Trying to write my goddamn ACID HEROES book

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Writing my ACID HEROES book was a fairly painful experience. It took me 7 years to write the damn thing. 2002 to 2009. And I wrote like 7 different drafts. But the weird thing was, every draft improved it in some ways, but made it worse in other ways. Which was maddening.

I had never gone through anything like this before. With all my other projects, the more I worked on them, the better they got. It was like carving out a sculpture. I’d slowly but surely cut out the parts I didn’t want. And the image I was trying to create would get clearer and clearer. Until I was finally done.

But with the ACID HEROES book, the more I worked on it, the worse it got. It was like I was going around in circles. Flailing away blindly.

Part of the problem was that the subject matter didn’t play to my strengths as a writer. Generally I like to take a small thing, and extrapolate that into a bigger thing. Like with my previous book — SURVIVING ON THE STREETS. I’d write about a little thing, like the best kind of boots to wear when you’re on the streets. And extrapolate that into a larger meaning about life on the streets.

But with the ACID HEROES book I was coming from the opposite direction. I was taking this big thing — 50 years of my life, and 50 years of the cultural history of America — and trying to boil it down to this little thing, this concise little book. It was like making a documentary where you got 50 years worth of footage, and you got to edit it down to a 2 hour movie. So it required some pretty precise editing. Which didn’t play to my strengths as a writer, which tends to prefer a more meandering approach.

Adding to the problems, when I finally got down to working on the final draft I was homeless and living on the streets. Try writing, editing, and self-publishing a 300 page book while living out of a sleeping bag in the middle of the rainy season. No easy task.

And by that point I had already written and re-written every sentence 7 times. And I had gotten lost within it. I could no longer tell which was the best take.

On top of that I was going through an extremely stressful period in my personal life. I was in the middle of on-going wars with 4 different street people — lunatics all — and the kind of feuds that involved physical violence and dealing with the police. So that distracted my attention. On top of that I was dealing with my best friend who was in the process of dying a hideously painful death. On top of that I was working full time at my job as a street vendor, which was another source of stress. On top of that I was diagnosed with glaucoma and the docs were telling me I could blind at any moment. So it was like, what the fuck?? A complete over-load on my senses. Meanwhile I’m still striving to create immortal literature.

So it was hard to distinguish the forest from the trees. I was so immersed in the details of trying to get every sentence exactly right that I lost sight of the bigger picture. The actual concept of the book. And the pacing and the structure of the things. And I made several crucial mistakes on the final draft that irk me to this day.

Oh and one more problem. I was trying to write about the psychedelic experience and hallucinations. Which any writer will tell you is difficult to capture in words.

When I finally managed to get the damn thing published — almost exactly 10 years ago from this day — I was so stressed out that I contracted this disease, Shingles. Which is largely caused by stress. Half of my face was covered with these incredibly painful festering sores and scabs. I still have the scars from it to this day.

In a way I never really recovered from the experience of writing that book. I had spent the previous 35 years doing one artistic project after another after another. But after ACID HEROES there would be no more projects. I was fried.

People often say to me: Ace you should publish another book. Or put out another CD. Or do another calendar. Or publish another zine. And I’m like: “No. I don’t think so.”

Cary Grant

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Dyan Cannon’s book — “DEAR CARY: My Life With Cary Grant” — is one of the more perceptive looks at Cary Grant. He was 58 and she was 25 when they first started dating, and she was practically a virgin (Cannon: “I’d had sex only once in my life, though it was so inept I’m not sure it even qualified.”).

There’s a weird scene where Cary casually introduces her to Timothy Leary and they kind of double-team her, give her the big sales pitch to “turn on” to LSD. Something she wasn’t particularly eager to try. And didn’t particularly enjoy.

He does come off as a bit of an ass playing Pygmalian with Cannon. Playing at being the big know-it-all who’s gonna solve all of her psychological problems with this magic pill LSD. While not copping to how screwed up he is.

