Acid Heroes

January 11, 2018

My 19th Nervous Breakdown

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 10:50 pm
Tags: , , ,



I had a nervous breakdown this morning. It’s no big deal. I’m an “overly emotional” person. And I have them all the time. It’s a way of blowing off steam and releasing the backlog of repressed emotions.

I had been sick as a dog with the flu for the last 2 weeks. And then dealing with the crappy weather, the cold and rain. Peaking yesterday when it rained non-stop all day and we got 2 inches of rain in a 24 hour period. You can’t afford to deal with your emotions when you’re dealing with that shit. You can’t afford to drain what little energy you have by indulging in depression, anger or sadness. So you just go numb. And slog forward. Repress the misery you’re feeling. And soldier on.

Then last night I had this long involved dream. I was in a recording studio trying to record music for a big festival on Telegraph Avenue. All my attempts sucked. And I felt like the loser of all time. Until finally I hit on some magic. Then I’m standing on top of this hill over looking Telegraph. And I can see Duncan and all my friends set up at our vending table. Just like in the Good Old Days. And it’s like a joyous happy ending.

Then I wake up. Pack up my campsite. And I’m walking down Telegraph early in the morning. For real. None of my friends are there. They’re all dead or gone. It’s just scattered homeless people waking up in doorways. A pretty barren scene. Compared to how Telegraph used to be.

So I start crying as I’m walking down Telegraph. Which is embarrassing. But like I said I’m having an unexpected nervous breakdown. And I’m using all my will power to control myself. Because I could easily start screaming and wailing and loud sobbing and have a complete breakdown if I don’t control myself. Which would be embarrassing. Publicly losing my shit. Plus they might come after you with butterfly nets and lock you up if you act too weird in public. So I’m keeping my head down as I walk down Telegraph. So nobody can see my contorted facial expression. And the tears running down my face.

And as I’m walking down Telegraph I’m remembering a million triumphs and tragedies I had experienced on Telegraph over the years. All the memories. But now it’s all gone. This barren harvest I am reaping as I walked down Telegraph on this early morning after the storm.

I walked down to the car wash by Shattuck and bought a coffee and jelly donut. And felt strangely better from having experienced something in the morning. Even if I wasn’t sure quite what I had experienced.




November 12, 2017





Like I said, a lot of the buildings in Berkeley have memories for me. Like the Intermezzo Cafe on Telegraph. Whenever I pass by it I’ll often flashback to a sunny afternoon in the summer of 1982. And, as always, I’ll count the years back in my mind and think: “Could it have really been 35 years ago? How did it all go by so quickly?”

I had left Berkeley for a year. But I had moved back because I wanted to get back with Mary who I was madly in love with. The problem was, she had hooked up with this 17 year old high school punk kid with a mohawk who was her new boyfriend. So, in an effort to win back Mary, or at least shoe-horn my way back into her life, I decided to publish a punk rock underground newspaper. Mary loved music, and she loved the music press (she always had a big stack of back issues of CREEM in her bedroom). So I knew she wouldn’t be able to resist (the things we do for love, huh?).

Anyways, one sunny afternoon in 1982 I happened to be walking by the Innermezzo Cafe. I was crashing in a little room at the Berkeley Inn across the street at the time. Mary happened to be drinking bottled beer at the window seat at the Intermezzo and when she saw me walking by she came running out to the sidewalk to greet me.

“PETER!!” she said (she was one of the few people who still knew me by real name before I got gobbled up by the Ace Backwords thing).

“MARY!” I said.

“Hey, I’m drinking beer with my friend Neil. Come inside and join us for a beer.”

Mary’s hair was short and jet black and spiked in the punk rock style. And she was wearing a black leather jacket with studs on it. And she was on crutches and she had a big cast on her leg that was covered with punk rock graffiti.

“What happened to your leg?” I said.

“I broke it slam dancing in the mosh pit at a punk show at the Elite Club,” she said.

