I'm back in the suburbs now, but in my urban years, especially the ten years I spent riding the bus in Los Angeles, I met many crazy people on the street. The topic of free-range crazies came up a couple of times recently and I remembered some of the better ones:
The Shredder: In downtown Los Angeles. This gentleman constantly wore a kind of Islamic veil over his face. His left side was female, meaning that he had a woman's shoe and stocking, and pants cut slightly below the knee on this side. The right side had a man's shoe and full length pants. He frequently carried a purse on the "female" side. His activity was removing the free papers and throwaway ad rags from their newsboxes and tearing them up and scattering them, which he did energetically all day in a pretty large territory. He never spoke.
The Beverly Hills Skate Ninja: West Los Angeles and Beverly Hills. This guy wore an all-black outfit with his head wrapped in black cloth as well, creating a combo ninja/mummy effect. Sometimes the wrapping bits would partially come loose and stream behind him. He was always on inline skates and would swoop down sidewalks at great speed, occasionally stopping to pirouette or make expansive Modern Dance Gestures with his hands. Very occasionally he would lose it and do this in the street, and the cops would have to scoot him back onto the sidewalk. At times he carried a large boom box which played whatever was on the radio, indiscriminately.
Kung Fu Bob Marley: A Westwood resident. He was tall and skeletally thin, with long full dreadlocks. He did look quite a bit like Bob Marley. Usually he just muttered and strode about the streets, occasionally asking for money or cigarettes. Periodically, though, it was Kung Fu Time. He would then attack various invisible targets, barking and screaming and punching and kicking. When he calmed down again, he was a very pleasant person. I had a number of conversations with him about Life and Stuff during his calm periods.
The Santa Cruz Viking: I only saw this guy maybe three times, but it was every time I visited Santa Cruz for a while. He wore a Viking helmet (with horns) and twice he had a big wooden sword thingy. He yelled a bit and whacked things with the sword. At the time I thought "How wacky and fun!" but I found out later that he was a genuine danger and actually Viked people at times. Whoops.
Yell About Foreigners Lady: A bus resident in L.A. She would holler constantly about the foreigners, and how they were going to get her and put her in a death camp. I made the false assumption that she was safe because she was loud. Sometimes she would walk down the middle of Hollywood Blvd. yelling, but mostly she was on the bus. One day, on the #2 Bus down Santa Monica Blvd., she pulled out a .357 revolver and killed a guy for being foreign. The SWAT team shot her a couple hours later. Glad I wasn't on the #2 that day!
Psalm WTF Lady: An occasional bus person. Elderly woman, very skinny, with her hair in a bun. Wore a granny dress. Around her neck on a rope was a long sign that covered the front of her body, which read something like "LORD AS I LAY ME DOWN TO SLEEP, HEAR MY PRAYER AND PROTECT ME AND GUARD ME IN EVERY WAY FROM JESUS WITH HIS HUGE DILDO."
A side note: Shadow boxing schizophrenia victims on the street always do kung fu. Always. What did these guys do before Asian martial arts were known in the west? Marquess of Queensberry Boxing Rules? Not enough kicking and yelling.