Sunday, August 29, 2010

Spotted on Embarcadero: Bushman and Scooterman

A coworker had told me a while ago about the bushman, a San Francisco man who hides behind a bush along a busy sidewalk and jumps out at random people to startle them. I don't remember what I said; I probably rolled my eyes and made some comment about San Francisco's quaint mainstreaming of mental illness.

And then I forgot about it. (Seriously, in a city where a 70-year-old man walks stark naked in almost every parade, where a strip club drives around the city in a caged vehicle to show off its women, a man who jumps out from a bush to scare people is really not the most significant fact to retain.)

Today, after lunch with some friends at Butterfly restaurant on the Embarcadero (that's on the bayshore, to you out-of-towners, and it has good food and very good service), we left the restaurant and were preparing to go find our cars when we spotted him. The bushman. Wait, according to Wikipedia, he's called The World-Famous Bushman. (Because nothing's real unless it has a Wikipedia page. Thus, I'm not real.) He was hiding behind his hand-held bush on a street with no other shrubbery, occasionally jumping up and startling unsuspecting walkers and joggers. However, most of the people who passed him smiled and waved, though I'd bet more than a few over the years have wanted to hit him.

The novelty of it wears off fast, so we crossed the street, where, as our parting gift for being at the tourist zone along the shore, a man on a homemade scooter – it looked like a motorized bar stool, which I suspect is exactly what it was – came along. (Alas, that photo, at right, didn't quite work out; you can only see a portion of the man and his scooter in the center of the photo.)

Characters? We've got characters. But it sure beats the recently stabbed woman I saw on the streets of Chicago, or the homeless man who was, um, using the street as a toilet in Manhattan. All things considered, this makes San Francisco a normal city.