Overall, Cary comes off kind of bizarre in the book. Half the time he comes off like “Cary Grant,” like he’s playing his movie role in real life — charming, witty, gracious, graceful. And then the other half he suddenly becomes stunted, cold, inarticulate. confused, nuerotic. Like he lost the script and couldn’t sustain his act…. But he seemed like a sincere guy with some kind of deep-rooted psychological quirk he couldnt fix. As he famously put it: “Everyone wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant.”

Turn on, tune in, and flip out

Acid Backwords

I remember this one time when the acid was a little too pure, a little too powerful. And my brain was completely overwhelmed by the wattage…..

I was walking down Telegraph Avenue when that first rush hit. That mind-boggling wave when all of reality seems up for grabs. When I suddenly noticed these two guys, these two very suspicious looking guys in trenchcoats. Dark-complexioned. Foreigner-looking. And they were staring at me, and pointing at me, and whispering something back and forth to each other. I immediately realized it was Them. And they were On To Me!!!

I rushed back to my apartment building in a panic. Quickly checked my mailbox in the lobby — there was a single postcard in the box with this sinister hand-written message that basically said: “WE WANT TO TALK TO YOU!!”

I rushed upstairs to my second floor apartment, slammed the front door shut, and locked and bolted it. Thinking I was safe at last. But when I looked out my window I was shocked to find out that the two guys in trenchcoats had followed me all the way down to my apartment. They were in the motel across the street, peering up at me from between the slats of the venetian blinds in the motel window. And pointing some kind of device at me, some kind of recording device or mind-control machine that they were beaming directly at me.

I pulled down all the shades and stood there in the middle of my apartment in a panic. I considered making a run for it. But I knew they would surely catch me.

And then at that exact moment my phone rang. I stood there pouring sweat, debating whether I should answer it. For I knew it was all connected. Finally I realized I had no choice. I cautiously picked up the receiver and said, “Hello?”

“Well hi there!!” said the voice. Dripping with menace. “I was calling to see if you got the postcard I sent you.”

“Yes I GOT it!!” I exclaimed.

And I immediately knew it was Him. The Leader. He began talking to me on the phone. And while I couldn’t fully comprehend what he was saying, I knew it was bad. I desperately listened to every word, every syllable he said with a manic intensity. Clutching the phone in my fist. Trying to make sense of it all. Trying to figure out what his game was. And what he wanted from me. And if there was any way out. His eerie, tinny, almost subhuman voice coming into my ear as if from another dimension of time and space.

Finally I angrily confronted him about the two goons in the motel across the street that he had sent to spy on me. He denied the accusation, pretended like he didn’t know what i was talking about. But I could tell he was lying. Every word he said was a lie.

I slammed the phone down and stood there pondering my next move. I suddenly concluded — in a rare moment of clarity — that my only hope was to rush down to the 7-11 on the corner, and purchase two 6-packs of Budweiser beer in the bottles. And drink as many of the bottles as quickly as I could until my brain started to come back down to earth. And that’s what I did.

The next day, when I had straightened up (sort of), I realized the guy on the phone was actually the editor of IN THESE TIMES, this leftwing magazine from Chicago, and he was trying to interview me about this article he was working on.

LSD really is a stupid drug.

Turn on, tune in and geist out

 

 

I just heard the film director Tobe Hooper, who made the movie Poltergeist (among other things) just passed away. I’ll never forget Poltergeist. Though my memory of it is a series of fragmented images.

