True cat romance

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I’m gonna’ be gone for a month (doing my eye surgery thing).  So I’ve been stuffing my feral cats with food in the meantime.  To prepare them for the lean times.  The problem is, Blondie’s been in heat lately.  So she’s been somewhat indifferent to food.  She just sorts of picks at it, and then goes off tom-hunting like a hussy.  You know how it is when you got sex on the brain.  You don’t think of much of anything else except for sex.  But I keep trying to tell her:  “Listen.  Eat up now.  There might not be any food for the next month.”  But unfortunately, she doesn’t understand English.  The dumb  beast.

But at least for the moment she’s feeling no pain.  Today she was romping around with this gray tabby that’s been romancing her lately.  She was so happy that she spent about 15 minutes just rolling around on her back in a state of pure joy.  I guess it’s love.

The cat courtship can go on for a couple of weeks.  When this gray tabby (who I cleverly named Gray) first showed up on the scene, Blondie would growl fiercely whenever he approached her.  But now, two weeks later, whenever he shows up, she makes this purring/clucking sound of pure delight.  I guess Gray finally wore down her resistance with his manly charms.  Cats.  Sheesh.

But Blondie isn’t “easy,” as we used to say.  Blondie doesn’t put out for just anybody.  She made Gray really work for it.  The first week, every time Gray showed up, Blondie would run off up the hill.  Gray spent a solid week chasing after her.  Stalking her, basically.  I guess Blondie was playing hard-to-get.  But not that hard.  Because every now and then she would actually succeed in ditching Gray.  So she’d have to back-track and go looking for him.  So they could resume the whole stalking charade.  Slowly, gradually, Blondie let Gray get closer and closer to her.  Until, well, finally .  . .  there’s a reason there are so many kittens in the world.

But I’m sure it all makes sense on an evolutionary  level.  Blondie was testing Gray.  Making sure he was strong and resourceful.  And, more important, had strong and resourceful genes.  Before she made her selection.

Love really is a pretty brutal game.  I guess that’s why there are so many sad-sack love songs on the radio all the time.

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Portrait of the Artist as an Old Bum (Nov. 5, 2009)

 

I’ve been homeless now for about 2 and a half years. I’ve been homeless off and on for a good portion of my life. I once tried to add up how much time I’ve spent sleeping outdoors over the years and it came out to about 8 or 9 years, starting at age 19. I wrote about it in my previous book, SURVIVING ON THE STREETS. Which is a goddam classic. Just like my latest book, ACID HEROES. I actually wrote, edited and self-published ACID HEROES (along with the great Pat Hartman) while living out of a sleeping bag in the rainy season. It just about killed me. Try publishing a book out of sleeping bag sometime. But the thing has sold nearly 20 copies already. So I guess it was worth it. I’m still baffled as to why my stuff doesn’t sell better. One theory is that I’m a self-deluded egomaniac with an inflated opinion of my talents (in other words, a typical artist). But that can’t possibly be it. Another theory is that I’m 20 years ahead of my times. Or 20 years behind the times. Or maybe I’m a genius in some alternate dimension of reality. Alas, you can’t cash the checks in this reality.

My life is so weird. Every morning I wake up and 4 feral cats are sitting there staring at me, waiting to be fed. A mother and her 3 kittens. The mother, Blondie, I’ve been feeding for almost 2 years. She’s strictly feral and always keeps a safe distance from me. But the kittens have known me since they was born. So they eat right out of my hands, and sleep nestled at the foot of my sleepingbag. I actually saw them being procreated. About 7 months ago Blondie, the shameless hussy, went wild in an orgy of cat passion. Those cats fucked for days. Non-stop. Some mornings Blondie would be dragging herself down the hill towards that cat food dish with a tom on her back pumping away the whole time. Finally she’d get down to the food dish and brush the tom off her with disdain. Another time, the tom wouldn’t let her be so she climbed way up this tree to get away from him. He climbed up right after her. Followed her all the way out to the end of this tree branch about 30 feet off the ground. Very precariously poised. No way out except down. Then a second female, also in heat, followed the two of them out to the end of the branch. So the 3 of them are sitting up there like a log-jam of backed up traffic. It makes you realize how strong the sex drive is. Even stronger than the survival drive. Willing to risk their lives for a piece of tail. Literally. Somehow, Blondie managed to manuever herself around the tom and escaped down the tree. With the other two cats in hot pursuit. Nowadays, when I see the kittens frolicking around by that tree, I wonder: Do they have any idea that that’s where they came from?

It’s pretty savage how they fuck, too. The tom sinks his teeth right into the back of the females neck. To give him extra pumping leverage, I guess. And when the female gets enough of it, she’s not adverse to slashing the male in the face with her claws. I was embarrassed to watch them. I mean, can’t they go do their business in private instead of right in front of me and my sleeping bag. But I guess I’m kind of a feral human myself. Thats part of my identification with those feral cats, I guess. I live like a wild animal myself, sleeping in the bushes under the stars and the moon and the rain. And we both do the same thing whenever we hear a strange sound in the woods. We both freeze and stare off in the distance in the direction of the sound. And we don’t move until we’ve been able to categorize the sound as either: a.) threatening, or b.) non-threatening. You’re in total survival mode in the deep dark woods. But once the cats realize it’s no threat, they immediately go back to goofing off. They turn it on and off in a second, all day long. Basically, them feral cats act like they’re stoned most of the time. frolicking and romping and investigating and generally just playing. It’s like some weird lesson of life to me, watching them feral cats. And I’ll look at them sometimes as they’re staring at me inscrutably (like cats do). And I’ll think. “They have eyes, and noses, and mouths, and ears, and they eat food and shit it out their kitty asses and fuck … ..” and its like, whatever Force is manifesting them is pretty similar to whatever Force is manifesting me. Sometimes I imagine that its God Himself who’s playing at being them cats. This divine life-force thats eternally dancing through the woods. They’re cosmic cats all right.

