Acid Heroes

January 6, 2018

On this date last year: Grace under pressure. The kind of stuff Hate Man was dealing with during his last months on the planet

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 7:20 pm
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Hate Man has been struggling quite a bit lately. He’s 80 years old. He’s having health problems (problems breathing). And a massive rainstorm is heading our way tonight. Plus, the cops are on his case. And he’s surrounded by street crazies fucking with him.

“Last night I set up all my camping stuff on Bowditch Street,” said Hate Man. “But when I came back this morning all my stuff was gone! Including my 8 garbage bags of recycling! At first I thought the cops had hauled it away. And now I’m completely fucked. The big storm coming in tonight and all my blankets and tarps are gone.”

“What happened to all your stuff?” I asked.

“It turned out Sunshine (this crazy tweaker chick) had hauled off all my stuff and dumped it in a garbage can.”

“For no reason?”

“Yeah.”

“Well I’m sure she had a reason. But it was probably a completely insane reason that made sense to nobody but her.”

“Yeah. But at least I managed to track down all my stuff. And now I’m struggling to get it all set up again before the rain starts pouring down.”

But here’s the kicker. Amidst dealing with dozens of dire issues Hate Man pauses amidst his travails and says:

“Oh. This guy dropped off a bunch of cans of Vienna Sausages for me. But I don’t want them. You can have them if you want (Hate Man knows my feral cats love Vienna Sausages).”

Hate Man digs out the bag of Vienna Sausages from the jumbled mess that is his campsite. Gives them to me. And then goes back to the task of trying to organize his campsite before the big storm hits.

Hate Man is kind of the epitome of the concept of “grace under pressure.”

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December 22, 2017

Hate Man’s last Christmas

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2016 would be Hate Man’s last Christmas.  He would be dead in 3 months. Of course we didn’t know it at the time.  We just figured the tough old bastard would live forever.  It was hard to imagine a Berkeley without Hate Man. . .

As usual, Hate Man had a Hate Camp Christmas tree.  That was one of the great things about Hate Man.  A lot of life on the streets is just a grim, gritty survival trip.  But Hate Man always took the time to add that extra little flair.  A fresh flower in his hat.  And a Christmas tree just for the street people.

And we decked out the Hate Camp Christmas tree with tinsel and electric lights, and a star on top.  But the night before Christmas this crazy tweaker chick (hi, Sunshine) grabbed the tree when nobody was looking and dumped it in a garbage can. Hate Man was able to track down the tree, but the tinsel and lights were gone. Merry Methmas!!

But that was sort of what Hate Man’s life was like during his last years in People’s Park. He was surrounded by a pack of lunatics, basically.  He had two different tweakers that would regularly sneak into his campsite when he was gone and rifle through all of his stuff and make a big mess. They wouldn’t necessarily steal the stuff. They’d just carry it off and deposit it in a garbage can for no particular reason (aside from the “reasons” that made perfect sense in their meth-addled brains).

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“Have a BAD Christmas.”

Of course there were other thievin’ bastards that would actually steal Hate Man’s stuff. And then there were all the vultures that were constantly hitting Hate Man up for his cigarettes or his money or anything else of value that they could gouge off of him.  And then there were the ones that would physically attack him.  I saw Hate Man get punched in the head and knocked to the ground on multiple occasions during his last years.

But Hate Man never really complained (aside from his usual line “I’d like to kill that guy!”) (To which my standard response was: “I’m not stopping you.”).

But that was another great thing about Hate Man. He never felt sorry for himself.  He always viewed life like it was a challenging (and ultimately fulfilling) adventure.  Along with his endlessly repeated catch-phrase: “It’s up to me to defend myself.” And he always had this great sense of gamesmanship. He often talked about life being a “battle” or a “war.” But in truth, I think Hate Man looked at life as more of a game than a war. In a war, you want to obliterate your opposition.   But in a game, you just want to neutralize them. So that you can play another game with them tomorrow. And Hate Man looked at all of his nemeses as worthy and respected adversaries.  That he would spar with, like sort of a fencing duel. With his stated goal being that he hoped to learn how to relate to everyone, and all the different “vibratory types.”

