Acid Heroes

April 6, 2018

One of the last really good comic strip ideas I came up with

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 6:22 pm


I was a cartoonist for 20 years. And one of the last really good ideas I came up with before I burned out on the gig was: I decided to do a series of comic strips. And I’d do a different drug while I was drawing each comic strip.

I’d start out the first panel of each comic strip like: “Its 9 PM and I just dropped that acid and I’m starting to work on this comic strip. . .” or “Its 9 PM and I just smoked this crack cocaine and I’m starting to work on this comic strip. . . ” or  “Its 9 PM and I just snorted this heroin and I’m starting to work on this comic strip. . .”

And so on. And I’d draw these series of comic strips while being under the influence of all these different drugs. Crystal meth, pot, alcohol, and so forth.

It was a great idea. Because I could not only illustrate the affect of these drugs on my mental processes. But also the affect on my motor skills as I physically drew the comic strips.

The problem was: I ended up doing all the drugs. But I never got around to drawing up all the comic strips.

I guess they don’t call them “pipe dreams” for nothing.

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April 2, 2018

Wishing wells

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 7:25 pm



I went through a period in the 1990s where I was so broke, I’d sometimes wade into the Sproul Plaza fountain and pull out all the coins. There was usually a couple bucks in there. Enough to buy a 24 ounce can of beer or a hot dog or a cup of coffee.

Then one day this young woman scolded me. “People make wishes when they throw those coins into the fountain! If you take those coins out, their wishes won’t come true!”

I wasn’t completely sure about the soundness of her theological interpretation of wishing wells. But I assured her: “No its cool. I threw a quarter into the fountain and wished to get a bunch of coins. So the wishes are still coming true.”

What I say doesn’t always make perfect sense. But the important thing is to always get in the last word.




March 31, 2018

“Health Tips for Teens” by Dr. H. A. Backwords

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 9:56 pm

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I have so many unhealthy habits.

Crappy diet. Massive alcohol and drug consumption. Sleeping outside in the cold and rain as a homeless bum for decades at a stretch. Etc etc.

But I think the one thing that saved me. The one reason I’m still in surprisingly good health at age 61. In spite of my bad habits: I don’t repress my emotions.

If I feel anger I express my anger. If I feel sadness I express my sadness. If I feel fear I express my fear. Etc.

If you block your feelings? Its like emotional constipation. You have to let those feelings flow through your body so you can release them and get them out of your system. Like a good dump. Otherwise they fester inside you like a cancer.

Some people think “emotions” are like this airy ethereal thing. But emotions are also this physical, chemical presence in your body.

When you feel fear, your body surges with adrenalin. When you feel happiness, your body surges with endorphins.

The tricky part is finding ways to express these surges of crazy emotions while doing minimal damage to other people. To be able to express your anger and your rage where youre just blowing off steam and not hurting anybody..



“Falling in love”

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 9:51 pm

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Of all the weird experiences I’ve had in this life, one of the weirdest was “falling in love.” After all these years, I still don’t really understand what that one was all about. . .

I remember this one sunny summer day back in 1994, 24 years ago. I was hanging out at my vending table in front of Codys Books. Just another mundane day in a seemingly endless expanse of mundane days. When this young woman stopped by to say hi to me.

She was fairly new to the scene. She had just started hanging out on the Telegraph street scene. This young hippie chick in her late teens. She had been following the Grateful Dead tour. And now she was chilling in Berkeley for a couple months in between hitting the Rainbow Gathering in July (there was a whole circuit back then). And we had met a couple times previous and we were just at that stage where we were starting to “know” each other. So she stopped by to chat for a spell.

She was tall and willowy. And her body seemed to sway and dance all the time, even when she was just hanging around talking. And she was wearing this skimpy little halter top — this piece of cloth, basically, that she had wrapped around her chest. And this long flowing hippie skirt that she probably pulled out of the Free Box. But her most significant trait was this big beaming smile. This almost brainless, not-a-care-in-the-world smile. Like she was beaming with ecstasy and bliss and waves of pleasure, and that all was right with the world forever and ever (part of it was probably the good speed that was going around back then). And these beautiful translucent eyes that seemed to always reflect the sunshine. She was kind of cute, OK?