When the kittens were real little and still being nursed by Blondie in her secret nest, she would sometimes take the hot dogs that I tossed in her food dish and carry it in her teeth up to her kittens. Then, a couple weeks later, she brought the kittens down to the food dish for the first time. It was so cute to see her marching down the hill with the 3 kittens trooping behind her in a line. Here comes the troops. Now the kittens are about 4 months old and getting bigger every day. The little buggers eat like horses. It’s unbelievable how they pack it away. They’re eating me out of house and home. Or should I say houseless and homeless? Well, that’s enough goddam cat talk for one day. I’m already enough of an art fag as it is. Those cats really got me.

Feral cats on the attack. Blondie, Moo Cat and Keef prepare to pounce.
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Brushes with Greatness Part 2: The Secret Origin of “Ace Backwords”

Originally published 2002_11_27Carol Connors Autograph

The first famous (or semi-famous, I’ll let you decide where the cut-off point is for true celebrity) person I ever met was Carol Connors. Connors’ claim to fame was, she played the nurse in Deep Throat, the number-one-selling porn movie of all time at that point (I’ve heard its recently been eclipsed by The World’s Biggest Gang Bang starring Annibel Chong).

I was working for a sleazy porno tabloid from Los Angeles at the time. Impulse was the paper’s name, and it really was sleazy, even by porn’s standards. From some of the ads, you had to wonder if it was a front for some kind of  underground sex  ring or something. This was 1979, and there was an anything-goes feeling at the times, especially in decadent Los Angeles.

Anyways, I wrote a column for Impulse called; “Sin Francisco: Your Bay Area Porno Report” (how’s that for cheezy?) And I’d go to the local strip clubs and interview the latest porn stars or whatever. This was my first and only “success” at that point, age 22, writing a column and doing a comic strip for a sleazy porn tabloid from Los Angeles. I had some hazy dream in my head of being a professional underground artist. But the world mostly refused to cooperate with my dreams. Quite simply, I couldn’t deal with the world. I was a hyper-sensitive, art-fag kind of guy.  I had all these strange and tender feelings whizzing around in my head, and that’s what seemed real to me. The so-called Real World outside me seemed un-real. I had gotten a few comics published in the Berkeley Barb, the latest remnant of the ’60s underground. But aside from that, the world seemed completely indifferent, if not outright hostile, to my strange and tender feelings.  I sent out my work here and there. But the only encouragement I got was from this sleazy porn tabloid from Los Angeles. They actually printed a couple of my comics: stuff like Dagwood and Blondie having sex and then appearing on the Dick Cavett show and getting in a bitch-fight. “Phil Olsen” — the one-man editor/publisher of Impulse— sent me a postcard along with a $25 check: “Send more stuff. Let your imagination run wild.” And somehow, that postcard inflamed me. I still remember it clearly, 23 years later. For it was the first real encouragement I had gotten.

So I came up with the pen-name “Ace Backwords” — to save my family name from the disgrace of being associated with a sleazy tabloid from Los Angeles (they would do a good enough job disgracing themselves on their own later). Little did I realize that 23 years later I would literally have BECOME Ace Backwords, that almost everyone I knew would know me and call me by that name, that I would cash my checks made out to that name, and that my “real” name would basically cease to exist as an entity in this world.

So anyway, I came up with this column, “Sin Francisco,” and I would hack it out in sort of the style of a second-rate Hunter S. Thompson imitator. He was one of my heroes. And, like Thompson, I was beginning to see how working in the media, even on the minor league level of this sleazy porn tabloid, could be a ticket to ride. For one thing, I got into all the porn clubs for free. And on the months when “Phil Olsen” couldn’t afford to pay me in cash, he’d pay me with a big box of sex toys; huge dildos with accordion-like pieces in the middle that were battery operated and went up-and-down when turned on the vibrator mode (made a great coffee-table conversation piece).

I had done a comic strip take-off on the Mitchell Brothers, called “The Bitchell Brothers” (pretty clever, huh?) which they had liked, so they gave me a free press pass to their club, The O’Farrell Theatre, to snoop around and write about whatever I wanted.

The Mitchell Brothers were among the first pornographers to really cultivate the press.  They’d set up the reporters with free passes, hook ’em up with naked chicks, and take out expensive ads in the local papers. I think their underlying assumption re: the press was along the lines of Lyndon Johnson’s classic line: “Better to have them inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.” And they were rewarded for their efforts with over a decade of generally favorable, if not fawning, press from the Bay Area’s finest.

Every two weeks, when the new issue of Impulse hit the newspaper racks, I’d grab 20 copies and carefully stack them in my closet. Then I’d cut out my column and comics and paste them into a big scrapbook. Then I’d intricately color them in and decorate the margins with magic markers. I’d moon over that scrapbook, like I was a real writer and my work was being compiled in this glorious collection. The whole porn business was kind of like that. It was sort of a minor league version of the mainstream media, a Bizarro parallel media universe. And we had our own stars and celebrities and fan-clubs and movie premieres and even our own version of the Academy Awards. And we were just like real stars, except that the whole thing had an aura of loser-dom and shame.

