Christmas 2019

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Woke up 7 in the morning (long story). Christmas day. The only place open to get coffee is 7-11. So I head in that direction. Cut through People’s Park. There’s at least a dozen tents set up. They’ve been there all week. That’s one thing where the University always drew the line in the past — no tents or structures, and no overnight camping (10 PM curfew). I don’t know if they’re letting it slide because of the holidays. Or if they purposely want to turn the park into a rundown homeless shanty-town to justify tearing it down.

Get my coffee (guy in line in front of me buying a 24 ounce can of Olde English, off to an early start). Walk back up Telegraph. Pass various street people in different doorways. Some still sleeping. Some drying off their stuff. A couple guys lighting up a bowl, starting their Christmas cheer. And, of course, one guy panhandling me. . . The Ave is completely deserted except for street people. It’s like a homeless ghost town.

Now I’m sitting here drinking my coffee and thinking many, many thoughts. None of them particularly interesting. MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYBODY!!

People’s Park 50th Anniversary

April 25, 2019

God, I can’t believe it. I just CAN’T believe it. Two days before the big People’s Park 50th Anniversary Concert. . . I walk up to Dwight and Telegraph. They got the whole block roped off with yellow police tape. Dozens of cop cars parked everywhere. Helicopter hovering overhead. I asked a friend of mine hanging out on the corner what was going on:

“It just happened in the park by the picnic tables. Guy walked up to another guy sitting at the table and shot him right in the head. Black guy with dreadlocks shot another black guy.”

“Is he dead?” I said.

“Most likely he is 99.9% dead.”


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April 26, 2019

Walked through People’s Park today. The guys were all sitting at the picnic tables hanging out, just like usual. Sitting right where the guy got his head blown off just yesterday. And acting like nothing had happened. . . And I guess that’s just how it works. Life goes on.

Some people are going to be quick to blame People’s Park for the homicide the other day. But as far as I can tell the suspect had almost no affiliation with People’s Park. And the homicide has nothing to do with People’s Park, any more than it has to do with the OTHER three locations where this nut just happened to go on his shooting rampages.

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April 28, 2019

Well, it’s the People’s Park 50th Anniversary Concert. Jimbow the Hobo got the show off to a rousing start, ranting out some street poetry in true People’s Park fashion. Then an all-female rock band that sounded a bit like Lou Reed & the Velvet Underground did a nice set.

I had a good time. Ran into Jay-Jay, Katie and the Infamous Bones. Then spent most of the show hiding at the top of the park until I finished off my first six-pack of Racer 5 and started shouting “PEOPLE’S PARK!!! PEOPLE’S PARK!!!” over and over for no apparent reason. . . 

The rest of the show is a blur in my memory. I consulted the photos in my cell phone, searching for clues, and came across this shot of the great Moby Theobald so apparently I met him too (hi, Moby). All the rest of my photos have my big thumb right in the middle of all the shots so they’re no help. . . At any rate Happy Birthday, People’s Park!! The big Five-Oh.

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COME TO THE PEOPLE’S PARK 50TH ANNIVERSARY CONCERT!!! It’s very unlikely that you’ll get shot!

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April 29, 2019

People’s Park the morning after the big 50th Anniversary show, a little hungover but still there. . . I tried to take a photo of the new improved Free Box but some street people were camped out in front of it and when I asked to take a picture they said no and refused to move so I could get a shot. . 
. Some things will never change.

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April 30, 2019

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A Telegraph Avenue hallucination


I was just hallucinating about classic Telegraph Avenue.

Moe was at the cash register at Moe’s Books, smoking a big fat cigar, as he nonchalantly rang up customers.

Across the street Julia Vinograd was at the Caffe Med, strolling up to the various tables, hawking her latest book. “Would you like to check out my latest book of poetry?”

Down the street at Cody’s Books, Andy Ross — the Woody Allen of Telegraph Avenue — was nervously fidgeting back and forth as a world-famous author gave a talk to a large crowd of people. Later, a long line of people would wait on line to get their books signed by the great man.

Around the corner Food Not Bombs has just served a delicious free meal in Peoples Park — it’s “Tasty Tuesday” by Judy the cook — and now all the street people are happily lolling on the grass under the sun, strumming on guitars and smoking pot.

Up the street in front of Cafe Botega, the Naked Guy is sitting on the sidewalk, buck naked of course, selling bumperstickers that say “IT’S JUST A DICK.” And the Rare Man is shirtless and doing chin ups and roaring: “HOW DO YOU LIKE IT?? RAAAARRRREEEE!!!”

Across the street St. Paul — the world’s most fanatical and brain-damaged Deadhead — in his brightly colored tye-dye t-shirt is flashing peace signs and shouting at the bewildered pedestrians over and over “JERRY GARCIA GRATEFUL DEAD!! JERRY GARCIA GRATEFUL DEAD!!”