I don’t remember any of the details of that last Christmas at Hate Camp.  All the memories sort of blur together of a thousand nights at Hate Camp. Smoking cigarettes, drinking our drinks, talking the gossip of the day, or discussing Hate Man’s latest battle with his latest adversary. Hate Man didn’t make a big deal out of celebrating the holidays.  Because Hate Man celebrated every day.

Hate Man’s body, at age 80, was finally wearing down, piece by piece at this point. He had a pacemaker in his heart, and a tube up his dick, and regular chiropractors for his back, and his lungs were finally starting to go. He had just started slipping into that pattern of regular trips to the emergency ward. And ever-more frequent stays at the hospital, of ever-increasing duration.  But he’d also often snap back, periodically, into being the vibrant, vital Hate Man he had always been. So we all just figured he’d defeat this latest obstacle — death — just like he’d defeated all of the previous obstacles.

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December 3, 2017

The gods are fucking with me for sport.

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 9:35 pm
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That lasagna was fated to be from the beginning of time!

 

Sometimes I think the gods are fucking with me for sport.

All morning I was craving lasagna. So I go to this Italian place on Durant around noon. But the place is jam-packed. Fuck it. So I come back around 4. The place is still pretty crowded. And I’m really claustrophobic. But I REALLY want some of that lasagna. So I brave the hordes. Wait on a long line. Finally get to the cashier. Order my lasagna. “Sorry we’re out of lasagna.”

Maaann!!

So I trudge to People’s Park with that “it-never-works-out-in-this-damn-life” feeling. Hate Man is sitting on a bench with the other street people. Says: “This guy just dropped off this big tray of leftover lasagna from this catered event.”

Go figure.

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November 25, 2017

Have a very hateful Thanksgiving

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 11:25 pm
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“IN-COMING!!”

One thing I remember about last Thanksgiving 2016. It was the beginning of the rainy season. And we had already gotten 5 inches of rain (we would go on to get 37 inches). Hate Man had recently turned 80. But he still seemed strong and vigorous. And we all just assumed he would live forever, and the pushing and slapping and making demands would never end. Of course it turned out to be his last Thanksgiving. And it turned out to be a brutal winter. Hate made it all the way through the rainy season. But by the time April 1rst finally rolled by he was pretty much shot. And he died the next day.

The thing I remember about last Thanksgiving was hanging out at Hate Camp all afternoon. And group after group kept converging on People’s Park offering free turkey dinners. There must have been at least 10 different groups bringing complete Thanksgiving dinners for the homeless. And they kept coming at us from every direction. And each time Hate would shout out “IN-COMING!” as we were bombarded with more food. Ha ha.

And then, late in the afternoon, this guy pulls up to People’s Park in his van and announces: “I HAVE FREE TURKEY DINNERS FOR ANYBODY WHO WANTS ONE!!” He has big trays full of turkey and mashed potatoes with gravy and cranberry sauce and pumpkin pies and etc. The works. But all the street people are laying on their sides in the grass groaning. I mean, at this point we can’t even LOOK at any more turkey. But the poor guy is going up to person after person announcing “HEY I GOT FREE FOOD IN MY VAN IF YOU’RE HUNGRY!” But we’re all like. “Yeah yeah. Great. You got any Alka-Seltzer.”

I finally felt a little sorry for the guy. Standing there all alone by his van with all that food and nobody to eat it. “All revved up and nowhere to go.” So I went over and got a plate. Thanked him profusely. Happy Thanksgiving.

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September 6, 2017

Hate Man Superstar

Last Sunday BAMPFA (Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive) had a screening of the documentary “Hate Man Street Philosopher.” The film was shown outdoors on this big screen in the back of the BAMPFA building. So it was sort of like going to a drive-in movie, except without a car.  And it was surreal to see Hate Man’s gigantic head, 20 feet tall, staring down at us from the silver screen. Needless to say I give the film a big thumb’s up, and a hateful time was had by one and all.

