The Natural Man

at 11:35 PM

It's an "only in San Francisco" moment. Perhaps not the image the Visitors' Bureau means to evoke by the phrase, but one that emerges entirely on its own.

We're walking on a stretch of beach, the Golden Gate Bridge blurring in the distance. The Marin Headlands loom grey across the Bay. It is not a family unfriendly day on the northern end of Baker Beach, the city's sole nude beach. It is winter, and it is cold.

My husband and I have been diverted from a trip to Marin by a traffic jam. As we walk, we encounter crab fishermen, dog-walkers, hikers. And fleece, multicolored, deflecting the chill.

Ten minutes into our walk, the color not of cloth but flesh emerges in the distance. Could it be....yes, there is someone who finds weather no deterrent, who is putting the northern tip of the beach to its reputed use.

The man continues in our direction, shielded by a mere baseball cap. But as he and we near, something appears askew. Instead of both arms swinging rhythmically by his side, one arm is raised aside his head. No, it's not momentary, a scratch of an itch, but remains suspended, a floating triangle while he walks.

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And then, the oddity clears. This man defying the elements on a wintry day, this man coveting nature, has more than a baseball cap on his person. While his body seeks nature, a second artifact, sheltered in the palm of his hand, allows him to commune with man. Via a bit of technology shaped from the silica under his feet, his reach encompasses the globe.

As he disengages from his remote partner in space, as his head loses its strange triangulation and his arms resume the natural rhythms acquired from our primate ancestors, I wonder.

I wonder about the natural man and his relationship to the new technological man inhabiting him, the man he cannot shed, even when stripped bare.

I wonder what new contortions, what indispensible triangulations will this man of nature have acquired if I bump into him again, even a mere year from today.

With a Perspective, I'm Anna Shaff.

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Anna Shaff lives and writes in San Francisco.

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