Slogging through the Rainy Season on the streets

Pretty brutal stretch of weather over the last month. We got nearly 10 inches of rain — more than twice as much as average. And the nights that it was dry, the temperatures often got down into the 30s, which can be another kind of pressure. . . I kinda’ feel like I aged 5 years over the last couple of months. But that’s life for you. . . Now we finally got a nice stretch coming up. Nothing but sunny skies and temperatures getting up into the 60s for the next 10 days. So I’m kind of decompressing. I actually put on clean socks, shirt and underwear in celebration of this new period of my life that is now unfolding before me. . .. Now I think I’ll go lie in the sun and take a nap and do absolutely nothing for as long as I can get away with it. … Wish me luck.

A brief description of four of the Ramones

The Ramones were like the Beatles in that, at first you really couldn’t tell the four Beatles apart, they were four similar-looking cute guys with moptop hair-dos and matching suits. And, so too, with the four Ramones with their matching shaggy haircuts, black leather jackets and sneakers, as well as their fabricated image of four brothers. It was only later you realized how DIFFERENT the four Ramones actually were.

Dee Dee Ramone (photographed here at the legendary Chelsea Hotel) — the bass player — was the “artistic” Ramone. He’s the guy who wrote all those catchy, clever songs — deceptively simple yet grounded in classic pop/rock songwriting structure. Dee Dee was the quirkiest, the most unpredictable, of the Ramones, with a high-strung artistic sensibility as well as a fierce appetite for hard drugs of all stripes as well as for the craziest rocknroll chicks and groupies that the New York underground scene had to offer. Led the wildest life of the Ramones.

Johnny Ramone — the guitarist — was, to the surprise of many, kind of a right-wing reactionary and classic “All American” type, who counted John Wayne and Ronald Reagan among his biggest heroes. Johnny, of all the Ramones, kind of embodied the Ramone image of “teenage deliquent” with his torn jeans, hair combed over his eyes, and defiant rock star poses (Dee Dee came up with all those guitar riffs and would teach Johnny how to play them). Johnny developed a hatred for Joey Ramone and went years where he refused to even talk to him, even when they were riding together in the same van on long cross-country tours.

Joey Ramone — the 6’6″ lead singer — was Jewish and born with a partially formed dead twin brother connected to his back which had to be removed by surgery. Sweet and loveable by most accounts, but also the oddest of an odd lot, he suffered from various mental problems like an obsessive/compulsive disorder — he would often go weeks without leaving his apartment or changing his clothes or bathing, and would obsessively count the number of steps he took whenever he walked around.

Marky Ramone, among other things, was the drummer and band member on the seminal “Blank Generation” album by Richard Hell and the Voidoids (formed in 1976), which is considered one of the main precursors to the Punk Rock movement, and embodied much of the punk rock look and asthetics that came later. He was the last remaining Ramone, and — in typical Ramones black humor — toured in a Ramones tribute band called the Remainz.

Ginger Coyote

Ginger Coyote in front of San Francisco City Hall at a Mutants concert, 1980 (how many cultural signposts can you cram into one photo?).

Ginger Coyote was (and still is) an enigmatic character within the San Francisco punk rock scene (that’s assuming there still is a San Francisco punk rock scene). I never met her, but I interviewed her once by mail in 1983 for an issue of Twisted Image. She was like the ultimate scenester, legendary as one of the earliest denizens of the Mabuhay underground scene. As well as publishing an endless series of issues of her monthly punk rock magazine PUNK GLOBE (peak circulation 25,000 copies) — which always focused on the fun side of the scene, as well as the gossipy side — and yet never with any malice like so many other of the gossip rags (Ginger was always kind-hearted towards all). Obsessed with celebrity on kind of an Andy Warhol level — Ginger Coyote was someone you could imagine equally at home kibitzing with Jello Biafra or Joan Rivers (who, now that I think of it, were both probably more alike than dissimilar). . . Enigmatic in the sense that Ginger had totally re-created herself as an “image” and a “persona” and was so immersed within that, that you never considered the “real” person that might be lurking behind the image. And it was almost rude to even go there.

Ginger Coyote. A San Francisco original.

Everybody’s a critic

I think anyone — any artist or writer or musician or athlete or anyone who puts themselves out there in the public sphere to be judged and evaluated — gets a little jaded after a certain point.

Because you’ve had so many people over the years that have told you that you suck. And so many other people that have told you that you’re great.

You can’t afford to believe either one.

You can only conclude that you suck and you’re great.

Or something in between.

The Rare Man asks me about Pink Cloud

I ran into the Rare Man on Telegraph Avenue today. He asked me:

“Hey Ace. Did Pink Cloud die? I heard from somebody that Pink Cloud died. Did Pink Cloud die?”

“Yes. Pink Cloud died,” i said. “He died last week.”

“Wow. Pink Cloud really died. I heard from somebody that Pink Cloud died.”

“Yes he died. He was 78. He died from luekemia.”

“Oh really?” said Rare. “Pink Cloud died?”

“Yes. He died. He had a full life. I saw Pink Cloud just a couple of weeks ago walking around on Telegraph. He lived a good full life walking around on two feet right to the end.”