On the Berkeley campus Rick Starr is crooning out his oldies into his fake plastic microphone. And Hate Man is hanging out at Bench One with Jaguar, Warpo, Krash and the rest of the Hate Camp crazies, getting into loud arguments, cursing at each other, pushing shoulders, and smoking many cigarettes. Until it’s time to bring out the drums for the drum circle and the nightly tribal stomp.

Meanwhile, Backwords and Duncan are hanging out at their vending table selling weird underground shit in between drinking many 24 ounce cans of Olde English.

Its ten o’clock and the Campanile Tower rings out ten times — that haunting, melancholy sound — and it’s one more weird and magical night in Berkeley. . .

Hate Man and the concept of “pushing shoulders”

One of my Facebook friends asked me to explain Hate Man’s concept of “pushing shoulders.” No simple task.

Hate Man fancied himself as a philosopher and a therapist who specialized in different forms of “conflict resolution.” He developed the “shoulder pushing” thing along those lines: One person wants one thing, and the other person wants another thing. So they push shoulders to resolve the conflict. Whoever wants it the most, and is willing to “push shoulders” the longest, got there way.

Hate Man was willing to “push” about virtually everything he owned. For example, if you didn’t have any money but wanted to bum a cigarette, you could “push shoulders ” with Hate Man for it. Hate Man would stand side-by-side with the other person, and they would push against each other’s shoulders. It wasn’t a matter of who could push the hardest — you couldn’t just bowl Hate Man over. It was a matter of who would push the longest. You applied a steady, constant pressure. And whoever wanted it the most, and was willing to push the longest, got their way. If it was something fairly trivial — like a rollie cigarette — Hate Man would usually only push for a minute or two before he gave up and gave the person a smoke. But if it was one of his beloved Virginia Slims cigarettes, it might be a longer push. Or if the person was starting to hit Hate Man up too frequently, Hate might dig in and make it a longer push to discourage the person from becoming too much of a pest.

Hate Man pushed shoulders with people constantly, all day long. For example if Hate Man had 5 bucks, one of the street people would invariably say “Push for the 5 bucks, Hate Man.”

Hate Man would usually say to something like that: “It’s going to be a hard push.” And they’d commence to push shoulders. It could last minutes. Or it could last hours. Depending on how much the two people wanted their way. Eventually one of them would get tired of pushing and give up. Or often they might compromise: “Hate Man, I changed my mind. I only want 2 of the 5 bucks.” And Hate would say “OK that’s an easier push.” And he might give in after a couple more minutes of pushing and give him the two bucks.

Hate Man to his dying day believed that “pushing shoulders” would revolutionize the world and become a common practice.

He was a bit nutty.

At his peak he had about 10 dedicated followers — disciples, really — who adopted shoulder-pushing as a daily practice. As well as thousands of bums who did it when they wanted to hit up Hate Man for some of his stuff.

Hate Man used pushing for virtually everything. Like if you were boring him he’d say “Push shoulders if you want me to listen to you.” And you’d have to push with him if you wanted to get in your two-cents. Ha ha.




The destruction of the trees in People’s Park


The University ended up destroying about 70% of the trees at the top of People’s Park. They claimed it was for health and public safety reasons, but that’s a flat out lie. They snuck into the park at like 5 in the morning, when it was still pitch dark, like thieves in the night, to do their dirty work.
They basically clear-cut the entire top of People’s Park. And they brought in an army of out-of-town cops to guard the tree-cutters. Planned out the whole thing like a military operation.

And you’d think chopping down trees in the dark of night during a rainstorm would be in violation of a dozen health and safety codes.

But the really galling thing is phony “reasons” the University came up with for destroying all these healthy trees. Like: “The trees blocked out light.” Yes. That’s what trees DO. They provide shade.


One slightly surreal scene. I put down my umbrella and coffee on the sidewalk so I could take some photos of the cops. I even asked the cops permission to take their pictures. I’m polite if nothing else. Then I walked down the street to take some more pictures.


When I came back the cop said:

“Somebody tried to take your coffee but I told him it was yours.”

“Thanks,” I said. “I really need it this morning.”

So I thanked the cop for saving my coffee . . . Too bad I couldn’t thank him for saving the goddamn trees.


Bastards. Hate Man’s tree gone gone gone. He’s probably rolling over in his cremation urn. (Actually it turned out I was wrong. They didn’t destroy Hate Man’s tree. They just hacked off most of its branches.)

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If anyone is interested in the REAL reason why the University destroyed all those trees in People’s Park: Several years ago the University decided to chop down a bunch of trees by the football stadium. But tree-sitters organized a protest to prevent them from destroying the trees that went on for several years. And it ended up costing the University over a million dollars before they were finally able to get rid of the tree-sitters and destroy the trees.

