Any day now

 

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I’m not a realistic-thinking person.

Just about every day I’m thinking, in the back of my mind, that Cody’s Books is going to be re-opening, any day now, and it’ll be a dynamic cultural center, just like it was back in the old days.

And Duncan is gonna come back. And co-publish another issue of the Telegraph Street Calendar. And we’ll set up our vending table right in front of Cody’s Books. Just like the old days.

And Ray Winters — that crazy old Zen hippie — will set up his vending table right next to ours. Selling his hand-made Star Sticks and hackey-sacks, and preaching his crazy wisdom to anyone who’s willing to listen, in between smoking his marijuana.

And the flower shop will be right across from us. With all the beautiful flower girls selling their beautiful flowers.

And the Caffe Med will re-open so we can buy a small to-go coffee for a buck and a quarter (and endless 50 cent refills).

And Hate Man will pull up with his beloved shopping cart Gilda (named after Gilda Radner). And set up Hate Camp at Bench One and Bench Two on Sproul Plaza. And bring out the Hate Man drum circle every night, and make such a racket you can hear it for 20 blocks, and all the beautiful young street chicks in their gypsy hippie and gutter punk clothes will be dancing along. Just like in the old days.

And all the weird and wild and colorful people — known back then as “the Telegraph street characters” — are putting on their performances on every street corner.

And I’m young and strong and have a full head of hair and a dynamic artistic career in front of me, and the sky is the limit, anything is possible, and the only limits is my imagination, and that’s not much of a limit.

And in the back of my mind, I keep thinking those days are going to be coming back now. Any day now. Soon . . .

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Blasts from the past

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The other day I was walking down Shattuck and I ran into this guy I used to know way back when.

“How are you doing, Peter,” he said. (You know its a blast from my distant past when they refer to me by my given name “Peter.” To almost everyone else in the world I’m “Ace.”)

“I’m still alive,” I said with a smile. Gave him the thumb’s up and kept walking.

When I first moved to Berkeley from New Jersey in 1976 as a 19 year old boy, he was one of the first person I had looked up. We had went to high school together in Jersey. He had moved to Berkeley to be a hippie. And I guess I had too.

Back in 1976 he lived in a little stucco studio apartment on 10th and Dwight. It was night-time when I pulled up to his place in the bomb of a ’69 Chevy that I had somehow managed to drive cross-country before it finally fell apart. He welcomed me to Berkeley with a big smile. Lit a bowl of weed and passed it to me. Poured me a glass of burgendy. Put on some records from his excellent record collection (Beatles, Bowie, Dead, Stones, etc). Lit a fire in his fireplace.

I remember feeling like I was in a warm cocoon. For I didn’t know anything about the town of Berkeley — what was waiting for me in the darkness outside the cocoon of his apartment. And nobody in Berkeley knew who I was. Or that I was even there. So his little studio apartment was my entire world at that point. It was a cozy feeling.

I was full of dreams of glory, my youthful hopes and dreams. Wanting to make some kind of life for myself. Find my place in the world. Looking for love and adventures and everything else. You know how it is when you’re 19 and starting out, like a blank slate waiting to be filled. And having no idea what was waiting for me out there in this big ole world. But I was ready to give it my best shot. “Itching like a finger on the trigger of a gun,” as Paul Simon once sang in a song.

And now its suddenly 40 years later. My friend is now 61. He retired a couple years ago. Has a fat pension. Still a hippie after all these years. Still looks pretty much the same as he did in 1976, aside from his blonde ponytail being gray now.

But its so weird. Its like it was all starting. And you blink your eyes. And its almost over.

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The corner of Telegraph & Haste

 

 

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For 19 years I considered the corner of Telegraph and Haste in front of the Cody’s Books building as “my corner.” I basically claimed that space for myself and used it for 19 years. I set up various vending tables over the years. So it was my place of business. But it also served as my livingroom. And my clubhouse where me and my friends could hang out.

I was able to claim that space because, when Fred Cody — the original owner of Cody’s Books — first built the Cody’s Building (I think it was a gas station before that) he wrote into the lease that the space in front of his building should be reserved for “noncommercial vendors” for “political” and “community service” and “free speech” purposes (Fred was a cool liberal). And I felt my various vending tables fit into those parameters. So there I was.

