Acid Heroes

February 13, 2018

These are my people

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 6:48 pm



When I moved from San Francisco to Berkeley back in 1978 I rented out a room for a month at this place. It was called the UC Hotel back then, it was on University Ave. just below San Pablo. Rent was 100 bucks a month, something like that.

When I went up to check out my room on the fourth floor, I noticed the door next to mine was covered with all this red police tape, DO NOT ENTER, sealing off the room. When I asked the manager what that was all about he said: “Oh, yesterday the guy who was living in that room jumped out the window and committed suicide. The police are still investigating it.”

I remember thinking: “I should fit right in at this place.”










Further misadventures cutting class with the high school stoners

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 12:36 am
 When I was 16, a junior in high school, me and the crew of friends I was hanging out with liked to regularly cut school when the weather started getting nice. We’d sneak out to the parking lot behind the high school and we’d all pile into my friends car, usually 2 or 3 guys and 2 or 3 girls. Most of the crew that I hung with at that time were all part of the high school cool crowd, with me being sort of a border-line cool crowder. So I felt a little pressure to always try and act cool, lest the others found out I wasn’t really cool and they’d kicked me out of the cool crowd.

Anyways, we’d often drive to up-state New York, to Harriman Park, this huge state park. Harriman Park was incredibly beautiful, very lush and green. And there were a bunch of rivers and streams, some of which had really nice swimming holes. It felt great to swim in those streams and laze around in the sun. And we would smoke a lot of pot and drink a lot of beer, and we really felt like teenage rebels who were being sneaky and getting away with breaking all the rules. It was a lot more fun then sitting in a classroom staring at a Geometry text book, that’s for sure.

My memory is a little sketchy, so I can’t remember if we went skinny-dipping or not. I think we wore our underwear in the water. All the girls we were hanging with were very pretty. So I think I would have remembered if we were skinny-dipping, because that would have been a big big moment in my life at age 16.

One of our favorite swimming holes was this place that had a rope swing. The pool of water (which was pretty deep) was surrounded by all these rocks and boulders. And you had to climb up the rocks to get to the rope swing, which was about 20 feet above the water. You’d swing out in the air like Tarzan and then “GERONIMO!” into the water. You had to be a little careful about your release-time, though, when you let go of the rope and plummeted downwards, because you wanted to make sure you landed in the water and not on the rocks.

The first time I attempted the rope swing I was more than a little scared. That 20 feet drop looked a LONG ways down. But, considering everybody else was doing it (even all of the girls) I sure wasn’t going to go down as The Guy Too Chicken To Jump Off The Rope Swing. So i held my breath and let ‘er rip. And it was a lot of fun. Pretty soon we started doing wilder and wilder stunts, doing backflips and somersaults in mid-air. Trying to top each other with our moves.

Then one day we got the news that one of the guys in our class who we all knew had gone up to the rope swing with his crew, and apparently he had mis-timed his jump and landed on the rocks. And he was now in the hospital, and was paralyzed from the neck down and would very likely be in that condition for the rest of his life.

Considering all the crazy stuff I did when I was a teenager, it’s a miracle I made it to 20.



February 12, 2018

Watch “A tour of Telegraph Avenue with Ace Backwords” on YouTube

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ace Backwords @ 2:19 am

February 10, 2018

Detached retina surgery

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



On this date 3 years ago I had surgery for the first time in my life for a detached retina. It was a surreal experience to wake up at 4 in the morning in the darkness of the woods at my campsite, and then suddenly be under the electric lights of a hospital. And I felt more than a bit of pressure. If the surgery failed, my eyeball would completely shrivel up in it’s socket (“dead eye”) and I’d have to wear a pirate-like eye patch for the rest of my life. So that would change things.

I marvelled at the whole concept of the surgery. It was mind-boggling to me that human beings could actually think this stuff up. There are basically two different kinds of detached retina surgery. The retina is kind of like a wallpaper stuck on the wall in the back of your eye. When it “detaches” it falls off the wall. When you see enlarged photos of your eye, it actually locks like crumpled up wallpaper lying on the floor of your eye.