I bought a beer and sat down alongside Mary. “Peter, this is my friend Neil Anderthol. He plays in this band called the Geeks,” said Mary. (everybody had funny punk rock names back then)


I shook hands with Neil Anderthol. He looked sort of like a punk rock version of the Squiggy character from the “Laverne & Shirley” sit-com. He had the greased back hair of a ’50s greaser. And a black leather jacket. With the plastic arm off a baby doll sticking out of the back of his jacket. I guess as a macabre joke. We both looked at each other warily. I could instantly tell that Neil had the hots for Mary. He was doing this big, exaggerated performance trying to impress Mary with his witty and humorous quips. I could always spot that kind of fake act. Because I was doing the same thing. Going out of my way to try and impress Mary.

Mary was an incredibly sexy young woman. She oozed sex appeal from every pore. And she effortlessly attracted a band of suitors everywhere she went. They would be circling around her like a pack of wolves. And Mary loved nothing more than to pit them against each other, competing for her affection. Mary was into blood sport. You gotta take your kicks where you find them.

“I interviewed Lee Ving of Fear backstage at the Elite Club last weekend,” I said. Name-dropping to impress Mary

“Oh really. That is so cool!” said Mary, impressed. (Neil slumped noticeably back in his seat — score one for ole Ace)

“Yeah it’s gonna be the big feature for TWISTED IMAGE #1,” I said. “Hey Mary would you like to be the record review editor?”

“Boy would I!!” she said.

I finished my beer, shook hands with Neil and Mary. And made my exit. And the whole thing was like the opening scene in what would be a really exciting movie.

Neil Anderthol went on to write a love song about Mary called “Spawning” where he likened falling in love with smashing your head against rocks in the hopes of getting laid. Mary would have that affect on more than a few men over the years.



September 19, 2017

25-cent books


Needless to say, the only constant is change.

This photo reminded me of when I used to run my 25 cent used book vending table on Telegraph Avenue. I had a donation cup on my table, to spare me the wear-and-tear of having to deal face-to-face with all my customers (I’m on the shy side). And the cup would constantly get filled up with coins.

I was usually busy working away at my work station about 10 yards away from the table, repairing the damaged books.  But I always kept a sharp eye out for that donation cup (in case anybody got any bright ideas about walking off with it). And every 15 minutes or so I’d get up and take all the dough out of the cup.  It was always filled with bills and lots of change. So that was fun. It was like magic. All this money, constantly materializing our of nowhere. I called it “selling books by the pound.”

Anyways, by the end up of the day I’d usually end up with about 100 dollars in change. So week after week, month after month, all that change would really start to pile up.  I’d literally end up with garbage bags full of coins.

So once a month I’d have to separate all the quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies. And put them in money rolls so I could exchange them at the bank for bills.

I stopped doing my 25 cent used book vending table in 2009. But 8 years later I still have a big box full of quarters, 500 dollars worth of quarters, stashed in my storage locker.  It’s like a load of bricks.   I just never got around to rolling them up and taking them to the bank.  But one thing that annoys me when I think about that.  That 500 bucks is probably worth considerably less now, 8 years later, than what it was worth in 2009.  Because of inflation.  Which hardly seems fair.  I worked hard for that money.  So why should it be worth less now just because I’m thrifty and saved it?

Ha ha. I really am kind of nutty.


August 31, 2017

How I met the famous poet Julia Vinograd


Oddly, the first time I met Julia Vinograd I scared her.

It was 1978 and she lived in a little hotel room on the fourth floor of the Berkeley Inn. My friend Duncan lived down the hall, and often published her poems in his zine TELE TIMES. He also published my underground comix in TELE TIMES.

So one afternoon, after visiting with Duncan, I was getting into the elevator. And Julia got in at the same time.

