MY FAVORITE HOLIDAYS FROM BEST TO WORST

Scary!

1.) Halloween (one of the rare holidays with a much-needed touch of evil)
2.) Fourth of July (you get to blow up stuff and shit)
3.) New Years Eve (a grand celebration of alcoholism)
4.) Thanksgiving (I’m always down for stuffing my guts with meat and gravy and pumpkin pie)
5.) Ace Backwords Appreciation Day (not nearly celebrated enough as it should be)
6.) April Fool’s Day (everybody plays the fool, no exception to the rule)
7.) Easter (you get to hunt for eggs and candy, which off-sets the depressing religious aspect of Jesus being crucified for our sins and all that)
8.) Valentine’s Day (I’m a loser)
9.) Mother’s Day (I got issues)
10.) Christmas (you get presents and there’s jolly old Santa Claus, but it’s so over-blown for an entire month that when Christmas finally comes around it’s invariably a let-down)

Halloween 2018 at the stroke of midnight

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“Trick or treat.”

Oh man THIS made my night!!

It’s midnight Halloween night and I really want a beer. Somehow it offends my tender sensibilities to be sober on Halloween night, of all nights. But the problem is, most of the businesses (and liquor stores) on the Ave close early on Halloween night. Things can get a little wild on Halloween so I guess it’s a safety precaution.

My only hope is 7-11. But they’re eight blocks down the road. But I have true grit, so I make a mad dash in that direction. But just as I arrive I see the two employees in the process of locking the front door.

“Are you still open?” I said hopefully.

“No we’re closed,” he said.

“AWWW!!” I said in real pain.

“Sorry,” he said.

“Is there any chance I could grab something real quick?”

“What you want?”

“A six-pack of Racer.”

“OK. But be quick. You can pay me tomorrow.” The cash register is already shut down for the night so he’s giving me this incredible break of fronting me the beer.

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I rush into 7-11. Grab the six-pack. “Hurry hurry!!” he calls out. As I rush by him in the doorway I push knuckles in appreciation.

“Here’s a 20,” I said handing him the bill.

“Come by tomorrow for your change,” he says.

“Keep the change,” I call out over my shoulder as I march towards the Ave. What he did was REALLY above and beyond the call of duty.

Sometimes the gods are just on your side.

Happy Halloween everybody!!

 

Halloween weekend at Johnston’s Market

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It’s Saturday night Halloween weekend. So I go to Johnston’s Market to purchase a 6-pack of Racer 5. There’s a fairly long line. I grab my 6-pack and take my spot in the back of the line.

Then this big young white guy comes into the store. And instead of going to the BACK of the line. He stations himself ALONG SIDE the line. Just in front of me. The classic cut-in-the-line move.

When the line moves forward I quickly step ahead of him so he can’t cut in front of me.

He turns around and faces me. Menacingly. And says: “I was here before you,” he lies.

I don’t back down. It’s one of those macho things.

He bores down on me: “My girlfriend sent me in here to buy a pack of Camel Crush. And I was here before you.”

I can tell he’s drunk and he’s an asshole and he’s quite willing — if not eager — to physically fight with me to assert his place in the line.

I momentarily consider kicking him in the nuts. And then, as he’s writhing on the floor in pain, I take my rightful place ahead of him.

Instead — after quickly considering my options — I say: “If it’s that important to you, you can go first.”

He leers at me and says: “You know how they say pardon in French? Pard-OWN.”

“If it’s that important to you, you can go first,” I repeat. I step back and allow him to cut in front of me.

Now as we’re waiting on line I’m staring at the back of his head. And I’m thinking how easily I could bash his head in. But there are laws against that sort of thing. So I decide against that option.

He buys his pack of Camel Crush. Makes his exit. I buy my 6-pack. And then watch as he crosses in the middle of the street, pisses all over the wall of the Berkeley Games store. Then sits down against the wall with his girlfriend and they light up their Camel Crush cigarettes.

The holidays always bring out all the amateur drunks.

It’s Saturday night Halloween weekend. So I go to Johnston’s Market to purchase a 6-pack of Racer 5. There’s a fairly long line. I grab my 6-pack and take my spot in the back of the line.

Then this big young white guy comes into the store. And instead of going to the BACK of the line. He stations himself ALONG SIDE the line. Just in front of me. The classic cut-in-the-line move.

When the line moves forward I quickly step ahead of him so he can’t cut in front of me.

He turns around and faces me. Menacingly. And says: “I was here before you,” he lies.

I don’t back down. It’s one of those macho things.

He bores down on me: “My girlfriend sent me in here to buy a pack of Camel Crush. And I was here before you.”

I can tell he’s drunk and he’s an asshole and he’s quite willing — if not eager — to physically fight with me to assert his place in the line.

I momentarily consider kicking him in the nuts. And then, as he’s writhing on the floor in pain, I take my rightful place ahead of him.

