Umbrella Man sighting?

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Here we go, launching into a new era of covering the cultural scene in Santa Cruz County. What better way to start it all off than this image from reader Jeff Meek of Santa Cruz’s oddest duck, Robert the Umbrella Man. Robert, at one time a daily (you fill in the blank here — treasure, hero, annoyance, disgrace) in downtown Santa Cruz, disappeared from view last year. Here he is in El Palomar taco bar. Thanks, Jeff.

Note: My original post referred to Robert as having a “borderline personality disorder.” It was not meant clinically, and it was in poor taste. I hereby take it back.

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50 thoughts on “Umbrella Man sighting?

  1. I would also like to know how you determined that the Umbrella Man has borderline personality disorder. This is not a term to be lightly thrown around!

  2. This is art and/or entertainment?

    I guess I will have to come up with a gimmick and walk around downtown, then hopefully get media attention.

  3. First of all, “Borderline Personality Disorder” doesn’t mean that one is on the “Borderline” of having one. It is the name of an actual disorder with various components. An example would be a person is your best friend the moment they meet you, falling all over themselves to be generous to you. Then you set a limit because they are being intrusive and they go outside and slash your tires.
    Umbrella Man most likely suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in which doing “his thing” makes him feel a bit more in control in a world that feels out of control for him. He most likely suffers from an ongoing feeling of being compelled to keep doing it, which is like a prison when he cannot stop. The fact that we haven’t seen him probably means he is in a good space right now.
    Leave him alone!

  4. Um, look. It’s clear that Robert has some sort of major mental problem. Making fun of it is really uncool and unfunny and is an inauspicious way for you to start off here.

    Unless, of course, you’re planning on making fun of all the gimps, spazzes, and retards in town. In which case: ha ha ha. You’re soooo clever.

    Guess I won’t be adding your RSS feed to my bloglines anytime soon.

  5. He was much more pleasant to see than the very poorly served mentally ill people roaming Santa Cruz streets now.

    Santa Cruz should be embarrassed by poorly served mentally ill population left to fend for themselves in our streets where they are a danger to themselves and the public at large.

    I have encountered numerous people who are clearly struggling with significant mental illness who have been very aggressive with me and others – fighting etc.

    Liberal Santa Cruz politics cant hide our governments incompetence when it comes to dealing with mentally ill population living on our streets.

    Overall our mental health services in Santa Cruz just plain suck for those who are suffering from acute symptoms of mental illness.

    But its certainly more fun to reminisce about the sweet umbrella man missing than to deal with the real problem we have in Santa Cruz.

    Umbrella man seemed to be the one mentally ill person we could laugh about and he helped us feel good about our “accepting” city, while truly ignoring the larger population of less pretty problems of our local society. I suspect this is why he is so missed as we cant put a simple face on mental illness anymore.

  6. Gabe,

    I don’t laugh at Robert. I take some odd pride in the fact that we have him as a town icon because I do enjoy aspects of the circus/silly/open atmosphere. I do recognize that he is quite mentally ill (umm, how could you not?). but from all accounts, he is not unhappy or agitated or hungry or poor or without a home.

    I would argue that the Santa Cruz system does NOT ignore the acute mentally ill, but is overburdened. The city has more nonfunctional residents than other cities of this size and with these resources, due to a more tolerant public (ever see some barefoot transient openly begging for smoke money in the midwest?) and a fairly high number of food pantries and shelters. Do we have enough for the numbers we attract? No, but we do way way more for more than most communities can support. What can we do for the mentally ill people who come here? And how do we pay for it? More shelters and some street social workers and free clinics and outreach? Is that money coming out of our bankrupt state, from our elementary school budget and police payroll? Or from the funds to clean up the bay? Or from street maintenance? I think we’re doing as much as we can.

  7. I really feel sorry for the people that work at the Sentinel. This guy is not news worthy nor is he a icon. To even consider putting this in print much less even printing this man what a waste of ink. This guy is a fruit loop and who in the heck gives a dodo about him.

  8. I used to find him amusing until he stopped bathing. After that, the smell coming off him was nauseating. He obviously needs some help.

  9. For some reason when he looks at me with that grin on his face, it makes me want to slap him in the head or kick him in the butt.
    I don’t have that reaction to anyone else, and never really have.

  10. Well, said, Katie! Any city or town that is pegged on the map as being liberal, tolerant, and sympathetic will become a magnet for these “poorly served”. I recall a feature the Sentinel ran a few years back about homeless who had died in the previous year or so, and if I remember correctly, not one of them was born and raised here.

  11. I didn’t have an Umbrella Man “sighting”, but I did recently have an Umbrella Man “smelling”. He must have been nearby.

    Is that close enough?

  12. I think the point of this blog post is not that he is a weirdo we can laugh at/sicko we need to get helped, but that he was an intentionally obvious downtown individual and his disappearance caused concern in those of us with compassion for our fellow man. Glad to see he is alive and apparently well, and that he is still doing his thing.

    Go back to your sad jobs and loveless marriages all you “sane” people. Maybe Umbrella man is laughing at YOU!

  13. This is obviously an elaborate hoax. Why can’t you see Robert’s face? Who ever snapped this photo wants you to forget about all the reasons you dislike going downtown in the first place and head out on a whim to catch a glimpse of him. Maybe even spend a few dollars while you head out and hope to catch a peek. The recent sculptures installed downtown just don’t have the same dynamic as an actual living pink umbrella man, and the idea of there being a powder baby blue umbrella man was scratched out of implications of gang affiliation. What better way to get you out downtown and spend some of your hard strapped cash, than to leak a picture of the Umbrella Man on the internert. Truth be told Umbrella man disappeared right around the time honey bees started dropping off. If you take what you know about Umbrella Man, when was the last time you saw him inside an establishment? I always encountered him outside walking like two inches per minute. Finally, would umbrella man ever walk into a place with his umbrella open? Thats bad JuJu

    Don’t believe the Hype

  14. Hey, Robert is a sweet guy doing his thing. He’s quite harmless, so leave him the #!@k alone! Direct your hostilities to the punks robbing people at gunpoint!