So I introduced myself. I figured we were both hip underground artists getting published in Duncan’s hip underground zine TELE TIMES. I happened, at the time, to be holding in my hands one of my hip underground comix. I had brought the original art up there to show Duncan. It was some weird, bizarre underground sex cartoon that I had just hacked out. But I figured Julia was a fellow hip bohemian artist. So I showed it to her as we rode on the elevator together.

She took one look at the cartoon. And she instantly had a horrified look on her face. She moved to the farthest end of the elevator. And wouldn’t look at me or talk to me for the rest of the elevator ride.

And when we finally got to the first floor, she bolted out of that elevator and headed for the front door as fast as she could, never once looking back.

Ha ha. What can I say? I was 22 and not particularly bright and just figuring out how to present my artwork to a breathless public.




Julia Vinograd

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 7:15 pm
Tags: , , ,



For at least 40 years the poet Julia Vinograd — “the poet laureate of Telegraph Avenue” — was synonymous with Telegraph Avenue.  She was a constant daily presence on the Ave. But when I just now spotted her today on the corner of Durant & Tele, it occurred to me that I hadn’t seen her up here in a long time.

I couldn’t help wondering what it had all meant to her. All the years on Telegraph. And what, if anything, it had added up to.

Julia’s picture is on at least four different murals on Telegraph.  So ubiquitous was her presence on the scene.

Julia Vinograd  put out a new book of poetry just about every year for nearly 50 years. And my pal Duncan collected nearly all of them. And when he died I inherited the collection. Well over 40 of them.

But it’s not something I’d read for pleasure. They’re a little too light and cutesy for my tastes (though there are a handful of her poems that I think are really great). I like my art a little grittier. And there was virtually no development over the years. It was the same thing every year, with a slightly different-looking cover. Me and Duncan used to joke that she could probably re-publish the same collection of poems every year with a new cover and almost nobody would notice.

But that really wasn’t the point. The literary merits of her poetry. Julia Vinograd was a Berkeley Telegraph icon. Like the Golden Gate Bridge and the cable cars were San Francisco icons. And people bought her books more as tourist mementos — like a “GREETINGS FROM BERKELEY” postcard — than as a work of literature.


Julia Vinograd in the Top Dog mural. If you look closely you can see her famous “WEIRD BUT PROUD” button.

Her personality was an odd dichotomy. The public Julia Vinograd — as presented in her poems — was usually light-hearted, playful, care-free, zany, amused. While in person she usually came across as more than a bit standoff-ish, self-absorbed, curmudgeonly and even grouchy (“Julia Stalingrad” as Aaron Cometbus dubbed her, ha ha).

I remember one time she was talking to Duncan about something at our vending table, sort of grousing about it. When a reporter showed up who wanted to interview me and Duncan for a story he was doing on Telegraph. Instantly Julia’s whole demeanor changed as she talked to the reporter. And she transformed herself into the light-hearted, whimsical Julia Vinograd as advertised. Launched into the story she must have told a thousand times over the years about how the National Guard and the police all had their weapons drawn at some tense demonstration in the 1960s. And she was inspired to blow bubbles — which would become her trademark over the years — to lighten up the situation and add a touch of magic to the scene, and how even the cops — the Blue Meanies — were won over and started blowing bubbles and playing around with her bubble blower.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing and outdoor


Maybe I’m being a little too harsh in my assessment. But like I said, I like my writing a little grittier. But the fact is, she did add a touch of magic to the scene. And it would have been a much lesser scene without her. And when I was publishing the Telegraph Street Calendar, the three people I made sure their photos were in all 15 issues were B.N. Duncan, Hate Man, and Julia Vinograd. Because they were the three great icons of the Telegraph scene.


August 1, 2017


Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 7:53 pm
Tags: , , ,



1998 was an interesting year for me. I was at the peak of my powers.

I had spent the previous two years doing intense Kundalini Yoga meditation on a daily basis. So my mind was in a very high space. Clean and clear and powerful. Plus I had gone several years with no drugs or alcohol. So I was sharp as a tack.