And this, too. It was 1979, post-’60s Sexual Revolution, pre-’80s AIDS epidemic. So everybody was having sex with everybody in every possible combination. Hell, even I was getting laid back then. And, in some circles, the Mitchell Brothers were seen as the vanguard, the cutting-edge of the new Sexual Revolution. They were heroes almost. Not just pornographers, but promoters of sexual freedom and liberation. And there was considered something wrong with you if you weren’t jumping into the sack all the time. How repressed and un-liberated.

At the time, I considered Sex to be the holy grail that would lead me to Happiness, if not downright Enlightenment. So the Mitchell Brothers, to my 22-year-old eyes, seemed to be the Kings of the Party; the ones with virtually unlimited access to the most beautiful young sex-pots in the world. They were the Kings, and the O’Farrell Theatre was their Harem. So I took it as a given that they must be having the greatest time in the world, an assumption I clung to right up to the moment when Jim Mitchell took out a handgun and blew the brains out of his brother Artie.

Anyway, that night Carol Connors was the featured attraction. She got up on stage of the main theatre within the theatre, New York Live it was called. She was wearing a bright white nurses uniform and white nurses cap, and her white mini-skirt barely covering her fat wobbling ass. She looked like some kind of Viking Goddess Amazon. An inflatable love doll robot. She was sort of a cross between a brassy Mae West and wholesome blonde Daisy Mae sex appeal. With a strong jaw and big bones, big curves, tiny waist. She put on a very athletic, energetic show, bounding across the stage, unbuttoning her nurse’s uniform and stripping naked.

After the strip show it was announced over the P.A. that Connors would be appearing in 15 minutes in the Kopenhagen Lounge (how’s that for class?). There were like 4 different theatres within the O’Farrell Theatre, including a big video store. It was truly a porno arcade, one of the first of its kind. All done up first class; red wall-to-wall carpeting, “the Carnegie Hall of smut.” All that was missing was the chandeliers. The Kopenhagen Lounge was an intimate little room; about 50 plush chairs lined the four walls with a little mini stage the size of a bed in the middle. The “dancer” would strip and pose while the customers shined flashlights (provided by the theatre) at her. After her routine, the stripper would go from person to person offering herself for a lap-dance for a couple of bucks. You could stick your hand in her cunt for a couple of bucks, okay? That’s what it really boiled down to once you got past the wall-to-wall carpeting. And the line stretched down the hallway waiting to get in for Carol Connors show.

While the show was going on I talked to her manager/agent, Jack, who looked just like you’d expect a Hollywood porno star’s manager/agent to look; in other words like an undercover narc, with the shades and gold chains and shirt un-buttoned to show off chest-hair, etc. He and Carol were a team, and he talked enthusiastically about their up-coming deals and projects, visits to the Playboy mansion (they actually met with Hef!), etc. I couldn’t help wondering what he thought about his woman in the next room being mauled by 50 slobbering jack-offs with flashlights. What did they talk about at the end of the day when they were in their hotel room? It was a strange, brutal business, the porno business.  Everybody involved was either grabbing for money or grabbing for sex. So there were so many angles whizzing by, it was dizzying. Like a big, multi-dimensional jerk-off. And me, I was the most confused of all, for I had somehow added “art” and “love” into this potent mix. I had fallen in love with a 19-year old blonde Swedish stripper, so I was surely the biggest fool of all. There was another guy, a customer, who was always there at the Theatre, a nice Asian guy who was madly in love with this one stripper, Wendy.  He’d bring her hundreds of dollars worth of flowers and candy and expensive stuffed animals. He’d pay for a lap dance until his money ran out, and then watch forlornly as she left him, his beloved, to work the rest of the crowd of men. I had a line in my head that sort of made sense at the time: “Even at its most sordid, life is a profoundly spiritual affair.” And that line kind of saved me, for I never lost sight of where I was at, even as I was destined to spend the next 23 years in the gutter, or one small step above. Even in the cut-and-dried world of this haunted hall of neon zombies and sex and price-tags, there was love. And that was the most sickening and painful thing of all.

Later, I stood there in the hallway, interviewing Carol Connors, wearing a robe and not much else. I can still picture her baby face, so milk-fed wholesome, and her Hollywood false eyelashes (just the touch to make her seem like a glossy star). I don’t remember what she said. But I suppose I could look it up in my scrapbook; I still have it somewhere. That’s the weird thing about me: I’ve documented in one medium or other just about everything that’s happened to me over the last 25 years. Mostly I remember thinking: “I’m getting paid money to talk to one of the most beautiful, voluptuous women in the world. Me, the guy who never even had the courage to talk to the girl sitting in the desk next to me in high school.” And from that moment I was hooked on the whole media business. This whole crazy game.

I went back to my apartment and wrote up the interview in a style that was sort of a cheap, second-rate imitation of Hunter S. Thompson (“I was there to Cover The Story…”) who was one of my heroes, the big underground media hipster star. In a weird twist of life-imitating-art, Hunter Thompson Himself would come the O’Farrell Theatre 5 years later, and spend a year hanging around the club, ostensibly working on a big book about the club for Playboy, but mostly ending up too coked-out, and too whored-out, to produce anything.

