I was young I thought people basically got married, had kids, lived in a house, went off to work in the morning, and in the evening they all ate dinner together in the living room. . . But as I get older I realize, the human experience iis actually pretty varied.

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