Former NYT reporter sleeps on street, eats out of garbage cans

hateth.jpg"Hate Man," a homeless fellow who lives on Berkeley's Telegraph Avenue, wears cast-off women's clothing, and eats out of garbage cans (because "It's free [and it] makes your immune system strong"), once worked as a reporter for the New York Times.

Actually, he wrote at the Times from 1961 to 1970, nearly an entire decade. Back then, he was known as Mark Hawthorne. Why the identity change? Snip from his interview with Kevin Fagan at the San Francisco Chronicle:

Q: You require people to say "I hate you" before you begin a conversation. Do you really hate everyone?

A: I do. But it's a new way of hating. It's about being straight with people. The dictionary defines hate as hostility, but that's heavy. My idea is to be straight about negative feelings that we all have, which is what hate is, and then you can have a real conversation. Don't be threatening or angry or snotty - just straight.

This search query returns some of the articles Hate Man wrote for the New York Times back when he was Mark Hawthorne. They include "Long Hair and Sex Freedom: A Social Critic's Proposals for Youth" (PDF), "A Gallery of Apartment Doodles Lies Just Below the New Paint; The Artist Breaks Out" (PDF) and "Washington Sq. Singers Invent Own Instruments" (PDF).

You know, from the sound of those headlines, he'd have been a perfect Boing Boing guestblogger when he was a writer, and part of "normal society." But I remember seeing him on the streets in Berkeley some 15 years ago, and he was crazy aggressive and hostile with people. He used to run up and yell at folks who were minding their own business and walking down the street. Very screamy, and physically threatening at times. He scared me, and others, and plenty of locals definitely hated him. Wonder what the rest of his story was. It sounds like he's pretty mellow at least some of the time, or that he's changed: the San Francisco Chronicle reporter described him as a "gentle, lucid conversationalist."

So is he a mentally ill man, failed by the system, denied the care he needs? Or an eccentric guy, living the life he wants to live? My bet's on the former, but who knows.

Homeless ex-reporter opted for Berkeley streets (sfgate, via Greg Mitchell)

Update: Here's another story about the man, in the Daily Cal (thanks Xenu).