Men and Women explained

I’ve long maintained the only real difference between men and women is that women always notice what kind of shoes we’re wearing.  Men never notice that stuff but women always notice our shoes.  If you don’t think so, just ask your girlfriend about some people you met at a party recently.  She’ll say something like:   “Oh yeah, you’re talking about that guy who was wearing those brown suede boots with the half inch heels.  And he was with that woman who was wearing the red pumps with the black fringe.”

Women can sum us up instantly just by looking at the shoes we’re wearing.  Its like some secret code the women have going.  Just by looking at our shoes they can tell how much money we have in our pocket, how large our penis is, and what we probably had for lunch.  Its uncanny.  They can instantly peg us.  Its no wonder women rule the world. Its no wonder women are always one step ahead of us.  Its like we’re walking around with our flies open, totally revealed.

Whereas men only notice the size of the women’s breasts.   Which immediately hypnotizes us, clouds our minds and our judgment, and turns us into lambs being led to slaughter.  While we’re busy watching sports, the women are busy studying us.  They’ve got us completely figured out.

Our only hope, men, is if we can crack the shoe code.  And learn to camoflauge our shoes.  Otherwise we’re completely doomed.

Sexually Fucked Up

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
Twisted Image

(Originally published August 16, 2007)

I’ve always been sexually fucked-up.  Is there a more apt phrase than that?  “Fucked up.”

I once tried to analyze my sexual problems. I quickly concluded I suffered from a combination of virtually every sexual dysfunction, block, and perversion known to man.  So I was fucked.

Any mistake you could make, I made them. The fool who fell in love with a whore? That would be me. The sap who tried to give his most tender, vulnerable heart to a cruel, mean, castrating bitch and then said “Ouch”? You’re talking to him. The sap who tried to “save” a mentally insane speed tweaker who was hell-bent on destroying herself? You’re talking to him.

The short story is: I suffered from extreme sexual obsession in combination with equally extreme sexual blocks and repressions. Let me describe it this way. One night I was hanging out with a bunch of street people atop these steps overlooking the plaza. One of the street people’s male dogs was desperate to get to a bitch in heat that was strutting her stuff down on the plaza. How that dog strained and surged against that leash. His constant whines of frustration and agony were relentless. That dog could not be pacified. Nothing could take his mind off the biological urge to score some doggy booty.

I could relate. What annoys me is: people regularly tell me I’m on a “self-punishment” trip, that I’m “doing it to myself.” Funny, I don’t remember constructing the invisible leash that held me back. I don’t remember creating the complex series of psychological actions and reactions that just seemed imbedded in my psyche from the word go.

There was one woman I was “in love” with for 13 years. A total bitch. To be fair, having somebody like me direct their obsessive vibrations towards them for 13 years is enough to bring out the bitchiness in anybody.

I’m not proud of this, but some nights, during the peak of my madness, I would ride my bike down to her house at 2 in the morning. I’d camp out in the vacant lot across from her bedroom window. Obsessively wondering if she was in there. And with whom. Sometimes I’d wait for an hour, until a car pulled up and she got out and went back into her house. Alone. “Whew!” Finally I could go home. Who can explain that? Well, there’s 6 billion human beings on the planet, and I guess if the drive wasn’t relentless, we wouldn’t all be here. Nature is always flinging its seeds around. And maybe we males are just helpless servants of the biological imperative.

Ahh, the things we do for love. Like walking in the rain and the snow when there’s nowhere to go, and gunning down a room full of people, and hanging ourselves from the nearest tree. Call me romantic.
I fell “in love” with 5-and-a-half women (I’m still not sure about one of them). Each one of them was absolutely beautiful. And each one seemed to take one more chunk out of my soul.

The last one was this beautiful, crazed little waif of a teenage runaway who hated virtually everything and everyone in this world. Including me. Alas, my love was not strong enough to overcome her desire to slam huge quantities of pure crystal meth into her nervous system until she was completely mentally and physically deranged.

Now, I’m 50 years old. And I look back at the whole grand passion play of my youth with feelings of …  well, it changes by the moment: feelings of regret, disgust, dismay at my foolishness, and this weary sense of it all having slipped away from me somehow…

The State of the Ace Backwords Address

.Ace Backwords, 53, former underground cartoonist who has been homeless for the past 3 years and is nearly blind, stands for a portrait on Wednesday March 17, 2010 in Berkeley, Calif. His friends are worried that he will soon die of exposure. Photo: Mike Kepka, The Chronicle

 Ace Backwords on death:

“I’m afraid of death. Even as I embrace it because I know that death is a return to the Godhead. This living life is more like death, the land of the living dead. Zombies. Sleep-walkers. I think when we die we actually become more alive. Death is probably like waking up from a really weird dream.”

Ace Backwords on sex:

“When I was younger I used to think about sex all the time. Now that I’m more mature I only think about it 90% of the time. So I’ve been able to develop some other interests and become a well-rounded human being. The thing that confuses me the most is when somebody is sexually attracted to me. I can’t help thinking: What’s wrong with you?

Ace Backwords on the streets:

“The streets are hard. They’re mostly made out of cement.”

Ace Backwords on the streets:

“To paraphrase David Letterman, the streets are just like high school except with rattier clothes and less teeth.”

Ace Backwords on God:

“God is everything. God is playing out all the parts. This life is a cosmic drama acted out on God’s own body.”