So the University didn’t want to go through that again. So they destroyed virtually every tree that might be used as a tree-sit. And almost all the “reasons” they listed on their bogus Press Releases for destroying the trees are a complete lie. And an insult to anyone’s intelligence that they would even spew these lies in public.

Almost all the trees at the top of People’s Park, destroyed. Completely healthy trees and for the most bogus reasons. When we all know what the REAL reason is.

The destruction of People’s Park. And brought to you by the Berkeley “progressives.” Mayor Jesse Arreguin and former Berkely City Councilman Kriss Worthington.

Ironic, no.

Tree falls, kills Novato man on UC Berkeley campus


Meanwhile, after destroying 70% of the trees at the top of People’s Park (most of which were completely healthy trees) one of the countless dead, or unhealthy trees on the Berkeley campus collapsed and killed somebody. None of the strong healthy trees in People’s Park showed any indication of collapsing. And yet the University is urgently concerned with destroying the healthy trees in People’s Park. It’s worse than a bad joke.

Anyone who wants to express their outrage over this latest travesty in People’s Park, you can leave a message for UC Chancellor Carol Christ (and her “immense intellectual vitality”) at her office.


Tell her Ace says hi.

UC Berkeley is a place of immense intellectual vitality, where some of today’s brightest students and scholars work together to deepen understanding of the world we live in. It is also a place that is steadfastly committed to widening the doors to educational opportunity, a place that sets young p….

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As many of you know, the University has plans to destroy People’s Park in 2020, and replace it with student housing. I have always been a fierce critic of the University in this regard. But for a moment I’d like to address the other side of the coin: The street people of People’s Park.

The main reason that People’s Park has been able to survive all these years is because of the strong support it’s always enjoyed from the majority of Berkeley residents. But there’s every reason to believe that support has been waning in recent years. Whenever the subject of People’s Park comes up these days, invariably someone will chime in: “Pave that damn Park. It’s nothing but a cesspool of drugs, crime and bums!!”

Whether or not that sentiment is true — and it’s obviously an exaggerated caricature — that is the public perception in many quarters. And we urgently need to change that perception if People’s Park is to survive.

In fact, many Berkeley residents feel unwelcome and unsafe in People’s Park. You street people that consider People’s Park your “home”? That’s fine. But you better start welcoming the rest of the Berkeley community into “your” home if you want it to survive much longer. Because it’s just as much “their” home, too.FB_IMG_1534386558313.jpg


I’ll give you an example of what I’m talking about: For many years the Telegraph Avenue street vendors met in People’s Park every morning to sign up for their vending spaces and take care of business. Recently they moved out of People’s Park and now set up every morning on the corner of Telegraph & Channing. Why?? After one too many ugly scenes with one too many ugly People’s Park street people, they decided: “Fuck this place!” And moved out of the park.


This is exactly what I’m talking about. Many people who once supported the park no longer support the park. And we desperately need to start winning these people back to our side if People’s Park is going to survive.

I’m not trying to bust anybody’s chops here. And as a long-time homeless person myself, I’m the last person to be posting anti-homeless screeds. But this is the reality we face as People’s Park now teeters on the verge of destruction. If People’s Park is going to survive, we all need to up our games. Are we going to be remembered as the generation of Berkeley street people that LOST Peoples Park. I hope not.

Sincerely, Ace Backwords

A street person in People’s Park decides to “educate” me about “the rules of the streets”


The sun was setting on People’s Park so I took out my cellphone to try and get a picture of it (as you can see my cellphone sucks for these kind of shots). But as I’m clicking away one of the street people sitting at the picnic table to my right sidles over to me and says:

“Ya know,man, there are some people in this Park who would get mighty upset if they caught you taking pictures of them.”

“Oh yeah,” I said. “I’ve been taking photos of the scene for 30 years. I know the score.”

Though I will tell you. I was a little annoyed by the exchange. Like I need this fellow — this guardian of People’s Park — this layer-down-of-the-rules of “the laws of the street” — like I need this fellow’s permission to take a goddamn photo of the sunset.

And one other thing (now that I’m in the mood to do a little grousing): There are people working very hard to save People’s Park. But the sad fact is, 90% of the street people who hang out in the Park all day wouldn’t lift a finger to try and save it. Though you can bet they’ll be the first to complain if it does get demolished.

And it’s because of people like the guy at the picnic table that a lot of people WANT to demolish People’s Park. In fact if People’s Park is going to survive it has to become a park shared equally by ALL the people in the community. And not just the street people that hang out there all day long.

The problem is, a lot of the street people, who are basically living in the Park all day long, start to consider it their own private property and personal turf. It’s just basic human nature, I guess. Human beings are territorial by nature. But geez!! Some of these people seem completely oblivious as to how close we are to losing People’s Park. As well as the pressing need to clean up our acts and become a welcoming presence to all the people who set foot in the Park.