“And he died?”

“Yes he died.”

I could tell Rare was trying to contemplate the larger subject of death and his own mortality by thinking about Pink Cloud’s death.

“How old are you, Rare?” I said.

“I’m 69,” said Rare.

“You’re in good shape for 69, Rare.”

Rare sat there for a moment and thought about it.

It was a poignant moment.

The first time I met the legendary Berkeley street person the Rare Man

Ran into long-time Telegraph street person, the Rare Man, yesterday. And he mentioned that he was now 69-years-old. Which seemed hard to believe. Which reminded me of the first time I met Rare. Way back in the summer of 1982. Which now seems like another lifetime ago. And maybe it was. . .

I had just moved back to Berkeley from Eureka, and was staying with my friend Duncan at his little hotel room on the 4th floor of the Berkeley Inn. We used to stay up late into the night, working on our respective artistic projects, or talking, or reading underground comic books (Duncan had an incredible collection). They had a coffee machine in the lobby where you could buy cups of hot coffee for a quarter — the coffee poured out into these little Dixie cups with pictures of playing cards printed on the side of the cup, and you could add cream and sugar to your liking, and it was actually pretty delicious. And me and Duncan used to drink those coffees all night long and get wired as we worked away. I remember those late nights with a real cozy feeling — it’s like the whole world had gone to sleep, and only me and Duncan were still awake, in this fuzzy little cocoon, this time capsule, his hotel room.

I was working on what would become Twisted Image #1 — the first thing I ever did that would garner any kind of public acclaim. So I was pretty much completely unknown at the time. Which was nice in a way. Because nobody knew me, or cared about what I was doing, and there was a certain freedom in that. I was seething with dreams of glory at the time. And this feeling of, “I’LL SHOW THEM ALL WHAT I CAN DO!!” (I was really precious back then, ha ha). The work I was doing was mostly mundane — cutting out the photos and graphics and typeset and laying it out on these big lay-out sheets. But it took a certain amount of precision (so the coffee helped keep you sharp). And I was just figuring out how to do it. But the fun part was when you finally rubbed all the excess rubber cement off the page with the rubber cement eraser and the page was done and it looked nice and slick and glossy and really shined, with a cool design that you yourself had come up with, and you sort of sat there and admired your work and thought: “Yeah, this is gonna be good!”

Anyways, one night, around 2 in the morning, me and Duncan decided to take a break from our work and grab some fresh air (Duncan chain-smoked Camel filters with a cigarette holder back then, if you can believe it, so the room would get a bit smoky) We were also hungry, and the only place that was open at that hour of night was Giant Hamburgers — this 24-hour burger joint — way on the other side of the campus. So we made the trek across the deserted campus and ordered our burgers from the guy working behind the counter. He was the only guy working there at that hour. And there was only one other customer besides us in there. This young guy with no shirt on who was sitting at one of the tables. Though I don’t think he was an actual customer. I figured he was just some homeless guy who was hanging out there, all night long, at this all-night joint, just because it was the only place where he could keep warm until the sun came up in the morning. He seemed pretty manic — he kept talking non-stop to the guy working behind the counter. The only time he stopped talking was when he’d jump down on the floor and start doing push-ups. He must have done hundreds of push-ups while we were there. And he was very proud of his ability to do push-ups. He had fairly long straight hair parted in the middle like a hippie, and was in pretty good shape, with his bare muscular chest and arms. But slimmer than he would be later when he was kind of the hulking “Conan the Barbarian” of Telegraph. He immediately reminded me of Tarzan of the Apes — in part because he had this wild quality to him, like he was just barely able to maintain a civilized facade. I initially thought he was around 17 — because his talk reminded me of that of a 17-year-old kid. I would only realize much later, that he would ALWAYS talk like a 17-year-old kid. And that he was actually in his late 20s. The guy working behind the counter referred to him as Tom. . . But years later — after I developed a bit of history with the guy — I’d realize that that guy doing push-ups on the floor of Giant Burger at 3 in the morning and talking non-stop had been the legendary Rare Man.

Well. Me and Duncan quietly finished our giant burgers (they were delicious) and then walked back to his hotel room on the 4th floor of the Berkeley Inn. And then a bunch of other stuff happened after that. But I guess you don’t need to hear about all that right now.

Remembering Blondie the feral cat, 2007-2016

On this day 7 years ago, January 15, 2015. Breakfast with Blondie the feral cat (with full winter coat).

Blondie was the first feral cat I hooked up with, way back in year 2007. She was just a kitten at that point, and she popped up one morning at my campsite, along with two of her siblings from that litter (I had spotted Blondie’s mother — who looked just like her — a couple days earlier, dead on the side of the road, hit by a car… so the litter of kittens had ended up abandoned in the woods nearby my campsite — that’s when I started feeding the feral cats).

Blondie hung out at my campsite for 9 years until she disappeared one day never to be seen again. But her lineage lives on to this day with Moo Cat, who was her daughter from her first litter.

I always thought Blondie was very beautiful. And she had a very sweet personality, too. But she was definitely feral. Even though we hung out together for years and were very close, I never once petted her.

Blondie.