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.

Paranoia strikes deep

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For awhile back in the 1990s when I got into some particularly controversial subjects with my artwork and writing (and was taking way too much LSD), I was convinced that my phone was being tapped. And that federal agents, or SOMEBODY, was listening to my phone conversations.. .

But then I’d get this weird feeling when I was talking to my friends on the phone. I’d feel sorry for the poor guy listening in. Because my conversations were mostly pretty boring. So I’d try to spice it up to keep him interested. Ha ha.

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High times on University Avenue

 

I lived in this apartment building on University Avenue in Berkeley for 13 years. 1982 to 1995. I had a studio apartment on the 2nd floor. That’s my kitchen window in the upper right corner.

I used to smoke a lot of pot back then. But I always got a little paranoid when I smoked pot in my apartment. Because the manager and his wife lived right next door to me. And I was paranoid that if they smelled my pot, they might report me to the owner of the building, who was extremely conservative, and I’d get evicted from my apartment.

Stan and Rose Mary was the name of the manager and his wife. They were a little, old gray-haired couple. He was about 70 and she was about 60. And pretty straight-laced. And back in those ancient days there were a LOT of strait-laced people who looked down on pot. It was definitely illegal back then, that’s for sure. And a LOT of people thought pot was just as bad as heroin or any other drugs.

So whenever I smoked pot in my apartment I’d always open up all the windows. And I’d blow the pot smoke out the window. Fan the smoke a little. And I never smoked by my front door, lest the pot smell leaked out to the hallway and into the manager’s front door.

For most of the years I lived there I was a pretty good tenant (aside from being a pot-smoking drug degenerate). But then in 1994 I got 4 months behind on my rent (I cleverly was sinking every penny I got my hands on, into recording and manufacturing a CD that I was convinced was going to be a big, big hit, but ended up barely breaking even).

So now I was DOUBLEY paranoid about Stan the manager. And I would dart in and out of my apartment hoping he didn’t catch me.

But then one day he caught me just as I was walking into my apartment.

“Uh, Ace, could I talk to you for a second about your rent?” said Stan.

Oh fuck! Busted!

“Yeah, I know,” I said. “I’m four months behind on my rent. I guess if I can’t come up with some money pretty soon I’m gonna have to move out.”

“Ace, this is what i think you should do,” said Stan.

Uh oh.

“Grow pot.”

“Say what??” I said.

“That’s right. You should grow pot,” he said.

“Say what??”

Now out of ALL the things I expected Stan the manager was going to say to me at that exact moment. That was probably just about the LAST thing I expected he’d say.

“Yeah, there’s a LOT of money in pot,” he said. “I’ve been growing it myself for years. And I even set up 8 other people around town with the grow-room equipment so they can grow it in their closets. And I supply them with primo seeds and plants to get them started. Then we pool the profits.”

“You’re kidding??” I said.

“Heck no I’m not kidding. Wait right here.”

Stan dashed into his apartment. And then came back with this big plastic container of green butter.

“We turn the buds into pot butter. This is pure THC. Then we turn it into edibles.”

Stan’s wife Rose Mary popped up behind him with a big smile on her face. “Here, Ace, try a couple of these,” she said, handing me two big oat meal cookies. “They’re from our latest batch.”

“Geez!” I said.

“But you might want to only eat half of that cookie,” she said, proudly. “They’re pretty strong.”

I guess I should have known. Stan often did walk around the building with a big, glassy-eyed smile on his face.

“I can set you up with all the grow-room equipment you need,” said Stan

It turned out Stan even subscribed to HIGH TIMES magazine and had seen my comics in there. Which is why he thought I’d be a good person for the job.

But it was the weirdest thing. It was like being strapped down into an electric chair to be executed. But then right before they pull the switch you get a call from the Governor, who not only gives you a pardon, but tells you you just won the Lottery.

But that’s the weird thing about living in those old apartment buildings. You just NEVER know what the people next-door are really doing behind closed doors.

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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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