Listen (as you can see from the photo I took), I’m not talking about sticking a camera in somebody’s face and taking a photo of them when they just trying to have some privacy (does this photo I posted give that impression?). But the fact is, it’s perfectly legal to take a photo of ANYBODY who’s in a public space.

 A couple years ago one of the original FOUNDERS of People’s Park in 1969 came back to People’s Park. And he was taking a couple of photos of the park. When this useless crackhead got in his face, threatened to beat his ass and smash his camera, and ran him out of the park. IS IT ANY SURPRISE THAT A LARGE PERCENTAGE OF THE BERKELEY COMMUNITY NO LONGER SUPPORT PEOPLE’S PARK?? . . . . Crap like this gives the impression that People’s Park is no longer a public park and a public space. But the private property of the street people who hang out there all day long.


One of the great appeals of People’s Park was that it was a Berkeley icon (I’m not sure if it still is). Like Sather Gate on the campus. Tourists and other people are CONSTANTLY taking photos of Sather Gate. Do you think they have to ask the PERMISSION of all the people who happen to be walking by before they take their pictures. I don’t think so. Whether some bum who just happens to be passing by grouses about it or not.

The sun sets on People’s Park. And maybe in more ways than one.

Some of these people in People’s Park don’t seem to realize how close we are to LOSING People’s Park. And if we don’t start cleaning up our act, we ARE going to lose it.

End of sermon.


The day The Man tried to take our Christmas Tree

“Have a bad Christmas!!”

Every year Hate Man used to set up a Christmas tree at his hang-out spot in People’s Park. And it was a nice little bit of Christmas cheer on the street scene. Which can often be a sad time of year for street people. Who lack the family and home that everybody else is celebrating. But even though we were homeless we could still at least enjoy our own Christmas tree.

But then one year The Man told Hate Man that it was against the law to set up a personal Christmas tree in a public park. Siting zoning laws or some other rules and regulations that forbid individuals from erecting “structures” in public parks. And he ordered the grounds crew to confiscate the illegal Christmas tree and haul it away to the City Dump.

“That’s ridiculous!! That’s outrageous!!” declared Hate Man, as he watched them hauling off our Christmas tree. “Claiming that homeless street people don’t have the right to have a Christmas tree!!”

So Hate Man got a second Christmas tree. And defiantly set it up at the same spot. “And if they try to take this Christmas tree I’m willing to go to jail for it. If the cops try to take it, they’re going to have to arrest me first and haul me off to Santa Rita in handcuffs!!” Realizing how bad they would look if this story ended up on the front pages of all the local newspapers — “HOMELESS MAN THROWN IN JAIL FOR CRIME OF HAVING A CHRISTMAS TREE!!” — which it would have (Hate Man knew how to use the media to his advantage). The Man backed down and allowed Hate Man and the Berkeley street people to have their own personal Christmas tree.

And we all had a very Merry Christmas and lived happily ever after, until some crazy homeless tweaker chick grabbed our Christmas tree and hauled it off and dumped it in a garbage can somewhere for some unknown reason. The End.



A brief explanation of People’s Park

Not a bad line-up for 3 bucks.

I guess the thing that made People’s Park such a historical icon was the timing of it.

There had been this sort of underground counterculture movement that had been bubbling under the surface of American society since the Beats in the ’50s, to Kesey and the proto-hippies in the early ’60s. But it wasn’t until around 1967 with “the Summer of Love” and Sgt Pepper that the whole thing exploded into the mainstream. And it kept building with this force — this new generation that wanted to go in a very different direction than the previous generation. And it wasn’t just the peace-and-love-and-drugs of the hippies, and the old school bohemians of the Beats. But there was also the political factions — the liberals and the radicals and the Civil Rights movement and especially the anti-Vietnam war movement. Along with the gay rights movement and the feminist movement. And the whole thing loosely became known back then as The Movement.

And to large degree it polarized American society. You were either a straight or a freak. And it became known as the Generation Gap. One side wanting to take society in one direction, and the other side wanting to take it in another direction. And it was practically a civil war. The first real battle of this war was at the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968 where riots broke out between the anti-war activists and the police.

And then in 1969 a similar war broke out in Berkeley when Governor Ronald Reagan sent in the National Guard to expell the hippies from People’s Park which they had recently converted from a vacant lot into a park. And many people got shot and one got killed during the People’s Park riots. And People’s Park ended up as an enduring symbol of the emerging ’60s counterculture. Which during that period was at the very heart of the American zeitgeist. A couple months later there would be the Woodstock Festival and the whole emerging Woodstock Generation (so-called).

So People’s Park was like at the epicenter of this whole crazy cultural explosion..