And one of the odd bi-products of doing Kundalini Yoga. You pick up these weird spiritual powers. I suppose you could call them “occult powers.” Along the lines of the concept of: “Whatever you think will manifest.” (This concept would later lead to my spiritual downfall, but that’s another story)

Anyways, one hot summer night in 1998 I was hanging out on the corner of Telegraph & Bancroft with my bicycle, talking with a friend of mine, Jaguar. It had been nearly 100 degrees all day long, just sweltering heat, but it was 8 o’clock now and it was finally cooling off a little. So me and Jaguar were chilling.

When a car full of high school kids pulled up to the corner. Evidently they had been out joy-riding. Because one of the kids had this big plastic machine gun water pistol. And he suddenly stuck it out the window, pointed at me, and fired. And the blast of water was just about as powerful as a blast from a fireman’s hose. It almost knocked me and my bicycle over. And I was instantly soaked with water.

“HAW!! HAW!!” all the high school kids laughed.

And then they blasted their car engine and peeled rubber making a sharp left turn down Bancroft Avenue. Laughing all the way.

“I’m gonna get those fuckers?” I said.

“You’ll never catch them,” said Jaguar. “It’s impossible.”

And it looked hopeless. That stretch of Bancroft was 3 long blocks without a stop sign. And all downhill. And they were in a car and I was on a bicycle. And they had a head-start.

But I jumped on my bike and tore off after them anyways.

Then out of nowhere a cop car suddenly manifested. And he tore after them too, cop car lights flashing.

The cop car caught up to them a couple 100 yards down the road and pulled them over to the side of the road.

I pulled up shortly after on my bicycle and I was still so pissed I rushed at their car to confront them.

“BACK OFF!!” shouted the cop.

“Those fuckers blasted me with their water pistol,” I said.

“We’ll handle this,” said the cop.

Which they did. The kids ended up getting their car towed away by the cops. Which I’m sure cost them a pretty penny. And i got the satisfaction of staring them down with my “That’s what happens when you fuck with Ace Backwords” look. And they sure weren’t laughing and going HAW HAW at that point.


But that’s what it was like for me back in 1998. I always won. I always prevailed. Back then. It was like I had magic on my side.

It sure isnt like that NOW. Ha ha. *sigh*



July 31, 2017

Walkin’ along, singin’ a song

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 10:19 pm
Tags: , , ,

Every now and then I’ll be walking down the street when, for no apparent reason, I’ll suddenly get this feeling: “Man, it’s great to be alive!!”  . . . . . . But not very often.



July 8, 2017

The Telegraph Street Music CD magazine

If you want to see the 56-page magazine that went along with the Telegraph Street Music CD, a friend of mine downloaded it.  So here it ’tis.



June 27, 2017

Duncan Logic



My pal Duncan did just about everything in his own weird and unique way. I used to call it “Duncan Logic.”

For example, one time Duncan was in this xerox shop, xeroxing off the pages of one of his zines. And whenever he got a stack of pages copied, he’d pick them up off the xerox machine and carry them across the room to his box. After watching Duncan doing this 3 or 4 times, walking back and forth from the xerox machine to his box, I said; “Duncan, wouldn’t it make more sense to bring the box over HERE to the xerox machine so you wouldn’t have to keep walking back and forth?” “Oh. Yeah,” said Duncan. “You might have a point there.” Duncan Logic.

Another time, Duncan was walking around wearing this old shirt that was really raggedy. So I got him a nice new shirt. “Oh, I couldn’t wear that shirt,” said Duncan. “Why not?” I said. “Because it doesn’t have breast pockets. I have an elaborate system where I keep all my personal items in my different pockets. My four pants pockets, my two jacket pockets, and the two breast pockets of my shirt. The shirt you gave me doesn’t have breast pockets, so it would throw my whole system off.” Duncan Logic. He ended up wearing the rags for the rest of the month until somebody gave him a shirt with two breast pockets.