Over the years various people would dispute my legal interpretation of Fred’s lease. And try to run me off of that corner. Cops, business owners, City vending license officials and even a couple of my fellow street bro’s. Because it was a very valuable piece of real estate and a lot of other people wanted to use the space. But I was slippery enough to hold onto that corner for 19 years.

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Running a vending table on a street corner can get pretty wild. Its kind of like running a bar. The clientele can get a little sketchy. Because you’re on a street corner and you’re open to anybody.  So sometimes you had to act as bouncer and run off unruly customers (plenty of the Telegraph street vendors keep a baseball bat discreetly placed under their vending table for that purpose). Anyone who has had a “service job” where they have to deal with the general public will attest to this fact: A certain percentage of the general public are flaming assholes. So, just by the laws of averages, you have to deal with them.

So, in the course of my street vending career, I’ve had to explain to certain individuals:

“I have the right to refuse service to anyone.”

They would invariably counter with: “I can hang out here if I want.”

And I would counter with: “No you can’t.”

And then I would prove it. Ha ha.

Several times I had to pick up my folding chair and chase some asshole down the street, waving my chair over my head like a tomahawk.

And I knocked some people on their asses. And some people knocked me on my ass.

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On top of that, I hung with a fairly wild crowd back then.  I knew most of the street people on the scene.  And plenty of the drinkers and druggers.  So things could get a bit raucous at times.  I, myself, liked to drink a beer or ten while I was tending to my vending duties.  Interspersed with some good strong pot to add a surrealistic touch to the proceedings.  So I’d generally get a good buzz going.

And I had a big ghetto blaster on my table which I used to blast out loud rock’n’roll.  And that usually drew a crowd.  Sometimes I’d be having so much fun, I’d still be sitting there on that goddamn corner well after midnight. It’s a miracle I was able to pack up all my vending stuff and get out of there with my life intact some nights.  Ha ha.

I know I’m nuts.  But part of me wishes I could go back in time and do the whole thing all over again.  *sigh*

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Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away

 

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Me, Hate Man and Cheapseats, enjoying the Good Old Days.

Yesterday, me and Charlie Cheapseats were hanging out with Hate Man in People’s Park, talking about the old days.

“When I first visited Berkeley in the summer of 1974 there was always a huge street scene happening on the Berkeley campus,”  I said.  “Back then it was hard to tell the street people from the students.  ‘Hippie’ was definitely the style.”

“Yeah,” said Cheapseats.  “Nowadays the campus is almost completely dead.”

“Yeah.  There are just a few loner-type street people that mostly keep to themselves.”

“There used to be tons of street musicians, too,” said Cheapseats.  “Remember that guy Rick Starr who used to croon those Frank Sinatra songs while singing into that fake plastic microphone?”

“Yeah,” I said.  “And Larry the Drummer. He used to drive everyone nuts bashing away on those buckets all day long.”

“All those characters are gone.  Whatever happened to Paul of the Pillar?”

“Even the Christian preachers don’t show up any more.  They used to be surrounded by huge mobs of people heckling them.  It was great entertainment.  Like a Roman amphitheater where they threw the Christians to the lions.”

“Even that nut the Happy Guy is gone.  The guy that used to stand on a bucket saying ‘Happy, happy, happy’ all day long.”

“And if you started heckling him, he would point his finger at you and shout, ‘CIA!! CIA!!  CIA!!'”

“Remember the lower Sproul drum circle every weekend in the 1990s?”

Suddenly, Hate Man had had enough of our reminiscing.

“I hate your guts with all this talk about the old days!!” said Hate Man.  “I wanna’ kill you.  I hate people who constantly dwell on the past.  I prefer to live in the present moment and appreciate what’s going on now.  Instead of all this lame nostalgia for the good old days.”

I realized recently that, nowadays, I live in a permanent state of mourning for my past.  I remember when I was a young man, this old guy once warned me about the danger of living in the past as you get older.  “You can get stuck in a rut if you don’t keep evolving with the times,” he said.  “You stop growing as a person.  You turn into a fossil.  You end up yearning for the return of the Good Old Days that will never come back.” . . .  I never thought I’d fall for that trap.  Because (in spite of my pen-name) for most of my life I was a very forward-looking person.  Whenever I finished an art project, my first thought always was:  “Yes.  But the next project is going to be the Best Thing Yet!!”  But then suddenly, a couple of years ago, it was like there no longer was a next project. . .  *sigh*

“I knowdja’ mean, Hate Man,” I said.  “It’s like that famous scene in the book ‘Be Here Now’ where Ram Das is constantly talking about his past adventures or his future plans.  And his guru says:  ‘The past and the future are an illusion.  Only the present is real.  Be here now.  Live in the present moment.  That’s where all the action is.'”