Instead — after quickly considering my options — I say: “If it’s that important to you, you can go first.”

He leers at me and says: “You know how they say pardon in French? Pard-OWN.”

“If it’s that important to you, you can go first,” I repeat. I step back and allow him to cut in front of me.

Now as we’re waiting on line I’m staring at the back of his head. And I’m thinking how easily I could bash his head in. But there are laws against that sort of thing. So I decide against that option.

He buys his pack of Camel Crush. Makes his exit. I buy my 6-pack. And then watch as he crosses in the middle of the street, pisses all over the wall of the Berkeley Games store. Then sits down against the wall with his girlfriend and they light up their Camel Crush cigarettes.

The holidays always bring out all the amateur drunks.

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Labor Day, part 2: Ace Backwords, pumpkin patch salesman

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One of the best jobs I ever had was pumpkin salesman. Every year for 2 months around Halloween this guy would set up 6 or 7 pumpkin patches at different lots in the East Bay. And he’d hire guys to run the lots.

It’s hard to be depressed when you’re surrounded all day by beautiful bright orange pumpkins. And little kids joyfully romping across the lot (the kids all got to pick out their own pumpkin and they were all convinced they had scored the most special pumpkin of them all!).

The guy who ran the gig would spend the day driving around from lot to lot to make sure everything was running smoothly, and to collect the dough you’d amassed. Often you’d have a big wad of cash in your pocket, a couple of hundred bucks. And the guy was no fool. He didn’t trust any of the guys who worked on the lots. So periodically he’d send in an undercover guy posing as a customer to buy a pumpkin with a marked 20 dollar bill. And then later when he came by to collect the dough he’d look through all your bills to make sure that marked bill was in with the wad. And if it wasn’t, you were in trouble. (One time he thought he had me because the marked 20 was missing from my wad. But what actually happened was, another customer had paid with a 50 dollar bill. And I had given him the marked 20 as part of his change.)

An even better gig was: He had these little campers on all the lots. Bedroom, bathroom, kitchenette. And he’d hire homeless people to stay in them overnight to guard the pumpkin patches from thieves. How’s that for the ideal job for a homeless person. Getting paid money to live in a home.
Ha ha.

After Halloween the guy would do the same basic gig for the next 2 months setting up Christmas tree lots. He tried to talk me into taking that job, because I was a pretty good salesman. But Christmas trees was a whole ‘nother gig than pumpkins. You had to lug the big heavy trees over to the customers cars, and strap them down to the top of the cars. And hammer the stands to the bottom of the trees. Often in the pouring rain. So I passed. It was too much like work for me.

But selling pumpkins was great.

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Halloween in High Bridge

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I lived next door to this church for 7 years. From 1961 to 1968. From kindergarten through 6th grade. It was the best home I ever had. My life actually seemed normal back then. A feeling that wouldn’t last.

Anyways, I’ve been thinking of memories of my father. There were 7 of us in the Backwords family. Mom, Dad, and 5 brats. So the family car was always a VW bus, because there were enough seats in it for the whole family to pile into when we went on family trips. And the bus used to be parked in front of our house. This one Halloween night, this older high school kid who was a bit of a local tough soaped up all the windows of the bus as a Halloween prank. Well, my father caught him in the act. He collared the kid and told him he better wash off the soap or he’d be in big trouble. My Dad brought out a bucket of water and some rags and watched over the kid until he had repaired all the damage. I remember looking out the window of our house and watching the action. And I felt proud of my father. Like he was standing tall, protecting the family from harm.

Just a memory from the ancient past.

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A Halloween story

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My nice, normal house in a nice, normal neighborhood.

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When I was a kid I LOVED Halloween.  Dressing up in costumes and trick-or-treating.  Me and my friends would spend hours hitting every house in town.  And we’d come back with sacks full of candy so big we could barely carry it.  Then the ritual of dumping all the loot out on my bed and organizing all the treats into piles (prime candy bars like Snickers, Chunkies and Mr. Goodbars in one pile; crap like apples and raisons in another).

So as I grew into adulthood, and grew too old to trick-or-treat, I mourned the loss of trick-or-treating in my life.  Every Halloween it felt like something was missing.  Like getting no presents for Christmas, or being sober on New Years Eve, or no fireworks on Fourth of July.  I couldn’t even celebrate the holiday vicariously.  Because I had no children of my own. And, as a street person, I mostly lived in the kind of neighborhoods where, if somebody knocked on your door at night wearing a mask, the first thing you did was make sure the chain lock on your front door was double-bolted, and then you looked around to make sure you had a weapon handy.

So I was thrilled, two years ago in 2013, when, for the first time in my adult life, I was actually living in a nice normal house, in a nice normal neighborhood, surround by nice normal families.  And on Halloween my block was full of an army of little kids, trooping back and forth in their cool costumes, trick-or-treating.