Duncan’s hotel room at the Berkeley Inn was practically like living in a storage locker. Boxes and boxes were stacked up everywhere, from the floor to the ceiling. With this narrow path leading from the door to his bed. Which was also half-covered with boxes. One day Duncan lost one of the boxes that had copies of his TELE TIMES zine in it. Those copies were very precious to Duncan. So he was pretty upset about it. “Did you look in all the boxes in your room?” I asked. “Yes,” he said. “I looked in every box, except for that one box down there in the bottom of that pile.” “Well, why don’t you look in THAT box?” I said. “Because that’s my last hope,” Duncan said. “And if they’re not in that box then I know they’re really gone for good. So I’m afraid to look in it. Because I’ll be so heart-broken if they’re not in there. So I’m waiting until I’m in a real strong and stable mood before I do it.” Finally, two weeks later, Duncan mustered the courage to look in that box. And the copies of TELE TIMES, thankfully, were indeed in there.


Duncan used to borrow money from 30 or 40 people every month, through the course of the month. Sometimes he’d get just a quarter. Other times in might be $20 or $30 bucks. Everyone who knew Duncan was well familiar with his endlessly repeated mantra: “Ahh. You couldn’t loan me a couple bucks until the first, could you?” Then on the first of the month, when Duncan got his check, he’d go to the bank with 30 or 40 envelopes and fill them with the money he owed each person. Then he would track them all down and pay them all back. The problem was, by the time he paid everyone back he would have used up all of his check and be broke again. So he’d have to borrow from 30 or 40 people over the course of the next month, to get by. So usually Duncan started out every month already broke and having to borrow. It was like a Myth of Sisyphus deal, where every month Duncan would start out at the bottom of the mountain all over again. I said to Duncan: “You start out every month with the same amount of money whether you borrow or not. So you’re not getting ahead by all this borrowing. And you waste an enormous amount of time and energy every month looking for people to borrow from, and then searching for them to pay them back. Wouldn’t it make more sense to just budget your own money?” Duncan said: “Well, uh, By finding all these people who are willing to loan me money I’m also finding supporters of Duncan. People who are willing to help me in other ways too.” So Duncan had developed this network of supporters. And they would often give him clothes and food and other thing as well as money. So he had his own personal collection of patrons of the artist. So there was a method to his madness. Sometimes.


One other thing Duncan was famous for. He carried this big cardboard box around with him everywhere he went, curled under his arms and pressed against his chest.. People sometimes wondered what was in the box. He had all of his vending stuff in there, and his art supplies, and his food, and whatever books and comic books he was reading at the time. And God knows what else. The thing weighed a ton. Often Duncan would put crap in his box and forget it was even in there and carry it around for months (or years) before he realized he didn’t need it in his box. Sometimes I would say to him: “Wouldn’t it be more practical to carry your stuff around in a backpack like everybody else?” Duncan said: “Oh. No. I don’t want to learn how to use a backpack.” As far as I know, you didn’t have to read an instructional to learn how to use a backpack. But that was Duncan.

Finally, in Duncan’s last years, when he was getting weaker physically, he did finally switch over to a backpack. And he carried the backpack everywhere he went, curled under his arms and pressed against his chest.

Duncan Logic.








June 25, 2017

Food is love



Off to the races.

It’s a battle to keep coming up with all the food for my feral cats every day. But I really enjoy it and get a lot of pleasure out of it. So I guess I’d call it more of a game than a battle. And in the 10 years that I’ve been feeding the little rugrats, there’s only been 2 or 3 days when I didn’t have enough food for them. On those days they looked at me like: “What the fuck, dude??” So I had to patiently explain to them that, no matter how many times they meowed at me, I still wasn’t going to be able to materialize any cat food out of thin air. But almost every other day I stuff them full of food.

