If you’ve spent any amount of time in Santa Cruz, you’ve probably seen this bumper sticker: Keep Santa Cruz Weird. And perhaps nothing epitomizes the weird of Santa Cruz like Robert, the pink umbrella man. But now, suddenly, Robert has gone missing!
Imagine my dismay when I browsed over to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, and saw this front page news:
SANTA CRUZ – A Santa Cruz icon, the pink umbrella man, seems to have vanished from Pacific Avenue.
Shop owners and frequent patrons say they have not seen Robert Steffen, an unofficial symbol of downtown – who strolls, quite slowly, from one end of Pacific Avenue to the other while wearing a pink dress and boa and carrying an umbrella – for weeks or even months.
Now, if you happened to have stumbled upon this blog and you’re not from around here, at this point you might laugh nervously and quickly close the browser window. Or maybe, you’re researching Santa Cruz as a place to, say, spend your golden years or raise your children in a safe and nurturing left-leaning community – and you’ve just decided that hey, Santa Cruz isn’t for you.
For all you locals out there, even those of you who think Robert was kind of weird (an understatement?) – probably a part of you is going to miss him. I know I will. I used to love walking down Pacific Avenue with some friends or family from out of town and pointing out Robert – kind of like how I like to point out a deer or something when hiking in Nisene Marks Park – saying with hushed urgency, “Hey, look! See that? Cool, huh?”.
If you read the article, it seems that folks think he’ll be back. Apparently, he hasn’t really left, he just isn’t sportin’ his pimpin’ threads, and is probably working on transmorgifying himself again. I hope so!
It should be noted that Missing Robert wasn’t the only thing on the front page today. Check this out:
UC Santa Cruz has received a $7.2 million grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to fund a new stem cell research center on campus, the university announced Wednesday.
Naturally, this kind of news gets second billing, even though it arguably may be much more significant for the community. Unless the community is Santa Cruz. It seems we’re more preoccupied about keepin’ it weird than treating, preventing and curing disease. I love this crazy town.