The Characters Of The Balboa Peninsula


Birdman Of Newport (Cropped)

Football guy is back! I should take a picture of football guy. He’s a sight to behold, somewhat middle aged, clad in a tight body-fitting yellow spandex top and trunks and matching headband (yes, headband!), he wanders the Balboa Boardwalk with a football in hand, looking for people to throw it to. Just random people, he picks them out on the beach, catches their eye and tosses that football. He’s like a human retriever, always running for that Frisbee, coming back to you panting with it between his teeth. Throw again, throw again! He seeks the next person out. Woof!

Football guy is one of the many characters you can regularly spot along the boardwalk, all eccentric in their own way. The Muscle & Tattoo Guys, Neo-Nazi Freak, Have A Blessed Night Guy, Crazy Bike Man, The Bird Man and Web Bum Guy are some of the others. Up at Venice Beach, there are more characters where people turn out be seen. But these characters aren’t making an effort to be seen. They’re just part of the regular people landscape, going about what’s an ordinary day to them but standing out to those around them.

I have no idea if others notice these people. The names are just how my wife and I refer to them, the exception being the Birdman, who is pictured above. Anyone who lives on the Balboa Peninsula eventually notices him and knows him as the Birdman.

But Football Guy? He’s just someone we see wandering all the time. He’s been gone for the past week or two, but now he’s back.

Muscle & Tattoo Guys match their names, just two guys that you often see with huge muscles and chests covered in tattoos, walking around as if they really think everyone else doesn’t believe they’re strutting their stuff, but of course, they are.

Neo-Nazi Guy I dislike intensely. He’s an older guy, maybe 50, who is often in McFadden Plaza on the weekends. He holds a Bible up and spouts insane comments about Jewish people. Got into an argument with him once. Well, not much of one — just questioned him on a few of his absurd statements, but he just rolled on as if he was in his own little world — which he is in, of course.

Have A Blessed Night Guy we often see in the evenings. When you pass him, he calls out, “Have a blessed night.” Kind of eccentric but kind of nice.

Crazy Bike Man runs a bike shop at the base of the peninsula. Very helpful, but then again very intense. Park near his shop, and he’ll start adjusting your bike just out of the blue, whether it really needs it or not. Then in the evenings, he heads home along the boardwalk, almost as if he’s on patrol, looking for anything that seems out of order. He was chasing some kids recently that were riding too fast. I don’t think he caught them.

Web Bum Guy is new. He looks drunk most of the time, slowly wandering the boardwalk and often sitting in places. He has a shirt that says something like “Webby Was,” which makes me wonder how this dotcom castoff clothing made it to him. A former dotcommer down in luck? A donation that trickled down? Skating past, I often think I should stop and ask. Maybe I should.

I miss Hello Man the most. He was about 40, I’d say — and despite being a grown man, he clearly wasn’t mature mentally. Something was wrong, and he’s just wander up and down the boardwalk saying “Hello” to everyone. Few answered him. But if you did, he’d immediately respond. “Thank you very much.”

I’d like to think that somewhere out there, Hello Man is still saying “hello” to people and that hopefully, some people are saying “hello” back.


Comments

  1. says

    I was once walking down the streets of Hull and saw an older gentleman walking up to people and saying something to them. They’d typically ignore him and pick up the pace a little. As I got close to him he turned to me and said “You lucky people”, and cursed as I am with insane amounts of trivia I recognized that as the catchphrase of a 40′s comedian and responded “Tommy Trinder”.
    A big smile crossed his face as he said “Right”, and he then wandered off to ask the next person another trivia question.
    It wasn’t much, but I often think about the fact that all he was looking for to make him happy was someone to play his game for 2 seconds, and I’m glad I did.

  2. sharona says

    We use to live on the Peninsula…i was always fascinated with the “Walking Man” whos’ name is Gene. I saw him EVERY day for years… It’s been a while since we moved, But I still thinking about him..I always wondered what his “story” was.
    Any one know? Is he still around?