|Thoughts on Orientation at UCSC... |
Our trip to Santa Cruz was complete. We encountered the Pink Umbrella Man. As we turned onto Pacific Avenue and while on the lookout for parking spaces, Katy spied him. I recalled reading something about him on the web so when we later passed him on the sidewalk (numerous times - he does literally go at a snail's pace) I was unafraid of this eccentric. I actually made eye contact with him and have to confess his beatific smile was a highlight of the day. He had his pink poodle purse and shoes that lit up with each step; and his eye makeup had some more metallic green to it than he wore when these pictures were taken. He did not have his fur leggings or pink poofy coat - it was hot by Santa Cruz standards after all. Still, I have to wonder about this person. Look at his glasses. I have those frames. Those frames are not cheap. They don't get handed out under Medi-Cal. What is the true story behind this unique Robert?
The Umbrella Guy
Santa Cruz has its share of folks who appear to have flown to Knott’s Berry Farm, so to speak. When it comes to keepin’ it weird, though, there’s no contest—the slow and steady guy wins the race. Inching across the finish line in super-slow-mo, flashing a blissed-out victory grin that says, “the hamster has fallen off the wheel,” comes our community’s most instantly recognizable icon—the Statue of Liberty of different: The Umbrella Guy.
Just in case you were wondering, this is not performance art. There’s no symbolism to The Umbrella Guy’s increasingly wild garb, nor does any Zen philosophy guide his slow, methodical footsteps. There’s one reason alone that this man carries an umbrella and walks at a turtle’s pace in makeup and pink ladies’ garments: He enjoys it.
“I see it as just a fun way to spend an afternoon,” he explains with his famous smile. “I find it relaxing.”
Nice as it might be to live in a place where a guy can walk through the heart of town in drag without getting lynched, some Santa Cruz dwellers have expressed irritation, if not outright hostility, at The Umbrella Guy’s presence. He takes it all in stride—measured, painstaking stride.
“No one’s had a heart attack, either from joy or anger, so that’s good,” he offers, adding that most people’s reactions fall somewhere between those two extremes.
Though he acknowledges that his first name is Robert, The Umbrella Guy declines to comment on the rumor that he’s Robert Steffen, the so-called “Umbrella Man” who spent the very late ’90s and early ’00s quietly bidding Pacific Avenue passersby a nice day from under a garbage bag and umbrella. Steffen—who claimed to be a former electrical engineer for Mountain View’s NASA Ames Research Center—once ran in a local presidential campaign under the “Black Sheep Party” banner. Flanked by signs that said, “There is no God,” and “Please do not touch the candidate,” Steffen made his bid for presidency on a platform that included everything from anti-animal rights views to the support of commercial development on the moon. -GT Weekly
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