So we shot the shit for awhile. She had sort of a goofy, playful sense of humor, like life was an amusing lark basically. So she was fun to hang out with. And she also had a “spiritual” side — she would occasionally make portentous statements about “Mother Earth and the moon and the sky” and “good vibes” and “Babylon, man.” And that was amusing to a bitter old cynic like me.

So we chatted for awhile. And then she bid me farewell. And went bopping down Telegraph Avenue. And I didn’t think any more about our casual exchange. Until a couple minutes later. When I noticed she had stopped at this other vending table down the street. And she was chatting happily with this big, handsome, dashing hippie dude that ran that table.

And now I’m straining to see what they’re doing. I can only catch partial glimpses of them through all the crowds of people hanging out on the Ave. But they seem to be having a great time together, talking to each other.

And then I noticed he was giving her a back rub. She was standing with her back to him and he was massaging the back of her neck. And for some unknown reason this got me really upset. I even started to tremble a little. Which was a weird reaction. Because I barely knew this person.

So I kept staring off down the Avenue. Until I thought my eyes were going to pop out of my head. In this very agitated state. Until she finally frolicked on down the Ave and disappeared from sight.

And just like that, I was obsessed with this person. And would be obsessed with her every day for the next two years.

Like I said. Its weird..


March 29, 2018

Sometimes you just got to keep walking

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 7:51 pm



Sometimes I’ll be walking down the street and I’ll suddenly think to myself, “What’s the point of this all??” And I’ll actually stop walking for a split-second. And I have to sort of force myself to keep walking.

I once had this disturbing dream. I was traveling from town to town, walking and walking. I was trying to get somewhere, but I couldn’t remember where I was trying to get to. So I just kept walking and walking in the hopes that I’d find where I’m trying to get to. And I’m getting more and more tired. Finally I walk down this alley and reach this cul de sac. This dead end. I’m completely out of energy and hope, so I just give up and lay down on the ground to die. And then I woke up.

Cheerful bastard, aren’t I?


This life can drive you nuts. And in my case it’s often a very short drive

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



I was a very driven person for many years. For like 30 years. I had this almost desperate desire to make something of my life. To BE somebody. To be a “success” (whatever that meant). To have a great career, a home, relationships, love, sex, pleasure, money, enlightenment. I wanted it ALL. And I wasn’t pissing about.

I was still at it, highly driven like that, all the way to 2009. I was working like a dog to finish and publish my ACID HEROES book. Which I was convinced was going to be my masterpiece. And after that, I recorded and pressed up copies of a CD of a People’s Park anniversary show. And I was still working full-time at my 25-cent book vending table gig (which was a very grueling job). So I was grinding away non-stop. Day after day.

And then, around Thanksgiving of 2009, its like I had a complete nervous breakdown. Everything collapsed. My best friend Duncan died. My book was a bomb. And my vending table gig ended.

It was like everything I had been working for, for all those years, had amounted to nothing. And I was back to zero.

So I got on a Greyhound bus and visited my little sister in Arizona for a couple months. To try to get some kind of perspective on all the mind-warping experiences I had gone through in Berkeley. And to try and come up with some kind of inspiration for What I Should Do Next. Hoping for some kind of Plan B.

And I remember one night in 2010 hanging out with my little sister at her house. And we’re drinking and talking and smoking cigarettes (we had to go out to her backyard for the cigarette breaks, she didn’t allow smoking inside her house). And I remember at one point I just started crying and crying. Really losing my shit. Having a complete nervous breakdown. One of those embarrassing scenes where you’re blubbering and wailing and you got snot coming out of your nose and all that. My little sister offers me a kleenex to sop up the tears. She’s known me since I was 2 years old, she’s known me for over 50 years. So she knows what I’m like. Its just me being me. So she’s not particularly unduly concerned. Its just me having a nervous breakdown. “Lets go out back for another smoke,” she says, after I come back down to earth.

And then I got on a Greyhound bus and moved back to Berkeley. And I never really came up with any answers. You often don’t. You just keep plodding forward, one step at a time. But I was no longer so “driven,” that’s for sure. And would mostly spend the next 8 years quietly sipping on my beer, and feeding a bunch of feral cats in the Berkeley hills.