The kind of surgery I had, they actually cut into your eye. And the surgeon goes in by hand, picks up the crumpled retina, puts it back on the wall, and then presses it onto the wall so it sticks like glue.

Unfortunately, shortly after the surgery, my retina fell off the wall again.

So the surgeon did the second kind of surgery, equally ingenius. The surgeon inserts this gas bubble into your eye. And the bubble presses against the retina to make it stick to the wall.

On the downside, as part of the recuperating process, you have to spend two weeks lying on your belly, face-down on a bed, for virtually 24 hours a day. You need to maintain this posture so that gravity forces the gas bubble upwards, pressing the retina against the wall. And after 2 weeks the retina is (hopefully) permanently pressed back on the wall.

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A room with a view.

But it’s a weird kind of a torture. Especially for a high-strung, fidgety type like me. Having to maintain this awkward, uncomfortable posture for 2 weeks straight (lying on your stomach, your face pressed into a pillow). And there’s this constant anxiety that if you make one wrong move, you’ll knock the retina off the wall and you’ll have to go through the whole surgery again.

But 3 years later, my retina is still attached to the wall. So knock, knock, knock.



February 7, 2018

A brief history of the feral cats at my campsite

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 7:29 pm

When I first started camping in the Berkeley hills about 11 years ago, there were already four feral cats living there — a mother and three kittens. They had a little nest in the bushes about 100 yards up the hill from my campsite.


Shortly after I moved in, the mother cat got hit by a car and died. A short while after that, the kittens summoned the nerve to trot down the hill and check out my campsite. I started feeding them every morning. So that’s how that got started.


About a year later, one of the cats, who I named Blondie, had her first litter of kittens: Moo Cat, Scamp and Scump (who disappeared shortly after).


A year later, Blondie had her second litter of kittens: the twins Mick and Keef. And then no more litters from Blondie (and it wasn’t for lack of trying — Blondie was always very popular with the local toms). I suspect she became infertile from the harsh living of feral cats. But who knows.


Then I had to leave town for 4 months. So I asked a homeless friend of mine who camped on the other side of the hill, if he would feed my cats while I was gone. And I gave him a big bag of cat food to take care of that.


While I was gone, my homeless friend fell in love with the cats and adopted Scamp (who he re-named Lovey Dovey after the line in the George Thorougood song “One Bourbon, On Scotch, and One Beer”). And Moo Cat and Lovey Dovey had popped out litters of kittens while I was gone. So now I suddenly had 12 cats running around my campsite. And things were on the verge of getting out of control. When litters of litters start having litters, the cat population can increase exponentially pretty quickly.


My homeless friend — who had become a confirmed cat-lover — urged me to get the cats fixed. But I didn’t think it was my responsibility. I never thought of them as “my” cats. Like I was the owner and they were my pets. They were feral cats, and I was a feral human being who just happened to be living alongside of them. And I felt getting them fixed would be a betrayal of their trust. They had come to trust me (something that doesn’t come easily with feral cats) because I never messed with them. So I felt that it would be morally wrong to impose my will on them.


My friend argued that the cats would suffer if I didn’t get them fixed. “If you feed them, you’re responsible for them,” he said. My counter argument was: “I also feed the birds and the squirrels and the raccoons and the skunks. But I don’t feel I’m responsible for their well-being either.” . . . One thing I always did do: No matter how many feral cats showed up — whether it was 2 or 12 — I always made sure they all had plenty of food to eat. Nobody ever went hungry at Camp Backwords, that’s for sure. So at least I was responsible about that.


But my friend felt strongly enough about the issue, that he said he’d be willing to take care of it himself. So I said OK. And he managed to get all the cats (except Blondie) fixed. And he found adoptive homes for a bunch of them, too. So that was cool.


So now I had four cats again. Blondie, Moo Cat, and Mick & Keef. Which was cool in a way. Because I had started out with four cats, and now I had four cats again, so that seemed like a natural order of things. And four cats was more than enough for me to deal with.


