Tuesday, January 2, 2007

The New Year and The Naked Guy

I never met the Naked Guy, or even crossed paths with him. He came to the Bay Area after I had left, but I was always fascinated with him. You may know who I'm talking about, but you may not. His name was Andrew Martinez and he attended UC Berkeley in the early nineties. He was always naked, for class, for meals, for parties, for everything, and from what I read at the time people were pretty cool with that. Until they weren't. At first he received a lot of notoriety, but then in 1992 the school instituted a dress code, he was expelled, and I lost track of him. From time to time I would think of him and wonder where he was, but I never tried to find out. This past Sunday though the NY Times magazine pulished its annual "The Lives They Lived" issue that looks back on an assortment of random, mostly non-celebrity, yet noteworthy deaths during the last year. And there was the Naked Guy, having committed suicide at the age of 34. After being expelled he had become angry and paranoid, there were arrests and homelessness, mental illness and a battery and assault charge earlier this year that led to solitary confinement and his death. I was so sad when I read this, and like a lot of people I had projected all sorts of things onto him. He was seeking freedom and adventure in Berkely as I once had when I moved to the east bay. But he was also trying to cope with something, what I didn't know, but something had broken along the way that he wasn't able to fix. When I learned he had died, I projected some more - he had never fixed that broken part, and had struggled against it as long as he could. I don't know what if anything is true about him, but when I read about his suicide I realized that I will never be immune to death or struggle, I don't want to be, and that it is theme I return to again and again in my writing - people trying to cope with pain, abandonment, and confusion. I do hope though that there will be less death and less struggle in 2007, and I know its a lot to ask, but that's what the new year is for, being hopeful and newly energized. I hope you all have good new years, and that every so often you will think of Andrew Martinez, or someone like him who is struggling, trying to cope, and just hanging on, more projection I know, but a heartfelt request none-the-less.

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