It must have been around 1984 and I was watching Poltergeist on TV at my friend Mary’s house. About an hour earlier I had dropped some LSD. And that particular batch of LSD turned out to be a little more pure and powerful than I had bargained for. I began to completely hallucinate. My brains were so scrambled I became convinced that the Poltergeist movie I was watching was actually the 6 o’clock TV news reporting on the nuclear Holocaust in progress. And when I looked out the window I could see all the bombs dropping all over the place and all the buildings exploding. “This is it, Mary, it’s all about to blow up!!” I said. “It’s the end of the world!” Mary looked back at me stoically.
And I was amazed at Mary’s calmness and courage in the face of the end of the world. And then Mary’s house was like the house in the beginning of the Wizard of Oz where it starts spinning faster and faster by the tornado and soars up into the sky. . . The next thing I remember, I realized that I was curled up on the floor sucking on Mary’s foot. Mary looked down at me and said: “Would you get the hell out of here!”

So I give Poltergeist a big thumb’s up. Five stars. RIP Tobe Hooper.

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The Doors of Ingestion

The following is an excerpt from the controversial new book, THE DOORS OF INGESTION, by the prominent literary figure, and well-respected highbrow intellectual, Ace Backwords, where he documents his experiments with the consciousness-altering substance known as Olde English 800 Malt Liquor:

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5:20 PM: I’ve just ingested the first 16 ounces of the Olde English 800 Malt Liquor. As of this moment I don’t notice any significant alterations to my normal state of consciousness.

5:55 PM: I’ve ingested a second 16 ounce dosage (approximately one pint) of the Olde English beverage. I’ve decided to consume the substance at 16 ounce intervals so as to accurately gauge the progressive affect. Feeling pleasantly light-headed at this measurement.

6:20 PM: I’ve completely ingested the first forty ounce bottle of the Olde English (more commonly known in the street vernacular as “40s”). For some reason I feel an over-powering urge to share my political views on my Facebook page.

8:15 PM: Having ingested a second “40” of the Olde English I am now experiencing dramatic alterations of my normal state of mind. My normal inhibitions have been lowered to the point where I’m completely free of the usual anxieties and psychological discomforts that plague my normal state of consciousness. Perhaps it would be worthwhile for psychologists and psychiatrists to study the chemical nature of the Olde English and it’s affect on the neurons of one’s brain as a possible therapeutic cure for common psychological neurosis.

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10:55 PM: Having ingested the third “40” of OE I’ve noted that my inhibitions have been reduced to the point where my underlying and repressed hostilities are now rising to the surface to the point where I would really like to kick the living shit out of that obnoxious asshole over there who keeps staring at me. Motherfucker!!

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12:40 AM: Having ingested the fourth “40” I’ve attained a transcendent state of bliss that I wonder if it might be akin to the “samadhi” and “satori” states described by the Eastern mystics of yore. I’ve almost completed transcended the physical plane, and the usual mortal feelings of pain and suffering and existential anxiety. For example, I don’t feel the least bit of discomfort, embarrassment or duress over the vomit drooling down the side of my face.   Or from the large, bloody gash on the back of my head which resulted when I temporarily lost my balance and smashed my head on the side of that goddamn table.

2:20 AM: All the liquor stores are now closed so I guess further research and/or experinnents willl have tkoo waitt untill I can vcsgbh jv ktf hfyeesfthn $-(&-(9($##$$$#R vhjk. . .

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Emerson, Lake and Palmer

 

Rolling Stone magazine recently came out with their “50 Greatest Prog Rock Albums of All-time.”   Prog rock — short for Progressive Rock — was a peculiar off-shoot of ’60s psychedelic rock that was quite popular with the kids back in the ’70s.  Though, unlike the rock critics, we kids mostly referred to it for what it was:  “stoner rock.”

Emerson, Lake and Palmer was one of the most renowned practitioners of the genre.  And I was a big fan back in 1974, age 17.  I saw them in concert that year in this decaying football stadium in the swamps of New Jersey.  It was the “Welcome Back My Friends to the Show that Never Ends”/Brain Salad Surgery tour, for those of you keeping score at home.  And it was one of the best shows I ever went to.  Before the show started I scored some acid from this drug dealer who was selling his wares down on the infield.  It was some of the purest acid I had ever scored.  The surround-sound that swirled out of the Emerson, Lake and Palmer sound system and across the stadium was some of the sweetest mind candy my 17-year-old brain had ever grokked.  And the LSD added this crystal clear, cosmic, celestial, other-worldly grandeur to the music (LSD really is a stupid drug).