“Yeah,” said Hate Man.

“My problem is, I yearn for the past.  I fear and dread the future.   And my present moment usually sucks.  So I got all the wrong bases covered.”

Hate Man chuckled at that line.

Now I’m sitting here looking back fondly at that conversation I had with Hate Man and Charlie Cheapseats in People’s Park.  It seems like only yesterday . . .  Actually, it was only yesterday.

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Mail

 

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My older sister has been forwarding my mail from Berkeley to the boondocks of Arizona where I’ve been living for the last 5 months.  How to describe the latest batch of mail that came the other day?  Ironic?  Symbolic?  Wistful?  Disturbing?

For a kick my sister stuck in a bunch of my old press clippings that had been lying around in her file cabinet for years.  Among them was a copy of the Berkeley Barb from 1977 with the first cartoon I ever got published.  Also in the batch of mail was my latest royalty check from my last-remaining publisher.  A check for 9 dollars and 60 cents.

So it was a weird juxtaposition.  Like a before-an-after picture.  Where I had started out.  And where I had ended up nearly 40 years later.  So it was hard not to “take stock” as they say.  Of all the shit that had happened between those years.  And how I had gotten from there to here.

The first thing I was nervous about was checking the date on the Berkeley Barb.  Because for years I’ve been telling the story about how my first published cartoon came out on July 7, 1977 (7-7-77).  And  making a big deal about  starting my career on such an portentous and magical number.  But then I thought:  What if I had remembered it wrong?  Or what if I had just made up the whole story, and then  had told the story so many times I actually started believing it?

This had happened to me once before.  For years I had told this story about when I was 17 and a senior in high school.   It was one of my most vivid high school memories.   I’d be riding around town with my buddies getting stoned.  And one of the hit songs of the day, “At 17” by Janis Ian, would come on the radio.  And it always disturbed me and haunted me.   This sort of maudlin ballad with lyrics like: “Those of us with ravaged faces / Lacking in the social graces / I learned the truth at 17.”  And in my memory it was like the soundtrack to my senior year in high school. . .   And then a couple of years ago I looked the song up and was shocked to find out it actually  hadn’t been released until 1975, a year after I had graduated from high school!  So much for that story.

But fortunately the date on the Berkeley Barb was in fact July 7, 1977.   (Actually it was July 8, but like with a lot of weekly newspapers they usually had it in the racks a day before the published date.)

I remember I was 20 years old at the time.  1977. I had already been homeless for a year.  I was already a deeply psychologically-wounded person.  Which I guess is why I had belly-flopped at such a young age to the bottom of society.  A position I had every reason to believe I would be occupying for the rest of my life.  I remember walking down 6th Street — San Francisco’s skid row —  amidst all these other losers, ghouls and lost souls.  And thinking:  “This is where they put people like me!”

Ace Backwords's photo.
I had already spent a year sleeping in the bushes at the Fremont Street off-ramp in a sleeping bag.  This isolated spot on top of a hill at the foot of the Bay Bridge, with a panoramic view of the San Francisco Bay and the skyline of Oakland and Berkeley off in the distance.  And I remember working on that Berkeley Barb cartoon for a month at that off-ramp.  Sitting on this ratty mattress that I had dragged up to my crash spot and drawing away. I carried my drawing pad and my pens around with me everywhere I went in my backpack.  I had this vague dream of becoming an underground cartoonists.  And, like many 20 year-old boy/men, I was filled with youthful dreams for my future.  These painful hopes and yearnings for a home and career and friends and fame and glory and great sex and drugs.  The usual.  And selling that cartoon to the Berkeley Barb was like the first encouragement I had ever gotten from the world.  And it planted this seed in my mind, like:  Hey, maybe I had a chance after all.  Maybe I could carve out some kind of career doing this.

And so the other day, when I was looking at that Berkeley Barb cartoon, it all came back to me.  The life that I had fervently hoped was waiting for me at age 20.

And then, of course, the royalty check for 9 dollars and 60 cents was sort of an ironic counterpoint to where my life had actually ended up, 37 years later.

