“One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor”

No photo description available.

I lived pretty quietly for most of the 13 years that I rented out this studio apartment in Berkeley. Cartoonists aren’t known as hell-raisers, after all. But the last year I was there, I started to get a little wild. I had recorded this CD of Berkeley street music and I had started hanging out with all with all these crazy street musicians. And I started having all these wild jam sessions in my apartment. We’d all be under the influence of every possible combinations of drugsĀ and alcohol. So it could get a little off-the-wall. And loud. I had this Peavey amp that I bought from one street musician for 50 bucks worth a crack, and it had a great heavy metal fuzz-tone sound, and I wasn’t averse to cranking it up to 11 every now and then.

But the problem was my upstairs neighbor. And when we got too loud — especially late at night — he wasn’t averse to pounding on my ceiling to express his displeasure.

So I would try to cool it. I could understand his feelings after all, and was sympathetic towards his plight. Hell, I would have gone nuts if I had a downstairs neighbor like me.

But some nights I just couldn’t help it. We were all just having too much fun, and we didn’t want the party to ever end. Plus, the people I was hanging with were a pretty feral bunch, and I really couldn’t contain them once they got it going. And their attitude was: “FUCK THAT GUY!!” And they’d start playing even louder. One night it got so raucous, my upstairs neighbor actually called the cops on us.

So the next day I paid a visit to my neighbor to see if we could work out some kind of an agreement. He was a blandly non-descript middle-aged guy, maybe a couple years older than me. And his apartment looked like some little old granny lived there. Everything was neat and spotless and every little nick-nack was exactly in place (as opposed to the trashed-out bohemian splendor of my place).

He explained that he had to get up for work early every morning to some job he hated. On top of that he was going through a messy divorce and dealing with child support issues. And now all my noise was ruining his final little bit of refuge — the peace and quiet of his home life.

The irony was, it turned out he had once played in a rock band himself. They were on the same record label as the Residents — this well-known avant-garde San Francisco art rock band. And they had even went on a world tour with the Residents. So you gotta figure he had experienced a little ROCK’N’ROLL wildness himself. But I guess those days were behind him now.

I told him I understood. And I made a sincere effort to keep it down after that.

Shortly after that, I packed up my Peavey amp and the rest of my stuff, sublet my apartment, and hit the streets. I realized I had become too wild myself to handle the constraints of normal, domestic existence. I wanted to stay up way past midnight and howl at the moon. And that’s what I ended up doing.

Sublet It Be


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.



High times on University Avenue


I lived in this apartment building on University Avenue in Berkeley for 13 years. 1982 to 1995. I had a studio apartment on the 2nd floor. That’s my kitchen window in the upper right corner.

I used to smoke a lot of pot back then. But I always got a little paranoid when I smoked pot in my apartment. Because the manager and his wife lived right next door to me. And I was paranoid that if they smelled my pot, they might report me to the owner of the building, who was extremely conservative, and I’d get evicted from my apartment.

Stan and Rose Mary was the name of the manager and his wife. They were a little, old gray-haired couple. He was about 70 and she was about 60. And pretty straight-laced. And back in those ancient days there were a LOT of strait-laced people who looked down on pot. It was definitely illegal back then, that’s for sure. And a LOT of people thought pot was just as bad as heroin or any other drugs.

So whenever I smoked pot in my apartment I’d always open up all the windows. And I’d blow the pot smoke out the window. Fan the smoke a little. And I never smoked by my front door, lest the pot smell leaked out to the hallway and into the manager’s front door.

For most of the years I lived there I was a pretty good tenant (aside from being a pot-smoking drug degenerate). But then in 1994 I got 4 months behind on my rent (I cleverly was sinking every penny I got my hands on, into recording and manufacturing a CD that I was convinced was going to be a big, big hit, but ended up barely breaking even).

So now I was DOUBLEY paranoid about Stan the manager. And I would dart in and out of my apartment hoping he didn’t catch me.

But then one day he caught me just as I was walking into my apartment.

“Uh, Ace, could I talk to you for a second about your rent?” said Stan.

Oh fuck! Busted!

“Yeah, I know,” I said. “I’m four months behind on my rent. I guess if I can’t come up with some money pretty soon I’m gonna have to move out.”

“Ace, this is what i think you should do,” said Stan.

Uh oh.

“Grow pot.”

“Say what??” I said.

“That’s right. You should grow pot,” he said.

“Say what??”

Now out of ALL the things I expected Stan the manager was going to say to me at that exact moment. That was probably just about the LAST thing I expected he’d say.

“Yeah, there’s a LOT of money in pot,” he said. “I’ve been growing it myself for years. And I even set up 8 other people around town with the grow-room equipment so they can grow it in their closets. And I supply them with primo seeds and plants to get them started. Then we pool the profits.”

“You’re kidding??” I said.

“Heck no I’m not kidding. Wait right here.”

Stan dashed into his apartment. And then came back with this big plastic container of green butter.

“We turn the buds into pot butter. This is pure THC. Then we turn it into edibles.”

Stan’s wife Rose Mary popped up behind him with a big smile on her face. “Here, Ace, try a couple of these,” she said, handing me two big oat meal cookies. “They’re from our latest batch.”

“Geez!” I said.

“But you might want to only eat half of that cookie,” she said, proudly. “They’re pretty strong.”

I guess I should have known. Stan often did walk around the building with a big, glassy-eyed smile on his face.

“I can set you up with all the grow-room equipment you need,” said Stan

It turned out Stan even subscribed to HIGH TIMES magazine and had seen my comics in there. Which is why he thought I’d be a good person for the job.

But it was the weirdest thing. It was like being strapped down into an electric chair to be executed. But then right before they pull the switch you get a call from the Governor, who not only gives you a pardon, but tells you you just won the Lottery.

But that’s the weird thing about living in those old apartment buildings. You just NEVER know what the people next-door are really doing behind closed doors.