When I realized how good the LSD was, I went back down to the infield to score some more of that acid (usually they’re peddling bunk, but this time I got lucky).  I spotted the acid dealer. He was this little hippie dude in a brown fringed buckskin jacket (the de rigueur outfit for the cool drug dealers back then, circa 1974, and for some reason, a droopy fu manchu mustache was also mandatory).

But just as I approached him, three undercover cops swooped down on him, slapped handcuffs on him, and dragged him off towards the exit.  Bummer.

But I was already stoned out of my mind.  So I continued to enjoy the show anyways.  Still, I always felt bad for that poor bastard.  For all I know, he’s still in prison to this day. But aside from that one mishap, I gave the show a big thumbs up.  Don’t let nobody tell ya’ different.  Emerson, Lake and Palmer rocks!!

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On turning 58

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Alan Watts, possibly considering publishing a new book, “The Drunken Cosmology.”

This might sound stupid (I thought I’d give that stupidity thing a whirl and see if it works for me).  But one of my last remaining goals in life was to make it to 58.   Two of the acid heroes of my youth — Alan Watts and George Harrison —  both kicked the bucket at 58.  Both of whom I would later come to have decidedly mixed feelings about.  So it was important to me (for some stupid reason) to out-live both of them.

Alan Watts was pretty much a wasted-away, old man alcoholic by age 58.  In between writing all those books about how we could attain the higher states of consciousness, ole’ Al failed to mention that one of his favorite techniques, personally, was to pound endless fifths of straight vodka.

The famous Indian philosopher Krishnamurti used to go on tirades about Alan Watts and Aldous Huxley back in the ’60s.  He blamed them, rightly or wrongly, for helping to lead an entire generation astray with their books that linked psychedelic drugs to spiritual wisdom.  And he held them partially accountable for the Drug Epidemic that swept across America in the wake of the ’60s.

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The Beatles, grooving at one of those famous ’60s LSD parties.

George Harrison, along with them other Beatles, was another one who greatly popularized the notion of LSD to a generation of youth.  People forget, in 1965 and 1966, the Beatles had an audience primarily of millions of prepubescent little kids.  Then, just a year later, they’re singing songs exstoling  the magical (as well as mystical and mysterious) virtues of LSD.  I remember as a 10 year old boy watching the Beatles Saturday Morning Cartoon Show,  and there were the cartoon Lads, singing “Tomorrow Never Knows.”  The lyrics taken practically word-for-word from Dr. Timothy Leary’s “The Psychedelic Experience”  — which he wrote as a How-To-Take-An-LSD-Trip guide.  Which is exactly how John Lennon intended the song . . . .   Nowadays, we’ve banned the Joe Camel cartoon character out of concern that it might influence children to smoke Camel cigarettes.  And yet, very little consideration was given to the potentially tragic aspects of the Beatles singing their LSD hymns to an audience of millions of kiddies.

After John Lennon’s murder in 1980 (by a guy my age who went nuts partially from gobbling down LSD by the handful back when he was a budding 14-year–old Beatlemaniac grooving to the Magical Mystery trip) George Harrison famously opined:  “This would have never happened if John had stayed in England.”  Shortly after, another Beatles-obsessed nut came within inches of murdering George in his English mansion.  Which no doubt contributed to George’s premature demise at age 58.

And me?  Somehow I’ve bucked the odds just to still be walking on two legs on God’s green earth at age 58.  Considering some of the demographics I’ve been in over the years — smoker, drinker, druggie, starving artist, long-time homeless — my life expectancy probably should have been around 40.

And if anybody just wants to write this rant off as, Sour Turd Blames Famous Celebrities For His Own Degenerate Drug Use, there’s probably more than an element of truth in that, too.