So I bought a big bag of candy (Snickers, natch).  Turned on every light in my house.  And opened the shades on every window.  To let everyone know I was open for business.  And I waited there in my nice normal house with bated breath for the first trick-or-treaters to show up.

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To the victor goes the spoils!!

It wasn’t long before the doorbell rang.  It was a mother with her little boy, maybe 5, dressed in a Spiderman costume.  And her little girl, even younger, dressed as an angel.  Just adorable.  “TRICK OR TREAT!!”

I gave them some candy.  And then I waited for the next trick-or-treaters to show up.  But as I waited there in my nice normal house, I started to get more and more this weird feeling.  This paranoid and vulnerable feeling.  Bordering on panic. I realized:  After all the years of living on the streets as a homeless street person . . . Where you go to great lengths to conceal your crash spots . . . And every intruder is considered as a potential threat . . . I just couldn’t get comfortable with the idea of strangers approaching my house.  Even if they were just little kids dressed up as Spiderman and angels.  My street instincts were just too engrained.  This reflexive paranoia.  Which was sad.  I guess you can take a person out of the streets, but you can’t take the streets out of the person.

So I turned off all the lights in my nice normal house.  Pulled down all the shades on the windows.  And I hid here in the darkness for the rest of  Halloween night.  Until it was finally over.

But I always regretted that move.  I blew my one and only chance to re-experience the joys of trick-or-treating.

Oh well.  But at least there was one consolation.  I got to eat the whole bag of Snickers candy bars by myself.  HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!

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Have a very merry Halloween

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Last night was Halloween.  What a trip.  For the first time in my adult life I’m actually living in a normal house in a normal neighborhood surrounded by seemingly normal people.  So I was thrilled with the idea, for the first time in my life, of having actual trick-or-treaters knocking on my door.  So I bought several big bags of Snickers candybars to prepare for the big ocassion.  I turned all the lights in my house on, and opened up all the shades to let everyone in the neighborhood know I was open for business.

Mostly for the last two months I’ve been holed up alone in my house, hiding from the world. Almost nobody in the neighborhood even knows I’m here.  I spend most of my time shunted off in my bedroom in the back behind shaded windows, mostly just reading books by myself, getting drunk, and blabbing off to my Facebook friends every night.  But tonight is my once-in-a-lifetime chance to actually experience a normal Halloween  with kids in costumes and candy and all that.

Halloween was one of my favorite holidays as a kid, roving all over town for hours with my pals until we had so much candy in our sacks we could barely carry the things (no exaggeration).  And one of my favorite memories is dumping all the loot all over my bed and organizing the candy in different groups.  Chocolate bars there.  Hard candy over there.  Accursed apples over there.  I even remember some of my costumes.  One year my mom hand-sewed me a really cool Batman uniform.  Another year I dressed up as a woman with a bleached blonde mop for hair (what can I say, I had issues).  Another year I dressed up as a bum.  Which turned out to be good training for my future.

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So anyways, last night I’m all excited about Halloween and pacing back and forth in my livingroom.  Finally around 6 o-clock I get a knock on my door.  I open the door and its two young mothers with a young boy dressed like Spiderman and a little girl dressed like an angel.  Just adorable!  I gave them big hand fulls of Snickers.  Then, after they left I turned all the lights out and pretended nobody was home for the rest of the evening.  It freaked me out.  I’m just not used to this normal stuff.  I’m used to living in neighborhoods where if somebody knocks on your door at night you double-bolt the front door and look for a weapon.

I guess its gonna take me awhile to adjust to all this normal Mr Rogers Neighborhood kind of stuff.  What the hell.  At least I had a bunch of Snickers candybars left over for myself.

 

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Happy Halloween

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I often walk by the entrance to this cemetery.  And I always think the same thing:  “Well, there’s my next journey.”  Death is the final adventure after all.  And I’m getting pretty close to that point of “one foot in the grave, the other foot on a banana peel.”

Who knows where we go (if anywhere) after we die.  This life is mysterious enough.  Let alone what comes after it.  But my hunch is that death is like waking up from a dream as we step into a newer and higher level of reality.

I’m going to be cremated, but if I had a tombstone I always wanted “So long, suckers!” written on it.  With a statue of a hand coming out of the dirt waving good-bye.  The TV talk show host Johnny Carson purportedly wanted “I’ll be right back” on his tombstone.  And I always liked the joke about the hypochondriac who had on their tombstone: “See, I TOLD you so!”  The writer Charles Bukowski had the enigmatic words “Don’t try” put on his tombstone.  Leaving fans to wonder if it was some kind of Zen message of non-attachment, or a statement of nihilistic fatalism.

Who knows.  But since today is Halloween its as good a day as any to indulge in ghoulish speculation.

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