Sometimes I think God actually purposely manufactures these kind of scenerios.  Like He’s up there in Heaven looking down on us thinking, “Lets see what he makes of this one.  This oughta’ be rich.”  (One of my favorite New Yorker cartoons was one of God standing up on a cloud, but he’s not throwing lightning bolts down at people, he’s throwing pies.  Thats sort of my conception of God.)   Sometimes I think God is kind of like a game show host.  And we’re all contestants on His game show.  A sort of “Beat the Clock” kind of deal.   The clock is ticking, we’re all racing towards death.  And in the meantime the game is to see if we can figure out what this life is really all about before we kick the bucket.  And periodically God will furnish us with some clues.  To give us stuff to think about.   To think about what our lives are all about.  And what the point of it is.  That’s assuming that  life does in fact have a point.

So I’m looking at that 9 dollar and 60 cents royalty check from my publisher, Paladin Press.  And wondering what it all had amounted to.  Paladin Press  had recently published my Surviving on the Streets book as an ebook.  I’ve never seen the thing, but I’ve been told its out there.  And I’ve got the 9 dollars and 60 cents to prove it.  Now Paladin Press is an interesting book publishing company.  They picked up the rights to my Street book when my previous publisher, Loompanics Unlimited, went out of business.  We are kind of an odd match; Ace Backwords and Paladin Press.  We don’t have a lot in common.  How to describe them?  They specialize in sort of rightwing survivalist/self-defense books.  They publish a lot of books about weapons and martial arts and street fighting.  Its the go-to company if you’re looking for books about the latest in eye-gouging techniques, and etc.  So there’s enough of a tentative connection between them and my Surviving  on the Streets book, which is sort of a how-to book for (you guessed it) surviving on the streets.

My previous publisher, Loompanics, was also a little on the off-the-beaten-track side.  And they were notorious for some of the crazy shit they published.   How to Kill, volume 1 through 7.  And  How to Manufacture Meth Amphetamines.  They sort of specialized in the taboo subjects other publishers wouldn’t touch.  Their number one best-selling book of all-time, by the way, was How to Pick Locks.  An entertaining as well as practical look at that particular genre.  I think they sold a couple hundred thousand copies of that one.

Now I loved Loompanics.  And I also deeply appreciate Paladin Press.  So I don’t mean this as a put-down.  But in my heart of hearts I always kind of considered what I was doing as sort of . . .  literature.   Art, if you will.  But evidently, the world at large has never quite considered me in those terms.  Considering that my books usually end up on the bookshelf next to How to Pick Locks and Advanced Eye-Gouging Techniques.

But what the hell.  That was the batch of mail from the other day.  Excuse me while I get up and go see what horrors are awaiting me in today’s mailbox.

The Good Old Days

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Several of my friends have chided me recently for my excess wallowing in “the Good Old Days.”  And that stung a little.  Because 1.) its true.  And 2.)  its a sign that These Old Days don’t measure up for me.

Part of it, I guess, is simply a symptom of growing old.  As you push towards 60 you realize you have more past than future.  So its natural to spend time looking back, fondly or otherwise, at one’s past.

But another part of it is that I might be done.  Finished.  Kaput.  I once read a study that claimed that long-term stints of homelessness took 30 years off of one’s life expectancy.  And while I take most of the numbers about The Homeless with a big grain of salt (because most of the numbers are pure bullshit) there’s probably a grain of truth to this one.  For every homeless person that I know that’s 60 or older, I can name you five who died before reaching that age.  So at age 57 I’m probably already 10 years post-dated.

Aside from fitting in the homeless demographic, I also fit in the artist and druggie demographics.  Both of which are famous for premature burn-out.  As an artist I always considered myself the mental equivalent of a professional athlete, a pro football player if you will. Pro footbal players exert such an incredible amount of physical energy in their 20s that they’re usually pretty much used up by the time they hit 30.  It must be a weird thing to “retire” at age 30, but thats the game.  And a large percentage of them have great difficulty ever finding a “second act,” if you know what I mean.

Likewise, the artist tends to push his psyche, his soul, his personality, his mind (whatever the fuck you call it) to the brink.  In search of new ideas and new experiences and new ways to express them.  Its a field that has always attracted its fair share of “shooting stars.”  And part of the fun for the audience is watching the artist soar towards the heavens like fireworks, only to suddenly peak and explode in a dazzling array of colors, and then drift slowly back to earth.