Ace Backwords on family:

“My whole family is nuts. Most people are, aren’t they? We’re all weirdos in our own special way.”

Ace Backwords on suffering:

“This life can really hurt. You can quote me on that, motherfucker.”

Ace Backwords on drugs:

“I’ve done most of them. Some of the time they work. Which is more than you can expect from most of the shit in this world. But after awhile they all turn on you. What goes up must come down. I always thought “ecstasy” was the greatest name for a product. Who wouldn’t want to score some of that. But then, there seems to be a market for heroin, too, and they call that “junk” and “scag” and “shit.” So people will buy anything, really.

Ace Backwords on drugs:

“I’ve always needed drugs. I always wanted them. I liked turning the channels on the television set in my mind.”

Ace Backwords on sex:

“Am I still thinking about sex?”

Ace Backwords on love:

“I’ve fallen in love 5-and-a-half times. There’s one I’m still not sure about.”

Ace Backwords on unrequited love:

“I’m the patron saint of unrequited love. All my love infatuations ended tragically. So I was obviously doing something wrong. And yet the weird thing is, to this day, I’m still really fond of all 5-and-a-half of them. Thats the sickest thing of all.”

Ace Backwords on art:

“Charles Bukowski and R. Crumb were the two great artists of my era. I was the third. But I was too humble to point it out.”

Ace Backwords on art:

“The art that lives on is the stuff that touches universal archetypes. Race, love, hate, sex, drugs, death, God. Some things never go out of season. They’ll still be smacking you in the face in the year 2247.”

Ace Backwords on cats:

“I have 4 feral cats that live in the hills near my campsight that I feed every morning. Cats are so much easier to relate to than people. All my cats ask of me is that I feed them and don’t bother them. So we’ve developed a relationship. I really like to watch them eat. And I’m not sure why. Maybe its because I can only eat 3 meals a day, but with the cats I get to squeeze in an extra meal vicariously.

Ace Backwords on sitting at a typer and blathering out verbiage:

“Sometimes I amuse myself with this chatter. Thats the best I can hope for.

Ace Backwords on himself:

“I can’t figure out who I am. The only thing I know for sure is that I’m perverse.”

Brushes with Greatness Part 2: The Secret Origin of “Ace Backwords”

Originally published 2002_11_27Carol Connors Autograph

The first famous (or semi-famous, I’ll let you decide where the cut-off point is for true celebrity) person I ever met was Carol Connors. Connors’ claim to fame was, she played the nurse in Deep Throat, the number-one-selling porn movie of all time at that point (I’ve heard its recently been eclipsed by The World’s Biggest Gang Bang starring Annibel Chong).

I was working for a sleazy porno tabloid from Los Angeles at the time. Impulse was the paper’s name, and it really was sleazy, even by porn’s standards. From some of the ads, you had to wonder if it was a front for some kind of  underground sex  ring or something. This was 1979, and there was an anything-goes feeling at the times, especially in decadent Los Angeles.

Anyways, I wrote a column for Impulse called; “Sin Francisco: Your Bay Area Porno Report” (how’s that for cheezy?) And I’d go to the local strip clubs and interview the latest porn stars or whatever. This was my first and only “success” at that point, age 22, writing a column and doing a comic strip for a sleazy porn tabloid from Los Angeles. I had some hazy dream in my head of being a professional underground artist. But the world mostly refused to cooperate with my dreams. Quite simply, I couldn’t deal with the world. I was a hyper-sensitive, art-fag kind of guy.  I had all these strange and tender feelings whizzing around in my head, and that’s what seemed real to me. The so-called Real World outside me seemed un-real. I had gotten a few comics published in the Berkeley Barb, the latest remnant of the ’60s underground. But aside from that, the world seemed completely indifferent, if not outright hostile, to my strange and tender feelings.  I sent out my work here and there. But the only encouragement I got was from this sleazy porn tabloid from Los Angeles. They actually printed a couple of my comics: stuff like Dagwood and Blondie having sex and then appearing on the Dick Cavett show and getting in a bitch-fight. “Phil Olsen” — the one-man editor/publisher of Impulse— sent me a postcard along with a $25 check: “Send more stuff. Let your imagination run wild.” And somehow, that postcard inflamed me. I still remember it clearly, 23 years later. For it was the first real encouragement I had gotten.

So I came up with the pen-name “Ace Backwords” — to save my family name from the disgrace of being associated with a sleazy tabloid from Los Angeles (they would do a good enough job disgracing themselves on their own later). Little did I realize that 23 years later I would literally have BECOME Ace Backwords, that almost everyone I knew would know me and call me by that name, that I would cash my checks made out to that name, and that my “real” name would basically cease to exist as an entity in this world.

So anyway, I came up with this column, “Sin Francisco,” and I would hack it out in sort of the style of a second-rate Hunter S. Thompson imitator. He was one of my heroes. And, like Thompson, I was beginning to see how working in the media, even on the minor league level of this sleazy porn tabloid, could be a ticket to ride. For one thing, I got into all the porn clubs for free. And on the months when “Phil Olsen” couldn’t afford to pay me in cash, he’d pay me with a big box of sex toys; huge dildos with accordion-like pieces in the middle that were battery operated and went up-and-down when turned on the vibrator mode (made a great coffee-table conversation piece).