So now all the feral cats were either fixed or infertile. So I felt I wouldn’t be having to deal with the kitten issue any more (famous last words). And Iived happily ever after for several years.


Then I suddenly had to leave town for a year. It was heart-breaking living my cats behind. But that’s life in the world of feral cats. There’s no assurance for any of them. And very little assurances for you and me either, for that matter . . . When I came back to my campsite a year later, Mick & Keef had disappeared. But Blondie and Moo Cat were still around. And they were both in good shape, having somehow managed to survive quite nicely in my absence.


Then one day, these two other feral cats — Owl and Feral Tammy — happened to show up at my campsite. They had been wandering through the neighborhood, spotted my cat dish full of cat food, and decided to stick around. And before I knew it, Feral Tammy was preggo and she popped out a litter of three kittens: Scaredy Cat, Fatty and Crier. So here we go again.


I knew it wouldn’t be long before I had 12 (or more!) cats romping around my campsite if I didn’t nip this in the bud (so to speak). So, in a rare show of maturity, I managed to trap Feral Tammy, Fatty and Crier and get them fixed at the cat clinic.


But before I could get the other two cats fixed (Scaredy Cat and Owl) things started going south at my campsite. I got preoccupied with a very serious feud when several other homeless people invaded my campsite, then the rainy season hit, and then the cat clinic went out of business. Among many many other complications in the typical life of a fucked-up homeless person.


So, in the meantime, Scaredy Cat managed to pop out a litter of two kittens, who I named Mini Scaredy and Mini Owl (because they both looked like miniature versions of Mom and Dad). Scaredy Cat got pregnant a couple more times after that. But both times she had miscarriages. So I figured (wishful thinking) that she was infertile.


For whatever reason, Mini Scaredy never had any litters (and it wasn’t for lack of trying — that horndog Owl was on her when she was barely 7 months old).


And then Blondie disappeared. She was 10 years old (which is pretty ancient for a feral cat). So she probably quietly passed away. Then a year later, Owl and Feral Tammy also wandered off and disappeared. Probably casualties of the Great Rainstorms of the Winter of 2016-2017.


So now there were no toms around. So hopefully that meant no more kittens. And then Mini Owl disappeared (which was heart-breaking). So I was right back to where I started with 4 cats: Scaredy Cat, Mini Scaredy, Fatty, and Moo Cat. And hoping it would stay that way.


And then last month, Scaredy Cat showed up at my campsite one morning, with four little 2-month-old kittens proudly in tow. So here we go again.


And that’s pretty much where everything stands as of this moment.


The end (at least for now).





Some more of my old TWISTED IMAGE comic strips that one of my FB friends posted on the internet

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 6:32 pm

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February 5, 2018

The Twins

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 8:56 pm

From Twisted Image #1.


One of the weird things about being a street person, and relating to a lot of different street people: You rarely know much about a street person’s past (where they came from), or their future (how they ended up). You usually just get this very dramatic present moment. And then you have to guess at all the rest. It can be very disconcerting. It’s like watching a movie where you get the middle of the movie, and then it cuts to the middle of another movie, and then it cuts to the middle of yet another movie. And you never get the beginning or ending to the movies.

But every now and then you stumble upon the entire story. I’ll give you an example:

It was around the summer of 1982 when large groups of punk kids first starting hanging around on Telegraph Avenue. Later to morph in the ’90s into tribes of crusty “gutter punks” (but that’s another story). And there were these two young punkettes that really stood out from the pack. They were 16 years old, identical twins. petite, cute and girlish, but with wild cat eyes that often flashed with anger. The Twins (as they were known), with their shaved heads and big multi-colored mohawks, and studded black leather jackets, were kind of the ringleaders of this gang of young punks that were like a pack of wild animals. If you were at a punk show at the Elite Club or the On Broadway, and bottles were being thrown and people were getting beat up, The Twins were usually right in the middle of the action, if not leading the charge. Tim Yohannon Himself once complained to me, bitterly, about what a “disruptive force” The Twins were to “the punk rock community” (so-called). They definitely had “anger issues.” But god only knows what the source of that anger was (like I said, you get the present, but rarely the past or the future with street people).