I often say to myself (with an evil snicker):  “I’ve still got a couple more tricks up my sleeve.”  Heh heh.  But the last couple years I’ve noticed myself coming up with all these artistic projects that I never quite get around to doing.  I remember when I was young, how I used to burn, burn, burn.  I felt like an unstoppable force.  So yeah, sure, I pine for the Good Old Days

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The good old days.

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LOVE LOVE LOVE…. That’s Like Hypnotizing Chickens

(Originally published April 19, 2006)

Been thinking about love. All the different kinds of love. . .

I’ve always been hung up on ROMANTIC LOVE: to love and be loved by this special other. It never really happened for me. Mostly, it expressed itself as this incredible unfulfilled longing. And the emptiness of This-Thing-That-Was-Always-Missing. Which I guess they call “loneliness” or “heart-ache.”

Then there’s the LOVE-YOU-FEEL-FOR-YOUR-FELLOW-MAN kind of love. Which sometimes, but not always intersects with Romantic Love. All these different forms of love intersect with each other. It’s “one love,” and all that corny crap. I guess describing the different sides of love is like describing the different properties of water: rain, ice, rivers, H2O…. It’s all still water. The Love-You-Feel-For-Your-Fellow-Man type of love is that “spontaneous feeling of tenderness that arises on its own accord,” as my guru Swami Muktananda put it. It’s the feeling that makes you want to do a favor for another person without wanting anything in return. The feeling of “love” itself is its own reward, and we’re all humble servants to it. It’s the one aspect of human life that isn’t a “deal.”

Then there’s the LOVE OF NATURE. The appreciation you sometimes feel for the awesome splendor of this natural universe (mixed in with the less-than-splendorous feelings you have towards parasites, fungus, contagious diseases, and TV sit-coms). You can feel that affection towards a tree, or a flower, or a dog, or a child, or a sun-set, or whatever. Or even for a special spot; your home or your hang-out.

Then there’s another form of love I just thought about: I guess you could call it NOSTALGIA LOVE: that wistful, poignant feeling you get, looking back on all the places and people of your past. It’s not so much a love for these places and people, but for the totality of all your life experiences. Like all the things you’ve been through — and you go “WOW!” Like it’s been the most amazing movie, with all these weird, indescribable peaks.

Then there’s the LOVE OF DOING. This friend of mine who loves working on cars described it this way: “When I get underneath a car and start working on the engine, I’ll look up and 8 hours has gone by just like THAT!” I know exactly the feeling he’s talking about. Labor-of-love. Or maybe somebody gets that feeling from going to the movies or watching sports. That fascination where time is no longer a burden, but a delicious food you want to keep eating. That feeling is the best, ain’t it?

I’m sure you could slice the pie of love up into many more sub-categories. But I guess the only other real important one is LOVE OF GOD. That one surely encompasses all the other categories. It’s the feeling that nothing exists but God, and that every molecule and atom of this world is made up of nothing but Pure Love. Love is what makes the blood pump through our veins, and the sperm shoot out of our penises, and the earth revolve around the sun. When we lose that feeling of love, we feel our physical being start to shrivel up and die, so fundamental is it, our cells crave the experience of it like our lungs crave air. All that we do, we do for love (though the experience often gets sublimated and warped into all sorts of convoluted plot-twists). It is always there, somewhere, behind every aspect of the human story. “Even at its most sordid, life is a profoundly spiritual affair,” I once said as I looked up from a gutter in the Tenderloin.

(to be continued…)

THINGS TO DO

I’m a little weird. But I’m just like everyone else. I make To Do lists. Here’s my To Do list for today:

THINGS TO DO (Oct. 11. 2010)

1.) sit on ass

2.) glare at strangers

3.) drink beer (24 oz. Olde English)

4.) smoke roach

5.) listen to band playing a free concert on Sproul Plaza

6.) remember the Jim Carroll and Fugazi shows I saw here with Mary in the early ’80s

7.) feel nostalgic in a bummed out way

8.) get annoyed (band is still doing their sound check)

9.) quit bitching because what the hell its free noise

10.) realize I’m in my element (for once) as the Jesus of cool and all-round hip rocknroll motherfucker

11.) use this notebook like a cover so people won’t think I”m too weird sitting in public with shades and smoking a joint and drinking a beer ($465 fine for open container tickets these days, the bastards, rise up against The Man, comrades!!)