I had done a comic strip take-off on the Mitchell Brothers, called “The Bitchell Brothers” (pretty clever, huh?) which they had liked, so they gave me a free press pass to their club, The O’Farrell Theatre, to snoop around and write about whatever I wanted.

The Mitchell Brothers were among the first pornographers to really cultivate the press.  They’d set up the reporters with free passes, hook ’em up with naked chicks, and take out expensive ads in the local papers. I think their underlying assumption re: the press was along the lines of Lyndon Johnson’s classic line: “Better to have them inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.” And they were rewarded for their efforts with over a decade of generally favorable, if not fawning, press from the Bay Area’s finest.

Every two weeks, when the new issue of Impulse hit the newspaper racks, I’d grab 20 copies and carefully stack them in my closet. Then I’d cut out my column and comics and paste them into a big scrapbook. Then I’d intricately color them in and decorate the margins with magic markers. I’d moon over that scrapbook, like I was a real writer and my work was being compiled in this glorious collection. The whole porn business was kind of like that. It was sort of a minor league version of the mainstream media, a Bizarro parallel media universe. And we had our own stars and celebrities and fan-clubs and movie premieres and even our own version of the Academy Awards. And we were just like real stars, except that the whole thing had an aura of loser-dom and shame.

And this, too. It was 1979, post-’60s Sexual Revolution, pre-’80s AIDS epidemic. So everybody was having sex with everybody in every possible combination. Hell, even I was getting laid back then. And, in some circles, the Mitchell Brothers were seen as the vanguard, the cutting-edge of the new Sexual Revolution. They were heroes almost. Not just pornographers, but promoters of sexual freedom and liberation. And there was considered something wrong with you if you weren’t jumping into the sack all the time. How repressed and un-liberated.

At the time, I considered Sex to be the holy grail that would lead me to Happiness, if not downright Enlightenment. So the Mitchell Brothers, to my 22-year-old eyes, seemed to be the Kings of the Party; the ones with virtually unlimited access to the most beautiful young sex-pots in the world. They were the Kings, and the O’Farrell Theatre was their Harem. So I took it as a given that they must be having the greatest time in the world, an assumption I clung to right up to the moment when Jim Mitchell took out a handgun and blew the brains out of his brother Artie.

Anyway, that night Carol Connors was the featured attraction. She got up on stage of the main theatre within the theatre, New York Live it was called. She was wearing a bright white nurses uniform and white nurses cap, and her white mini-skirt barely covering her fat wobbling ass. She looked like some kind of Viking Goddess Amazon. An inflatable love doll robot. She was sort of a cross between a brassy Mae West and wholesome blonde Daisy Mae sex appeal. With a strong jaw and big bones, big curves, tiny waist. She put on a very athletic, energetic show, bounding across the stage, unbuttoning her nurse’s uniform and stripping naked.

After the strip show it was announced over the P.A. that Connors would be appearing in 15 minutes in the Kopenhagen Lounge (how’s that for class?). There were like 4 different theatres within the O’Farrell Theatre, including a big video store. It was truly a porno arcade, one of the first of its kind. All done up first class; red wall-to-wall carpeting, “the Carnegie Hall of smut.” All that was missing was the chandeliers. The Kopenhagen Lounge was an intimate little room; about 50 plush chairs lined the four walls with a little mini stage the size of a bed in the middle. The “dancer” would strip and pose while the customers shined flashlights (provided by the theatre) at her. After her routine, the stripper would go from person to person offering herself for a lap-dance for a couple of bucks. You could stick your hand in her cunt for a couple of bucks, okay? That’s what it really boiled down to once you got past the wall-to-wall carpeting. And the line stretched down the hallway waiting to get in for Carol Connors show.

While the show was going on I talked to her manager/agent, Jack, who looked just like you’d expect a Hollywood porno star’s manager/agent to look; in other words like an undercover narc, with the shades and gold chains and shirt un-buttoned to show off chest-hair, etc. He and Carol were a team, and he talked enthusiastically about their up-coming deals and projects, visits to the Playboy mansion (they actually met with Hef!), etc. I couldn’t help wondering what he thought about his woman in the next room being mauled by 50 slobbering jack-offs with flashlights. What did they talk about at the end of the day when they were in their hotel room? It was a strange, brutal business, the porno business.  Everybody involved was either grabbing for money or grabbing for sex. So there were so many angles whizzing by, it was dizzying. Like a big, multi-dimensional jerk-off. And me, I was the most confused of all, for I had somehow added “art” and “love” into this potent mix. I had fallen in love with a 19-year old blonde Swedish stripper, so I was surely the biggest fool of all. There was another guy, a customer, who was always there at the Theatre, a nice Asian guy who was madly in love with this one stripper, Wendy.  He’d bring her hundreds of dollars worth of flowers and candy and expensive stuffed animals. He’d pay for a lap dance until his money ran out, and then watch forlornly as she left him, his beloved, to work the rest of the crowd of men. I had a line in my head that sort of made sense at the time: “Even at its most sordid, life is a profoundly spiritual affair.” And that line kind of saved me, for I never lost sight of where I was at, even as I was destined to spend the next 23 years in the gutter, or one small step above. Even in the cut-and-dried world of this haunted hall of neon zombies and sex and price-tags, there was love. And that was the most sickening and painful thing of all.