And that’s pretty much where I ended up. Right up to this exact moment in time and space.





Sublet It Be

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 7:26 pm



Welcome to dee Hotel California.


I moved into this apartment building in 1982, age 26, and lived there for 13 years. During the last year I lived there, I started falling WAY behind on the rent. I was working on a very ambitious — and expensive — project. Recording, and pressing up a CD, a compilation of Berkeley street musicians. Along with publishing a big, fat magazine to go along with it. So I was using every penny I could get my hands on to produce the thing. And rent be damned.

Before that i had been a cartoonist for the previous 10 years. Which is one of the cheapest artistic mediums you could get into. I mean, with a dollar felt-tip pen, a dollar bottle of white-out, a piece of paper, and a 10 cent xerox, you could basically produce a piece of art that was suitable for publication in the slickest, glossy magazine in the world.

But music is like drugs. You always want a bigger hit. Better guitar strings, more powerful amplifiers, more expensive microphones. There’s no end to it. So by the time I finished the CD project I was a thousand dollars behind on the rent. I guess I was hoping the CD was going to be a big, big hit and i was going to be a big, big star. And I’d pay the rent that way. But it didn’t happen that way.

So I packed my stuff up into a big frame backpack, sublet my apartment to a friend of mine, and hit the streets. My friend would end up living there for the next 23 years. And in fact is still living there. Which is weird.

So I worked really hard for the next couple of years, and saved up a thousand bucks. And one day I walked into the office of the landlord on the first floor of the building. And dumped the thousand dollars on his desk.

The landlord was very surprised. “That’s the first time in all these years that any tenant has ever done THAT,” he said with a big smile on his face, as he counted up the money.

In part I did it so it wouldn’t cause any bad feelings towards the guy I had sublet to. But mostly I did it because I felt I had had such a great deal there for 13 years, I felt it was the least I could do.

But the weird thing is. Thanks to me and my subletter, that apartment has been successfully rented out, month after money, with no problems, uninterrupted, for 36 years. And counting.

But the weird thing is. If I tried to rent out an apartment today? My actual application, my resume, would look so sketchy on paper. That probably no landlord would rent to me. Ha ha.



Back in the day when pay phones ruled the earth.

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 7:05 pm
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Some time in year 2001.


I spent many years standing there like a dork at my vending table in front of Cody’s Books.  19 years to be exact. I have no idea where I got that dorky shirt. But the photo reminded me of some of the misadventures we had over the years with the pay phone behind us.

This one time a friend of mine was hanging out with us. And he spots this hot young chick loitering around on the corner. “Man would you look at the tits on that one!” he said. “Boy would I like to fuck her!” and etc. etc. Going on and on in very obscene details about the things he’d like to do to her.

Little did we know her boyfriend was talking on the payphone right behind us. And when he got off the phone he was mad as a hornet. And he was a BIG guy, too. He got in my friend’s face and he’s ready to kick the living shit out of him. He’s got him backed against the wall of the Cody’s building. And my friend is fishing in his pocket for the can of mace he carries. And it was about to get really ugly.

When I somehow managed to talk the guy down. “We apologize,” I said. “We meant no disrespect. You have a very beautiful girlfriend, etc. etc.” Which somehow placated him.

He even said as he was leaving: “You have class.” But couldn’t resist adding: “But your friend is a dirty old pervert.”

He’s lucky he didn’t get a face full of mace from my friend. Who could do some damage, too. Ha ha. But that was a close one.



March 28, 2018

Here’s to the new Mom, same as the old Mom

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 6:40 pm



Mom let the kittens nurse for the first four months. But the last couple of weeks she’s put her paw down (so to speak). When they try to get at her, she snarls at them. They back away with a hurt look on their faces, like: “We had this beautiful thing going. And now you’re saying it’s all over??” But that’s it. No more titty for the kitty.

So this morning after eating a big breakfast the three kittens trot over to wear I’m laying and lie down on my chest in a clump, purring loudly. Later, when Mom gets up and leaves my campsite, the kittens don’t get up and follow after her, for the first time. They stay planted on my chest.

And its kind of a symbolic moment. Like they’re saying: “OK. You’re the new mom now.” Ha ha.



March 27, 2018

More feral kittens

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 10:11 pm

















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