12.) smoke more of joint

13.) do nothing (13 is unlucky number)

14.) wonder why the band is still doing their sound check 40 minutes later (the riffs sound good to me but what do I know)

15.) realize sometimes the sound checks are the best part of the show

16.) realize I must be drunk and stoned by this point

17.) experience a deep rage for no particular reason (make note I still have psychological issues to deal with)

18.) scream “All right!” after the band plays a particularly cool song

19.) ITS ROCKNROLL YA PUKES! (roll another cigarette)

20.) realize I’m out of Malt Liquor, make plans to achieve future life’s goals at the nearest liquor store

Thinkin’ ’bout a girl that I used to know… 2002_11_17

Ace Backwords's photo.

Wake up this morning at 6 AM, Sunday morning. Something always melancholy and wistful about Sunday mornings. Nothing ever happens on Sunday mornings…

There’s an almost unbearable sadness to it all. Like something is happening (life) that is so unbelievably incredible, but there is just something missing, some important, mysterious piece that prevents you from appreciating it; prevents you from making sense of it. Maybe that’s why I cling to these past memories. It’s this sense of something important slipping away — my life, pissing away — while something important goes down the drain. Something missing. Always. What IS that tantalizing something? I want to go back in time and do it all over again (and THIS time I’ll get it right!)

I have 2 odd memories of Kerry. 1995. I’m in Arcata. The town is still fresh and exciting.  I hadn’t yet walked down the same five streets, five hundred times and realized there was nothing there. So my mind was excited with possibilities and potential. I’m walking past the parking lot of the Co-Op, by the Ride Board. And I pass a hippie school bus full of Dead Heads and Rainbow Children. And they’re associated in my mind with: KERRY!!  So they fascinate me. They’re the in-group I want to join. Later, a year later, I’ll look at them and see grubby, dysfunctional bums. But, at that moment, they had a certain magic, as if at any moment, Kerry would come walking out of that bus, in her sexy, hippie gypsy Rainbow clothes, with her hemp jewelry and her smile of love and sex, and she’d dance over to me and hug me and love me.  Forever. And I scrutinized each face of every hippie street person. But none of them were Kerry. It was a sunny day, in my mind’s memory.  And then, little Hippie Boy Lenny comes out of the bus — not Kerry but a FRIEND of Kerry’s. A fleeting connection to Kerry. And I ask him how she’s doing (“She’s back at her Mom’s house in Southern California, working as a waitress at Denny’s. She wants to quit her job and go on the Dead tour…”). Dying for every detail about KERRY!, even as I’m playing it cool, as always. And then Lenny is gone — grubby little rip-off Lenny with his golden locks and angelic face, like a pint-sized, 24-year-old Robert Plant from Long Island. And I walk down the sunny, pointless Arcata street, alone as always.

And yet, somehow, that mundane little memory, that fleeting, hazy image in  my mind, sums up that whole year, 1995. That whole period. Like when a song comes on the radio and it transports you back into your past like a Time Machine, and all the memories and moments come back…

And my other Kerry memory from that period is: I’m in the shower in the morning, that crude, cement little shower stall — no bigger than a box — on the second floor down the hall from my lonely hotel room at the Greyhound Hotel. Somehow I remember the feeling as being sweaty, feverish, even as I’m in the steamy wet shower — the hard water pounding on my chest. And the weird thing was, in the year I lived there, I would never see any of the other tenants on the floor, even as there were 7 or 8 of us. It was like a ghost town. A haunted house. You wouldn’t even HEAR them in their rooms. We were quiet to the point of being the walking dead. Ghosts. Ashamed to be seen. But I’d be in the shower every morning, preparing to go out on a date with a girl who was never there.  And, for some reason, I’d often think of Kerry when I was in the shower in that pointlesss lonely town of Eureka at the end of nowhere. And I’d wonder where Kerry was at that moment. And what she was doing. And why I was here and she was always somewhere else, a thousand miles away. My one heart’s desire. And somehow it was her fault that I had ended up here. She could have lifted me up to superstardom (if only). And instead I had crash-landed to this welfare hotel in the middle of zombie nowhere. And I would think about Kerry and the whole dream of being loved and being cool and successful and all the missing pieces in my life, as I stood in that lonely concrete shower stall.

And somehow, that banal memory sums up that whole period. Autumn. The end of 1995.

And now I think of this morning, Sunday morning, 6 AM when I woke up and started thinking about Katie and I wrote these words. Was it just 4 hours ago? Or 40 years? It’s all gone…

“Thinkin’ ’bout a girl that I used to know…I closed my eyes, and she slipped away…”