Acid Heroes

December 30, 2017

Looking back fondly on the year that was, 2017, from the Ace Backwords perspective

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JANUARY: Donald J. Trump is sworn in as the 43rd president of the United States of America.

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JANUARY: Massive rainstorms across the state of California — one of the wettest Januarys on record — result in the end (at least for the time being) of the Drought.

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JANUARY: As predicted by virtually all the polls, political pundits, and media experts, Hillary Clinton wins the presidency by a landslide in an alternate universe.

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FEBRUARY: Milo Somethingorother — a boring political gadfly who apparently makes a living saying stupid things to upset people — attempts to give a speech on the Berkeley campus and is shut down by massive protests, violence, fires, and destructive of property.

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FEBRUARY: The Mario Savio Free Speech Plaza is officially re-named the No Free Speech For Fascists or People Saying Stuff I Disagree With Plaza.

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MARCH: Rightwing Conservatives attempt to hold a rally in downtown Berkeley, and are met with massive resistance and street-fighting violence, and the likes of “Moldy Locks,” the “Stickman,” and Antifa get their 5 minutes of fame.

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MARCH: Taco Bell opens up a franchise in Berkeley. Millions rejoice.

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APRIL: Legendary Berkeley street person, the Hate Man, transcends.

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APRIL: Ace Backwords takes yet another, in a seemingly endless series of, selfies.

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APRIL: The feral cats continue to mostly lay around and goof off.

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APRIL: I finally decide to cut off the goofy wings on the sneakers I had been wearing for months.

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APRIL: Life goes on.

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APRIL: People’s Park makes it to 48 years old.

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APRIL: President Trump continues to govern the land with a firm, even hand.

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MAY: The liberal media continues it’s fair and balanced coverage of the Trump presidency.

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MAY: One final casualty of the long and wet Rainy Season of 2016-2017 (ended up with a total of 37 inches in Berkeley): A water-logged tree on the Berkeley campus collapses and dies.

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MAY: Ace Backwords continues to slack off and fade away.

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JUNE: Fatty the feral cat, is banished from the tribe after losing a territorial pissing war with Mini Scaredy, the alpha female of the tribe.

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JUNE: Two of the guys who had been running the ill-fated Ghost Ship wharehouse, are arrested and charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter for the 36 people killed in the fire during a rave.

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AUGUST: People’s Park, for all its faults and shortcomings, still remains as a fairly cool place.

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AUGUST: Feral cats, mostly still just goofing off.

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AUGUST The city of Berkeley honors the great man, that asshole Hate Man.

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AUGUST: Julia Vinograd is spotted on Telegraph Avenue.

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SEPTEMBER: Mini Owl, the beloved one-and-a-half year old feral cat, disappears never to be seen again. *sigh*

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SEPTEMBER: An unexpected visitor shows up at my campsite.

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SEPTEMBER Record heat wave in the Bay Area with temperatures reaching 108 in San Francisco. Meanwhile, the Berkeley street people handle the situation with their usual aplomb.

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SEPTEMBER: Ace Backwords is honored with a plaque, a statue, and a set of commemorative dinner plates.

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SEPTEMBER: Milo Whatshisname heroically returns to Berkeley, and, thanks to about a $million dollars worth of police protection, is finally able to give a 20 minute speech on Sproul Plaza, where he mouthed some dull slogans and canned one-liners to a rapt audience of about 30 people.

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SEPTEMBER: Berkeley reaffirms its commitment to free speech, though it wasn’t actually free since it ended up costing the City about a $million.

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SEPTEMBER: Further proof of the existence of God.

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SEPTEMBER: Against all odds, Fatty the feral cat manages to sneak back to my campsite and resume her rightful position as a member of the tribe.

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OCTOBER: Feral cats? Still slacking off.

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OCTOBER: The Baby Boomer Generation continues it’s long and impressive march on the way to oblivion.