Today I fed 5 big cats for $1. That’s the ideal. I like to keep the cat food budget at under $2 a day, or about $50 bucks a month. The feeding session started last night. Moo Cat was waiting for me at the foot of the trail by the road. And she really scored this time. I had a leftover dish of pasta from this Italian restaurant with big chunks of chicken slathered in this rich, gooey cheese sauce. As I was getting the food out, Moo Cat kept rubbing against my legs and purring loudly. And when I put the food down on the ground, Moo Cat was so excited she jumped right into the dish. Ha ha. I had to sit there along side her while she was eating to keep the raccoons from bullying her off the food. I work hard enough to get the food. I’m gonna make sure the damn cats get it!

In the morning the regular crew — Scaredy Cat, Mini Scaredy, and Mini Owl — were waiting at my campsite for their breakfast. They usually start meowing at me to wake up and feed them before it’s even light (and to hear them crying you’d think they were starving to death!). As much as I spoil my cats, this is the one area where I draw the line. You drink as much beer as me every night, you’re gonna wake up when you damn well feel like it. So I’ll pull my blankets over my head to drown out their anguished pleas and go back to sleep. But they’ll keep pestering me — their favorite trick is to sit right on top of my head — until I finally drag my carcass into an upright position.

Scaredy Cat always jumps right on top of my backpack where I keep the food. And I have to patiently explain to her that I can’t get the food out until she gets her fat ass off my backpack. First course today was a ground-scored chicken calazone. They went nuts for that (I think my cats have a little Italian in them). And then some leftover McDonald’s scrambled eggs and a sausage patty that someone had left on top of a garbage can (it’s amazing how much discarded food there is in this town). Then I dumped out some dry cat food (I buy a big bag of it at Safeway’s every month at bulk prices so it only costs pennies per serving). And for final course I opened up a 15 ounce can of mackerel that I get for a buck at the Dollar Tree. The salty, oily juice that comes with the mackeral is one of their favorite things to eat and they always go for that first, and lick up every drop. They’re not crazy about the mackerel, but they’ll eat it. I also had a carton of milk that I had found in a discarded bag lunch. And they lapped that all up, too.

Then Fatty showed up off in the distance. She’s afraid to come within 30 feet of my campsite because Mini Scaredy doesn’t like her and always runs her off. So I flung her a couple of ham-and-cheese sandwiches that I had ground-scored. That should keep her busy until the other cats were done eating. Then I took Fatty the leftover dish of food that the other cats didn’t want.

Then Moo Cat showed up off in the distance (like Fatty, she’s been banished from the tribe). So I brought her a plate of food. And again I had to stand guard while she ate because the wild turkeys were lurking and they’d run her off the food if I wasn’t there. Then Mini Scaredy came trotting over. She was already stuffed with food, but she wanted to run Moo Cat off the food just out of spite. Ha ha. So I had to shoo her off (poor ole Moo Cat, she gets shit from every direction).

And that pretty much ended the feeding session for today. But you can bet they’ll all be waiting for me again tonight.

*                                   *                                         *                                     *



When me and Duncan used to do our vending table in front of Cody’s Books, our friend Christeen — who lived in the apartment building next door — used to often bring us food in the evening. Christeen loved to cook, and she was a great cook, so she’d bring us these delicious home-cooked meals. Food for the street people.  Feeding the feral humans as it were. And she even developed this pulley system, where she could lower the dishes of food (wrapped in tin foil) down to us from her 4th floor apartment on a rope. And when Christeen’s head was hanging out the window of her apartment, looking down at me, I’d often get this image in my head of: “Rapunzel, throw down your golden home-cooked dinners!!”

Christeen always reminded me of this book title I once saw. “FOOD IS LOVE” (and you know what they say, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”). I always thought that’s how Christeen looked at food. As an expression of love. And I guess that’s the deal with me and my goddamn feral cats, too.



Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at