One Saturday back in the last decade, I stood at the corner of University and Shattuck avenues, downtown Berkeley’s always faintly shabby main intersection, waiting for the light to change. I noticed a tall, well-built, handsome young guy on the opposite corner. I think he wore sunglasses and sandals, and nothing else. His name was Andrew Martinez, and by the day I spotted him he’d become a local celebrity known as the Naked Guy. He came by the name through his one-man campaign to liberate the human spirit by going naked to class at Cal (and just about everywhere else, including a court date to defend himself against a charge of indecent exposure).
Anyway: Me and Andrew Martinez, Shattuck and University. I wish I could say I high-fived him as we passed or said something memorable, but all I recall is trying not to stare. For me, the idea of being naked in public is the stuff of unpleasant dreams, not liberation. That was the first and last I saw of the Naked Guy. Sooner or later, Martinez left Berkeley. I remembered him, though I never thought of what became of him.
Today’s Chronicle had the story, or at least its end: Martinez, who was 33, died in jail in San Jose last week, an apparent suicide:
“… After his days as the Naked Guy, Martinez spent the next decade bouncing among halfway houses, psychiatric institutions, occasional homelessness and jail, but never getting comprehensive treatment, his family said. His life ended in an apparent suicide Thursday morning.
” ‘It was an endless cycle of trying to get answers but never getting any,’ said his mother, who requested that her name not be used. ‘It was endless, endless, endless.’
“… But before his mental illness wreaked havoc on his and his family’s lives, Martinez was a bright, charismatic, sweet-natured youth with a promising future.”
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