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 26, 2017

Christmas 2017

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 8:47 pm
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Have a very merry People’s Park Christmas!!

Pretty quiet Christmas on the street scene. Aside from one ugly scene.

A car pulls up to People’s Park bearing donations. And you can always tell when there aren’t enough donations to go around, because the street people start sprinting towards the car from every direction (you never saw street people so motivated). Then they surround the car, gang swarm it. And everyone starts pushing and shoving and elbowing and jockeying for position.

Then this black woman comes barreling into the crowd like a battering ram, shoving everybody out of her way, in pursuit of the holiday holy grail. But the weird thing was, as she’s knocking people aside to get to the front of the car, she kept repeating: “Excuse me.” “Excuse me.” “Excuse me.” I guess she wanted to let everyone know that she had good manners. Ha ha.

But evidently the lady didn’t get what she wanted for Christmas. Because she suddenly started angrily shouting and cursing at the top of her lungs. Then she took her grocery bag full of stuff and slammed it on the ground and all of her stuff went splattering across the sidewalk.

So people start shouting and cursing back at her. And pretty soon everyone is jawing back and forth. But not to be outdone, the woman pulls down her pants, bends over, and moons the crowd, sharing her enormous ass with one and all (Christmas ’tis the season of sharing, after all).

“YOU ‘ALL CAN KISS MY BLACK ASS YOU MUTHA”FUCKIN’ HOS!!!”

That’s telling ’em.

Needless to say, it was another magic moment in my life..

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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 18, 2017

The day after Hate Man died

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 7:42 pm
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The day after Hate Man died, I was waiting on the line at the Dollar Store buying some crap. The guy on line in front of me was talking to this other guy:

“Hey, did you hear? The Hate Man died on Sunday. Yeah. The famous person from Berkeley. The Hate Man. I just heard about it 5 minutes ago on CBS News. Hate Man lived in People’s Park for years and years. He used to be a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post. . . ”

I thought I was gonna start crying right there in the fucking store.

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August 31, 2017

Chanel makes he presence felt

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Chanel hanging with Hate Man during a quieter moment in her life.

 

It is completely crazy at the library today. It’s like half the people in here are completely insane. MORE than half. Cute-but-crazy Chanel is at a computer at one of the cubicles, listening to music on headphones. She’s standing up, dancing wildly, and singing along at the top of her lungs. Adding to the effect she has pancake white make-up on, and dark black eye shadow around both eyes. . . . This gray-haired woman at another computer stands up and shouts: “THIS IS A LIBRARY! THIS NOISE HAS GOT TO STOP!!” She approaches an elderly black guy at the cubicle behind me and shouts at him: “YOU’VE GOT TO STOP! YOU’VE GOT TO STOP!!” He looks up at her with bewilderment and confusion. He’s just sitting there quietly minding his own business. The gray-haired woman suddenly realizes that he’s not the culprit (uh duh). That the noise is coming from Chanel dancing wildly in the next aisle. “Sorry,” she says and goes over and confronts Chanel. They have a brief shouting match. And then Chanel takes off her headphones and storms off to another part of the library, singing loudly and wildly the whole way.

Meanwhile, the guy sitting next to me is repeatedly hitting himself on the head. Hard! I grimace every time I hear the sound of fist connecting to skull. The gray-haired woman starts shouting again: “WHAT IS GOING ON HERE IN THE LIBRARY TODAY?? EVERYBODY IS COMPLETELY CRAZY!! NOW THE GUY SITTING NEXT TO ME KEEPS HITTING HIMSELF ON THE HEAD. WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT?”

“Tourettes,” he says.

“THERE’S MEDICATION FOR THAT!” she says.

“I’m taking it,” he says.”

“WELL YOU’RE NOT TAKING ENOUGH!” she says.

 

And how is your day going so far?

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July 23, 2017

Life on the streets

 

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Life on the streets: I go to People’s Park this morning. At the top of the park this young woman is lying on her back in the gutter. Her eyes are closed and her arms and legs are splayed in a weird, crucified posture. At first I think she’s seriously whacked on drugs. Or dead.

“Hey are you right?” I said.

She opens her eyes just barely

“Hey are you all right?”

She nods her head weakly.

“Hey you should get out of the gutter. A car could pull over to park and run you over. You should lie on the grass there by the sidewalk.”

She lays there stiff as a board not moving a muscle.

“Hey are you all right?”

She nods her head again.

Jack, a park regular, is sitting on a bench nearby. I go over to him and ask: “Do you know that woman.” “No,” he says.

I head back to the young woman in the gutter. Another woman is standing over her talking on her cellphone.

“Are you calling 911?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. “Do you know her?”

“No,” I said.

 

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A small crowd has gathered around her. The woman with the cellphone reaches down and strokes her face. Somebody else offers her a bottle of water. There’s nothing else we can do now except wait for the ambulance. Which always seems to take an eternity. I put a cardboard box in the road ahead of her just to make sure a car doesnt pull over, and wait off in the distance.

The ambulance pulls up and eventually she’s able to stand up by herself and sit on the stretcher with her hands in front of her in a praying posture. And they haul her off. And that’s that.

She’s been on the park scene for awhile. She’s an odd duck. Sometimes I’d see her standing for long periods of time in weird, contorted yoga postures. It was hard to tell if she was on some weird spiritual trip or on drugs or in some kind of catatonic state. Some people’s minds just work differently. She’s also very pretty in a girlish way.

Mostly she hangs out all day at the bottom of the park at a picnic table, quietly drawing away on an art tablet along side this older black man she’s befriended who’s also an artist. I’ve never seen her speak. And I’m not sure she can.

All kinds in this world of ours.

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July 13, 2017

Another odd encounter with perfect strangers

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 9:40 pm
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So there I was, minding my own business at one of my favorite late-night drinking spots. . . .

I had another odd encounter from some perfect strangers last night.

I was sitting at one of my favorite late-night drinking spots. The front porch of this building near People’s Park that’s closed in the evening. When this young Asian couple, probably college students, approached me.

“Excuse me sir could I ask you a question?” said the guy.

“Sure,” I said.

“Do you suffer from respiratory illnesses?”

“No I don’t.”

“Oh, OK.”

They started to leave but then came back.

“Can I ask you one more question?” he said.

“Sure,” I said.

“Have you ever had to work at a job where there were toxic chemicals?”

“No.”

“Oh. OK.”

“That’s a little bit of an odd question,” I said.

“Yeah. I guess it is. One last question. Do you come from a family of 7 people?”

“Yes actually I do. 5 kids and mother and father.”

 

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Having successfully completed yet another inexplicable social interaction with my fellow humans, I return to my rightful place in the shadows.

 

“ALL RIGHT!” he said happily.

“One out of three,” I said.

“The reason I’m asking is because I recently gave my life to Jesus. And His spirit now resides within me. And the other day I had a great vision that I would meet an old guy, who I called Gramps, who suffered from respiratory illnesses, worked with toxic chemicals, and came from a family of 7. And I saw you sitting there and thought you might be the one.”

“Oh,” I said. I guess that explains that. “Well nice meeting you.”

“You too,” he said with a big smile. He high-fjved me happily. And then they left. And I went back to drinking my beer.

I gave up a long time ago trying to figure out what it all means. If anything.

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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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