Slomo is a 69 year old man who roller blades in slow motion along the boardwalk in Pacific Beach, California. He does this daily, unceasingly, and is known by nearly everyone who frequents the beach, bars or coffee shops. Many discount him as drug-addled, schizophrenic, or crazy. But he is not so easily dismissed.
For Slomo is Dr. John Kitchin, a former neurologist and psychiatrist, who abandoned his lucrative career in order to live in a studio apartment by the beach and pursue “a kind of divinity” through skating. Slomo is not crazy. He is a clear eyed, articulate, and bright man who has forsaken the lifestyle of the “typical institutionalized, educated, Western man.”
There’s a New York Times video about Slomo that’s prompted a large number of comments and where you’ll discover that he is:
“inspirational” and “an immature embarrassment,”
“amazing” and “narcissistic,”
a “great example of freedom” and “self-centered and lazy,”
and that he “represents ideals that we hold dear” and is “kind of an —hole.”
Slomo evokes polarized passions and so is reminiscent of Diogenes of Sinope, the philosopher who lived in purposeful poverty in a giant vase on the streets in Ancient Greece. Diogenes advocated self-sufficiency and rejected luxury; he had contempt for the opinion of others and utter disregard for societal conventions.
“I am Diogenes the Dog,” he once said. “I nuzzle the kind, bark at the greedy and bite scoundrels.” (He’d be useful today.)
Plato called him “Socrates gone mad.” But he wasn’t only mad, he was funny.
Once after seeing a bad bowman in an archery contest, Diogenes sat down in front of the target saying it was the only place he felt safe. And in a famous meeting, Alexander the Great told Diogenes that he would grant him any wish.
“Just move and get out of my sunlight,” Diogenes replied.
Slomo espouses no overriding philosophy and doesn’t reveal any desire to instruct. He merely sees himself as the “tip of a great iceberg of consciousness,” and as a person “who escaped and got to real freedom.” His choices seem to threaten the conventional, who feel that he should do something else with his life. In short, they think he should be more like them and cite, among other things, his lack of motivation.
Yet Alexander was once asked: If he was not himself, who would he choose to be?
And the answer, from arguably the most motivated man in history, was that if he were not Alexander the Great, he would choose to be Diogenes the Dog – and as such would’ve stopped casting his shadow across empires in order to bask in the unconquerable sun that shines to this day on the ruins of Ancient Greece and the boardwalk in Pacific Beach.
You can see the video at the New York Times website: ‘Slomo.’
And my debut novel, which features a character who simplifies her life by shedding her possessions, is available here: The Last Island.