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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
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Telegraph Avenue 1996 by Chip Gatz

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August 5, 2017

Rubber bands

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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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July 6, 2017

A very hateful Fourth of July

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 9:04 pm
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I don’t spend too much time at Hate Man’s old spot in the Park anymore. I prefer to drink alone these days. And too many people know me at that spot. But yesterday was the Fourth of July
So I figured why the hell not.

Of course before I even finish pouring my beer, some homeless guy pulling a luggage-on-wheels is making a direct bee-line towards me like a guided missile.

Turns out it’s this guy Mumbles, so named because — you guessed it — he mumbles every word he says. On top of that Mumbles rarely speaks in complete sentences (he’s a little “out there”), making it even more difficult to follow what he’s saying. Mumbles is a bit on the coarse side (for some reason he always reminds me of sand paper). But he’s a good guy with some real heart. And he was always very protective of Hate Man. Mumbles has done his fair share of time in prison. But it’s mostly for being a fuck-up. As opposed to a fucker. If you know what I mean. He’s 44 but he reminds me more of a high school kid than an adult. One of those. And what with the mumbling and his shaved head he reminds me of a character in Dick Tracy.

I poured Mumbles a cup of beer and we lit up some smokes (I had quit smoking after Hate Man had died, but I had found an American Spirit cigarette pack that was full of snipes — they hadn’t been previously smoked, but they had been neatly cut in half for some unknown reason, but were otherwise perfectly smokeable, and what the hell it was a holiday).

So me and Mumbles sat there on the bench, drinking and smoking and reminiscing about our last interactions with Hate Man.
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Hate Man had rushed off to the hospital for what would be the last time. And I got a frantic message from Hate that he had left all of his camping stuff on the sidewalk, and he needed it packed up and hauled off to the shed before the cops threw it all out.

Now anybody who knows Hate Man knows he has a LOT of stuff. So I knew it would be a major chore. But as luck would have it — I consider it a matter of divine intervention — there just happened to be a big, empty Berkeley Bowl shopping cart just sitting there on the sidewalk right near Hate’s stuff. The perfect tool for the job!

So I somehow managed to cram all of Hate’s stuff into the cart. And only just barely. His mounds of bedding was precariously hanging out of both sides of the shopping cart. And I had to keep one hand on top of his stuff, and the other hand steering the cart, as I winded my way down the narrow and pock-marked sidewalks of Dwight Way (one wrong move and the whole cart topples over).

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On top of that, it starts raining. I don’t have a jacket on, let alone a rain jacket. So I get completely soaked. My shirt is clinging to my body. And it’s more than a little ironic. Having survived one of the wettest winters on record, mostly staying completely dry, I finally end up getting completely soaked by this piddly-ass little March shower at the very end of the season.

But I manage to get all of Hate’s stuff safely packed away in the shed before it gets wet. Victory!

But then as I’m heading back to the Park, Mumbles calls out (or I should say mumbles out) to me: “Hey, d-d-id you happen to notice m-m-my white sleeping b-b-ag? I had it stashed w-w-with Hate Man’s stuff.” (street people often stashed their stuff with Hate because it was a relatively safe spot). So now I had to go all the way back to the shed and dig that thing out.

Hate Man ended up dying shortly after. So it turned out Hate wouldn’t be needing his stuff after all. But I at least felt good that my final transaction with Hate Man had ended on a successful and completed note. As opposed to when somebody dies and there’s this loose end or unfinished business that you can never complete. I hate when that happens.
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“And then after Hate Man d-d-died you g-g-gave me a bunch of V-V-Virginia Slims to smoke in his honor,” mumbled Mumbles.

“That’s right,” I said.

So me and Mumbles sat there on the bench, drinking and smoking and talking and mumbling and thinking of many things, as the sky went dark and the Fourth of July fireworks started going off in the distance. And it occurred to me that Hate Man had been dead for 3 months now. As Hate Man recedes farther and farther into the ancient past.

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April 17, 2017

Hateless Camp

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 8:52 pm
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April 6, 2017

RIP Hate Man 1936 – 2017

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 11:08 pm
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Mark “Hate Man” Hawthorne, right, and his friend Ace Backwords in People’s Park in Berkeley on March 17, 2010. Photo: Mike Kepka, The Chronicle

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