Later, I stood there in the hallway, interviewing Carol Connors, wearing a robe and not much else. I can still picture her baby face, so milk-fed wholesome, and her Hollywood false eyelashes (just the touch to make her seem like a glossy star). I don’t remember what she said. But I suppose I could look it up in my scrapbook; I still have it somewhere. That’s the weird thing about me: I’ve documented in one medium or other just about everything that’s happened to me over the last 25 years. Mostly I remember thinking: “I’m getting paid money to talk to one of the most beautiful, voluptuous women in the world. Me, the guy who never even had the courage to talk to the girl sitting in the desk next to me in high school.” And from that moment I was hooked on the whole media business. This whole crazy game.

I went back to my apartment and wrote up the interview in a style that was sort of a cheap, second-rate imitation of Hunter S. Thompson (“I was there to Cover The Story…”) who was one of my heroes, the big underground media hipster star. In a weird twist of life-imitating-art, Hunter Thompson Himself would come the O’Farrell Theatre 5 years later, and spend a year hanging around the club, ostensibly working on a big book about the club for Playboy, but mostly ending up too coked-out, and too whored-out, to produce anything.

SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX

Originally published 2002_11_19

I don’t understand sex. For example, explain this to me:

If I pay a woman to have sex with me, that’s called prostitution and it’s against the law.

But if I pay a woman to have sex with me, and I film it, then that’s called pornography, and that’s legal.

Can anybody possibly explain this to me? In legal terms, or common sense terms, or any other terms you can come up with? Quite frankly, almost nothing about sex makes sense.

Say you’re looking at a chick walking by, and you say to another guy with awe: “Wouldja’ look at the ASS on that one!” And it’s meant as the ultimate compliment.

But if you say: “What an ASSHOLE!” That’s meant as the ultimate put-down.

Or take the word “fuck.” If you’re “fucking” someone, that word can be synonymous with “making love” — one of the highest things human beings can do with each other.

On the other hand, if you say “I’m going to FUCK YOU OVER!” that’s one of the lowest things you can do to another person.

Does any word in the English language have a wider spectrum of possible, and often-contradictory, meanings than the word “fuck”? And I think it reflects the ambivalent and contradictory and confused feelings we have about sex in general. You know what they say: “There’s a fine line between lust and disgust.” And sex seems to embody all of it. And everything in between.

I remember reading this book by this madam who spent her life running a high-class whorehouse. Her life-long immersion in the subject of all things sex gave her a somewhat jaundiced view of sex. She had an appreciation (and sympathy) for the absurdity of sex — this strange and overpowering compulsion that so easily makes fools of the best of us.  As well as an understanding of the secret, and so-often hypocritical, and contradictory impulses that lurked inside the heart of man, the sexual beast.

There was one polite, mild-mannered, normal-looking guy who visited the whorehouse once a month, always leaving a big tip afterwards. He was known by the girls as the “Oatmeal Cookie Man.” He always showed up with a little bag of oatmeal cookies. He would pay one of the girls to take a dump on the cookies while he masturbated, and then (here’s the truly weird part to me) he would EAT the cookies, and then (it gets even weirder), he would immediately ejaculate on swallowing the cookies.

Who can explain the mysterious peculiarities that govern our sexual wiring? If not for a crossed circuit here and there, there goes you and I.

I read another book about Ted Bundy, the serial killer. He was a handsome, successful man in his 20s, had a beautiful girlfriend, a normal sex life, and a promising career. Then one night as he was walking down a dark street, he had this overpowering desire, coming from some mysterious place deep within himself, to pick up a 2-by-4 and club this woman to death and have sex with the corpse. For whatever reason, that was the “trigger” within him that got him off. He was shocked and horrified by these over-powering urges, knowing that if he didn’t resist them, his life was doomed. And, alas, it was. As anyone who has had to do battle with his own inner triggers can attest, this is a formidable force to struggle against. All of society may condemn you for your particular triggers (and often rightly so), and yet, the trigger remains, demanding expression.

I’ve always had a strange identification with homosexuals in this regard. Not so much having to do with their particular sexual predilection, but due to the battle that most of them waged against their own sexual triggers. (Which ultimately, I guess, is the battle to accept ourselves as we are, and society be damned). Most of them, of course, went through a period where they fervently wished they were heterosexual (for obvious reasons, mostly having to do with society’s disapproval and the way it forced them off the conventional, normal path). Many sought ways to “cure” themselves of their homosexuality; to rearrange their sexual wiring, to resist and modify the trigger that had inexplicably been placed within them. I think most of us fight variations of this sexual battle on some levels. For sex is such an over-powering force; we long to indulge in it, even as we’re frightened at how easily it can sweep us towards the precipice of disaster.

I remember myself, age 26, pulling myself out of bed at 3 in the morning, for no reason, for EVERY reason, and peddling 20 blocks down the road, to Mary’s house, to hide in the vacant lot across the street, to stare in her dark bedroom window, to spy into her window, to try and see if Mary was in there, to see what she was doing in there, and who she might be doing it with. To sit there for hours in the cold and dark night. Compelled to do it. Why? My sexual trigger. You know what they say: “When you got them by the balls, their minds will follow.” I’m not excusing myself or justifying myself, neither am I condemning myself. I may be extremely self-righteous and judgmental about everything else, but sex is the one thing I tend to give people slack towards. Because it has made such a fool of me. Finally, a car would pull up to Mary’s house and Mary would get out of the car, alone — “WHEW!” — and walk into her home. Only then — my compulsive sexual jealousy temporarily alleviated — could I get on my bike and ride back home to bed.