  15. The Umbrella Man lost his room at the Palomar Inn, because he would not let section 8 check his room. You will be seeing him alot NOW…

  16. On the subject of missing homeless people, what happened to the tall black man who was always draped in coats, no matter the weather, and who used to push a stream of carts all hooked together? He used to live on High street. He seems to be MIA.

  17. Guy in pink walking slowly NOT an icon. When I think of something that might be considerd an icon I think, Boardwalk, lighthouse, Del Mar, Brookdale lodge you know things that have meaning and have been around for a long time not some guy dressed in pink walking down town. Interesting at best but not an icon.
    Is he crazy or mentally ill….who cares he seems to keep to himself and if he did move away well then I say goodbye and have nice day. If people want to focus on something lets focus on shutting the doors to the soup kitchens and homeless shelters to those who can take time out for a free hand out but not for a shower. How about we take care of the families in need you know the men women and children that need food and shelter and buy those stinky panhandlers a suitcase and a one way ticket to some little town in the mid west where they dont tolerate that kind of crap. I mean come on.

  18. Robert, you said close the doors to the homeless people that won’t take showers.
    Where are they suppose to take a shower when they are out on the street with no place to go??
    I don’t see shower stalls all around and under redwood trees. Have some compassion. You never know something could happen and you could become homeless one day. And not all homeless people are stinky panhanlers.. There are whole families that end up homeless.
    Check yourself.

  19. This guy is no icon. He is a semi-retarded, unkempt, unemployed pendajo whose only claim to fame is making people feel uncomfortable. I saw a guy slap his glasses off a while back because he would not stop mad-dogging his grandmother. You people need to get a life.

  20. The only problem with the pink umbrella man was the apparent lack of showers. i.e., the smell, which was rather intense. Beyond that he was great. He certainly didn’t deserve ‘slapping’.

  21. have you guys ever seen the “imposter”umbrellaman”? he’s a black guy wearing all orange w/ orange umbrella- is he the reason the pink guy stopped? i love the cruz-if this is the biggest comtroversy in town, i thank my lucky stars….( or umbrellas…)

  22. i’ve heard many an explanation about the umbrella man: that he’s a monk practicing awareness (walking inch by inch); that he’s a millionaire whose lost his will to wash; that he’s actually god, evoking the exact sort of bewilderment god gets a kick out of… i really believe, however, that he’s more than a man in pink. he is a symbol for all of us. for that brave part of ourselves that loves tin foil, blush, spandex, foe-fur boots, and the pacific garden mall… umbrella man, where ever you are, i know you all too well.

  23. i would also like to inquire in re: the whereabouts of the plastic bag “god is dead” man, and the “viking” ( really cool headress), and i believe the rainbow lady has passed on into the rainbow… i have lived here almost 30 years and don’t mind these folks in the least. i beg to differ w/ robert who thinks we should “close the kitchens”, etc. these people are making their (respective) bests of a crappy situation( mental illenss, homelessness, whatever). i would have all of them back in exchange for the current thugs who fight, drink , drug, steal, panhandle, and yet, somehow they have more money in tattoos and piercings than i pay in rent! on top of it all , the “new (in-)breed” are Truly Morons_ they will panhandle under the “help wanted” signs at taco bell!
    umbrella man, et al, never stole my car stereo, no matter how bad things might have been for him. even the faux vampires in town haven’t tried to rob anyone( but, reminder, guys: you’re not vampires. there are no vampires, and neither are you mentally ill-it’s kinda douchebaggy and lame, but harmless. just alot of overweight, renaissance faire gamers on a break from faire!) give me insanity over stupidity any day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!p.s there aren’t any vampires….

  24. Uh, Gabe, the homeless community is anything BUT under served in this county. By the way, Robert used to be homeless, but is currently housed thanks to the county’s homeless services. As for mental health services, maybe you should take it up with the State of California. They are the ones who keep cutting the budget for Mental Health services. But the folks who work there work very hard with very little. You are obviously misinformed.

  25. In answer to your question: Jane Doe // Feb 18, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    On the subject of missing homeless people, what happened to the tall black man who was always draped in coats, no matter the weather, and who used to push a stream of carts all hooked together? He used to live on High street. He seems to be MIA

    He is currently HOUSED and WORKING!!!

  26. …and what , praytell, does a handle like ‘psychicbeauty” infer? c’mon, live and let live. these guys make s-cruz more interesting. and sadly, the mental health facilities are the hardest working and most underpaid. i know several nurses who actually go find these people on the street and give them their meds for free!!! a little compassion( not stupidity), please folks.

  27. I really couldn’t care one way or another about Robert as he quietlyplods along Pacific Mall. On the other hand, his vacant smiles really creep out my wife and daughter, so much in fact they’ll cross the street to avoid him.

  28. The reason that the Santa Cruz area has such a high homeless population is because of all the services offered to homeless in the area. There are many MORE services in the SC area, but they are overburdened because people see it as a haven for transients. Those of you saying that there aren’t enough services, look into it. There are far more services for the homeless and underprivileged than there are in most communities. While at UCSC, I took a Community Activism class, and while researching for a project on the controversial Sleeping Ban (sometimes known as the Camping Ban) we actually found out how many services are offered. Our group actually went from being anti-Sleeping Ban to pro-Sleeping Ban because SC already offers to many services to those in need that while lifting the Sleeping Ban may have seemed like a good idea, it would have brought even more people a city that’s services were already overwhelmed.

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