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The crew hanging out on Telegraph in 1982. (photo by Nancy Nadel)

At any rate, I was intrigued by The Twins and their crew. So I took a bunch of photos of them, which I published in the first issue of Twisted Image, along with a poem by one of their friends. And they respected me enough, that when one of their skinhead pals wanted to beat me up for being a hippie, one of The Twins shrugged and said: “Nah. He’s cool.” (So thanks for that) . . . Anyways, after awhile The Twins disappeared from the scene. But I always kind of wondered in the back of my mind whatever happened to them.

So I was surprised when, about 10 years later, I was leafing through an issue of PEOPLE magazine (of all places) and I came across a big story about The Twins. It turned out The Twins’ parents were both drug addicts who had abandoned them. The police found them when they were 6, living in an abandoned building in Oakland, living like wild animals, basically . . . So they ended up getting adopted by this respectable UC Berkeley professor. But instead of living happily ever after, the Prof started molesting and raping The Twins practically from the moment they moved into his house, until they finally ran away from home at 16 (cut to the middle of the story, with brief cameo by Ace Backwords).

To make a long story short, the true story finally came out about the Prof’s dirty doings, he ended up getting arrested, tried and convicted and thrown into prison. And, in an added twist, The Twins ended up as the owners of his big, fancy house as part of the civil suit settlement. And that’s how that all worked out.

So that was one of the rare times where I actually got the beginning, middle and ending to the story.

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I believe this photo was taken at the On Broadway some time in 1982. (photo by George Rozzo)



February 1, 2018

Keep on Shtuppin’

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 7:00 pm

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January 30, 2018

Big cats and little cats

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 11:02 pm

One of the mountain lion cubs spotted in the Berkeley hills.


All eight of my feral cats (four adults and four kittens) disappeared last week.   Which is really weird and mysterious. I couldn’t figure out what happened to them.  And then I noticed an article in the newspaper about a mountain lion being sited in the Berkeley hills very near to where I camp. So I figured my cats either ran from — or got eaten by — the mountain lion. After they were missing for 7 days I started to give up hope.


But then I got to my campsite last night around 2AM. And as I was setting up I noticed a shadowy figure darting across the way. It was crazy old Moo Cat!

We had a joyous reunion. Her fur was matted with clumps of mud. And I could tell she had been through the mill. But otherwise she looked OK. I dumped a can of cat food into the cat food dish. And then warded off the pack of raccoons as she happily gobbled it down.

Shortly after Scaredy Cat and Mini Scaredy also showed up. They were purring so loudly they started to cluck like a chicken. I stuffed them full of so much food their guts were bulging out of their sides. They were way happy to see me. But they were super alert and tense, too. The slightest sound and they would intently stare in that direction.

As it started to get light in the morning, I noticed a dark, shadowy figure off in the distance, slowly creeping in the direction of my campsite.


No. It was just one of those goddamn wild turkeys. Mini Scaredy curled up on my blankets and slept all morning. While Scaredy Cat headed up the hill. Presumably to look for her 4 kittens, who are still missing. Fatty is still missing too. So we’ll just have to see how it goes. But at least 3 of the cats are back!!


One step ahead of the competition

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


I was just walking down the alley to get a delicious ham’n’swiss sandwich at CHEESE’N’STUFF. And i was about 20 feet from the front door, when I noticed 2 guys walking down the alley coming from the opposite direction. And they were about 20 feet from the front door, too.

And I just had a hunch that they were also headed towards CHEESE’N’STUFF. And as it was, we were both timed to reach the front door at the exact same time.

So I put a little extra bounce in my step. And I made it into the door a half-step ahead of them. Sure enough, they were also headed into the store. As I ordered my sandwich I could feel their presence behind me, glaring at the back of my head as they waited on line. I’m sure they wanted to kill me.

Now technically I hadn’t cut in line ahead of them. But I had made an extra effort to beat them to the spot. And if some bum had pulled that shit on me, I would have wanted to kill them, too. Ha ha.

Too bad. To the victor goes the spoils!!



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