Sometimes I’ll see a photo on the front page of the paper of a man being hauled off to prison in chains for having committed some terrible sex crime. I’ll stare at his face and think: “Could it have POSSIBLY been worth it? Could that fleeting sensation of pleasure have possibly been worth the price you are now going to pay?” And wondering if he himself was thinking the exact same thing at that moment.

But it’s beyond reason. Beyond sense. Fucking sex. I knew another guy back in those old punk rock days, who also had a crush (and they don’t call it that for nothing) on Mary. His punk rock name was Neil Anderthol and he played saxophone in a jazz-damage band called the Geeks (they could clear out an entire club in 5 minutes); later he was to form the semi-famous punk-polka band Polkacide. Anyway, he once wrote a love song that I suspect was inspired by Mary. It was called “Spawning.” It was about our compulsion to smash our heads against the rocks in our drive to get upstream and procreate. And maybe sex doesn’t make any more sense to the fucking salmon either.

Portrait of the Artist as an Old Bum

I’ve been homeless now for about 2 and a half years. I’ve been homeless off and on for a good portion of my life. I once tried to add up how much time I’ve spent sleeping outdoors over the years and it came out to about 8 or 9 years, starting at age 19. I wrote about it in my previous book, SURVIVING ON THE STREETS. Which is a goddam classic. Just like my latest book, ACID HEROES. I actually wrote, edited and self-published ACID HEROES (along with the great Pat Hartman) while living out of a sleeping bag in the rainy season. It just about killed me. Try publishing a book out of sleeping bag sometime. But the thing has sold nearly 20 copies already. So I guess it was worth it. I’m still baffled as to why my stuff doesn’t sell better. One theory is that I’m a self-deluded egomaniac with an inflated opinion of my talents (in other words, a typical artist). But that can’t possibly be it. Another theory is that I’m 20 years ahead of my times. Or 20 years behind the times. Or maybe I’m a genius in some alternate dimension of reality. Alas, you can’t cash the checks in this reality.

My life is so weird. Every morning I wake up and 4 feral cats are sitting there staring at me, waiting to be fed. A mother and her 3 kittens. The mother, Blondie, I’ve been feeding for almost 2 years. She’s strictly feral and always keeps a safe distance from me. But the kittens have known me since they was born. So they eat right out of my hands, and sleep nestled at the foot of my sleepingbag. I actually saw them being procreated. About 7 months ago Blondie, the shameless hussy, went wild in an orgy of cat passion. Those cats fucked for days. Non-stop. Some mornings Blondie would be dragging herself down the hill towards that cat food dish with a tom on her back pumping away the whole time. Finally she’d get down to the food dish and brush the tom off her with disdain. Another time, the tom wouldn’t let her be so she climbed way up this tree to get away from him. He climbed up right after her. Followed her all the way out to the end of this tree branch about 30 feet off the ground. Very precariously poised. No way out except down. Then a second female, also in heat, followed the two of them out to the end of the branch. So the 3 of them are sitting up there like a log-jam of backed up traffic. It makes you realize how strong the sex drive is. Even stronger than the survival drive. Willing to risk their lives for a piece of tail. Literally. Somehow, Blondie managed to manuever herself around the tom and escaped down the tree. With the other two cats in hot pursuit. Nowadays, when I see the kittens frolicking around by that tree, I wonder: Do they have any idea that that’s where they came from?

It’s pretty savage how they fuck, too. The tom sinks his teeth right into the back of the females neck. To give him extra pumping leverage, I guess. And when the female gets enough of it, she’s not adverse to slashing the male in the face with her claws. I was embarrassed to watch them. I mean, can’t they go do their business in private instead of right in front of me and my sleeping bag. But I guess I’m kind of a feral human myself. Thats part of my identification with those feral cats, I guess. I live like a wild animal myself, sleeping in the bushes under the stars and the moon and the rain. And we both do the same thing whenever we hear a strange sound in the woods. We both freeze and stare off in the distance in the direction of the sound. And we don’t move until we’ve been able to categorize the sound as either: a.) threatening, or b.) non-threatening. You’re in total survival mode in the deep dark woods. But once the cats realize it’s no threat, they immediately go back to goofing off. They turn it on and off in a second, all day long. Basically, them feral cats act like they’re stoned most of the time. frolicking and romping and investigating and generally just playing. It’s like some weird lesson of life to me, watching them feral cats. And I’ll look at them sometimes as they’re staring at me inscrutably (like cats do). And I’ll think. “They have eyes, and noses, and mouths, and ears, and they eat food and shit it out their kitty asses and fuck … ..” and its like, whatever Force is manifesting them is pretty similar to whatever Force is manifesting me. Sometimes I imagine that its God Himself who’s playing at being them cats. This divine life-force thats eternally dancing through the woods. They’re cosmic cats all right.

When the kittens were real little and still being nursed by Blondie in her secret nest, she would sometimes take the hot dogs that I tossed in her food dish and carry it in her teeth up to her kittens. Then, a couple weeks later, she brought the kittens down to the food dish for the first time. It was so cute to see her marching down the hill with the 3 kittens trooping behind her in a line. Here comes the troops. Now the kittens are about 4 months old and getting bigger every day. The little buggers eat like horses. It’s unbelievable how they pack it away. They’re eating me out of house and home. Or should I say houseless and homeless? Well, thats enough goddam cat talk for one day. I’m already enough of an art fag as it is. Those cats really got me.