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November 19th, 2003

The Talking Man: Bus Phenomenon

Today I rode the #40 bus and encountered the Talking Man. I sometimes see him on Shattuck Ave. in downtown Berkeley, but I much more frequently run into him on the bus. I recognize him immediately when I see him, because even in Berkeley's weirdness he's pretty distinctive.

The Talking Man is a tall, 40ish, ever-smiling black radio commentator in search of a radio show. He always wears headphones, apparently listening to the small radio he always holds in his hands. He doesn't look homeless, and he seems perfectly friendly and calm. He just looks like a normal Joe, sitting there on the bus with his grocery bags ... except that he keeps up a running commentary almost constantly, giving monologues about sports, history, local events, a wide variety of different people, etc. He speaks in a radio commentator voice, has an ear for alliteration and rhyme, and is always interesting, despite the fact that his monologues pretty reliably make little sense.

Today I caught some snippets and thought I'd share:
"Jim Jones sold monkeys to raise money for the church." Nice alliteration. This, like most of his statements, was most likely inspired by something he heard on his radio, since Jim Jones has been in the local news quite a bit lately. Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the mass suicide at Jonestown that took the lives of more than 900 people, most of them former residents of the SF Bay Area.

"There's no need for McDonald's when they've got robots and a burger-flipping machine." This is, arguably, true, though I'm not sure why the need for McDonald's is dependent upon robots. Is there actually a need for McDonald's? Was this a commentary on McDonald's usefulness exclusively as an employer of the untrained work force? Hmm.

"The Baptist church saves people who walk through walls like ghosts." I was not aware of this particular characteristic of the Baptist church, but it does in fact make them considerably more interesting. The Talking Man next launched into some ruminations on how fun it would be to be able to float through walls, with which I agree.

The Talking Man rocks.

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