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OCTOBER: Major media mogul Harvey Weintein creates yet another multi-media sensation and inspires a new movement in America..

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OCTOBER: Massive wildfires in Northern California cause incredible tragedies. *sigh*

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OCTOBER: Super hero movies continue to rake in big bucks at the box-office, proving that the genre is no flash in the pan.

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OCTOBER: The cats finally decide it’s time to quit slacking off, to get organized, and take bold, direct action.

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OCTOBER: Donald Trump’s popularity soars during the Halloween holiday.

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OCTOBER: Moo Cat — the elder statesman of the feral cat tribe — turns 9 years old, but remains as ornery as ever.

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NOVEMBER: Senator Al Franken makes one joke too many.

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DECEMBER: Christmas 2017 comes and goes, and it looks like another year is pretty much shot to hell. HAPPY NEW YEARS everybody!!

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April 2, 2013

Sproul Plaza

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There’s a lot of history to Sproul Plaza on the UC Berkeley campus. Its where Mario Savio helped to launch the Free Speech Movement in 1964 when he stood on top of a police car that had been surrounded by a huge mob of protesters and delivered his famous speech about “the operation of the machine being so odious” and “throwing your body in the gears” and all that. It was the seminal moment of what Berkeley would become over the next 6 decades. All that “radical Berkeley,” “the People’s Republic of Berkeley,” and “Berzerkeley” stuff that lives on today in the popular imagination (before the ’60s Berkeley would regularly elect Republican mayors, believe it or not). Today there’s a commemorative plaque on the Sproul Plaza steps in honor of the occasion.
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Sproul Plaza was also the scene of a huge anti-war rally in 1965 that Ken Kesey supposedly subverted with his psychedelic harmonica act (as immortalized in the “Electric Koolaide Acid Tests” book).

Charles Manson famously met his first Manson Family follower sitting on the very steps of the Student Union Building playing his guitar, fresh out of San Quentin in 1967 just in time for the fabled Summer of Love. A young UC Berkeley co-ed was so impressed with Charlie’s guitar-playing grooviness that she would carve an X in her forehead 2 years later in his honor (no commemorative plaque for that one).

Then there’s the Pauley Ballroom on the second floor of the Student Union Building. In 1969 Timothy Leary hosted one of his LSD freak-out parties there (needless to say a groovy time was had by all).
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I first started hanging out regularly in Sproul Plaza around 1987. My comic strip was appearing every day in the campus newspaper. So I’d walk behind people who were reading the paper and look over their shoulder to see if they were reading my comic. Sick, aren’t I?

And I spent 10 years in the 1990s hanging on Sproul with Hate Man and his legendary Hate Camp, this motley collection of street crazies. Sproul Plaza was like a stage where we enacted countless mad dramas. Some of which I can still sorta’ remember. . .

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Yesterday I was sitting on this bench that we used to refer to as Bench One (because its the first bench when you first enter the campus).
And I remembered sitting on that very bench back in the summer of 1974 when I visited Berkeley for the first time as a 17-year-old boy. I used to buy an Orange Julius at this cafe across the street (an Orange Julius was this hippie concoction made up of orange juice and raw egg — today the place is a Subway sandwich fast food chain, which seems symbolic of something or other). I’d sit there on the bench, sipping my drink, and watching the mad hippie circus that was Berkeley circa 1974. So its a weird feeling for me to be sitting on that bench nowadays. Because I’ll think of all the people who have come and gone over the years. And yet I’m still here. It all seems like a dream. Its like I’m trapped in a twilight zone. I swear, life is like a Rip Van Winkle deal. Its like I went to bed as a 17-year-old boy and woke up as an old man 40 years later. And all the people I once knew are gone. And the town of Berkeley that I had once lived in is gone, gone, gone. It all went by in a blink of an eye.
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But sometimes, if I squint my eyes just right, I can still see the ghost of the 17-year-old boy that I had once been.
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