Ace Backwords is a homeless writer and artist who lives in Berkeley, California. You can find more writing on his blog.
When the Berkeley campus first went into lockdown, it was great for me. Because I had the whole campus to myself. But gradually, more and more people realized there was this big expanse of unoccupied green space right in the middle of the city. So more and more people are hanging out here every day.
The street scene is like watching a movie. Except you only get the middle act of the movie. You don’t get the first act or the third act. You don’t know their life story—what led up to them being the people that they are. And you almost never find out how their lives turned out.
I always get this weird flashback when I’m walking down Telegraph Avenue on Thanksgiving day. Back in the Good Old Days I used to always meet up with my pals Duncan and Vince at this Telegraph Avenue coffee shop every Thanksgiving. Joint called the Wall Berlin. The Wall Berlin was one of the few coffee shops that was open on Thanksgiving. So it became kind of an annual holiday tradition for the three of us. I can still picture us sitting there at our table outside the café, quietly sipping on our coffee and talking about our plans for the holiday.
The town of Berkeley is full of so many ghosts for me. This building on the corner of Shattuck and University is one of these ghosts. In 1986 it was the office of the Daily Californian, the campus newspaper. And every semester the staff voted on what comic strips they’d run for the semester. In 1986 I won the election. And it turned out to be a big break for me.