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Idiocy Inc. 

Jon Brumit and Marc Horowitz have made it their business to be the best-known art idiots in San Francisco.

So ... y'wanna ride a Big Wheel down Lombard?

Wednesday, Aug 7 2002
On a sunny weekend afternoon, San Francisco offers no better place to be odd than bright-and-grimy Haight Street, with its colorful backdrop of boutiques, bars, and litter. Ice-cream-slurping tourist families-of-four are strolling nonchalantly past carnivals of small-time drug dealers, dreadlocked suburban white kids, and street people.

The mix is perfect.

Sooner or later, tourists must approach a debris-filled Mazda flatbed truck sitting in front of a shop best known for the giant inflatable legs kicking out of the window directly above it. When they do, the curious glances, double takes, and outright, slack-jawed stops begin.

After all, even on Haight Street, it's not often that you see a grown man in a referee's T-shirt attempting to "ride" a stationary bike against traffic, while another referee, wearing a red baseball cap adorned with a squeaky rubber "raw steak" dog toy, plays a drum strapped to his back.

The traffic, of course, doesn't know quite what to make of a lunging, hopping, straining referee scraping along on a one-wheeled exercise bike, either. A Muni bus driver swears and raves, waving his arms wildly and honking his horn. Other drivers stick their heads out their windows. About a dozen onlookers, having absolutely no clue what they are watching, clap along with the drumbeats.

The only evidence of the nature of this absurdity is a flier posted on a long wooden plank leaning against the truck:


That explanation, of course, is no explanation at all, leaving the same questions on the lips of nearly everyone present: "Who are these idiots, and what the hell are they doing?"

The idiots themselves aren't much help.

"Would you like to drive the exercise bike today, sir?" the ref in the "meat hat" asks a man in speckled painter's garb. "You can compete for a free barbecue."

The man walks by, chuckling nervously. As other would-be cyclists pass, the "meat hat" referee explains the pitch: The person who can ride the modified, "front-wheel drive" stationary bike -- which, of course, has a horizontal metal bar where an ordinary bicycle would have a back wheel -- wins a mobile cookout from the idiots, who say they'll deliver it from the Mazda flatbed, which will be filled with sod and a barbecue grill.

This entices Scott Mazzola, who works for the IRS, to attempt to ride the bike the length of a parking space, counter to Haight traffic. Almost immediately, a crowd of nearly two dozen gathers as Mazzola mounts the bike and Jon Brumit, under the alias Kyle Sliv and still wearing his "meat hat," pounds out a drum roll.

No one is quite sure what's happening, but everyone knows watching Mazzola's laboring, lunging attempts to make a stationary bike move are pretty funny. He's a clinic in wasted motion, with agonizing effort and extension adding up to barely any bicycle motion. Eventually, the stress on the equipment becomes so great that the bike's chain gives out, leaving Mazzola -- urged on by Brumit's drumming and enthusiastic-if-confused clapping from the crowd -- to hop up and down on the exercise machine, until it skitters past the finish line.

Mazzola is eventually followed by five other biking volunteers.

On the curb, Brumit's partner, Marc Horowitz, under the alias of Burt Dulet, is handling the "creative counseling" section of the ... whatever it is that's going on.

Mostly, "creative counseling" consists of Horowitz (with a stuffed buzzard sitting, parrotlike, on his shoulder) asking people if they need advice. "Excuse me, ma'am, would you like to ask the bird a question?" he inquires, utterly deadpan, of a twentysomething woman who walks by with a facial expression that suggests she's smelled something foul. Horowitz shrugs, saying, "She's hardened by the city streets," to no one in particular.

Another twentysomething girl, this one decked out in a tie-dyed shirt and wool hat, takes the bird up on an offer to learn the future.

"I foresee you traveling around the world," squawks Horowitz.

The girl laughs pleasantly and walks on.

Over the course of an hour, "Sliv" and "Dulet" manage to attract enough of the area's other strangeness, mostly in the form of quirky drifters, to draw the ire of the boutique they've parked in front of. A store manager asks them to leave; they demur, correctly and politely noting that they are neither blocking the store entrance nor using store property. The manager calls the police; Sliv and Dulet are handing out "free ideas" on pink Post-it notes when the cops arrive. (Example: "Would you like a helpful product?" one member of the duo asks. "Sure," the passer-by answers, and is subsequently handed a Post-it note containing the following text: "Helpful Product.")

The manager from the boutique, a sour-looking woman with a whiny, surly temperament, emerges to state her case through the squad car window.

"These people are doing this ...," she trails off. "They're doing this creative counseling, they're giving away ideas ...." She trails off again, perhaps realizing that what she's saying makes no sense. No sense whatsoever.

The officer in the passenger seat motions Horowitz over and asks him if he would mind clearing out. Horowitz agrees to leave, but not before offering the cop a Sliv & Dulet business card.

"One other thing," Horowitz says. "Would you like some chili con carne?"

The cop nods.

Horowitz takes out a Sharpie, writes "chili con carne" on a Post-it, and hands it to the cop.

"Where do I get it?" the policeman asks.

"I don't know," Horowitz shrugs. "Maybe at that Mexican place up the street."

The officer, utterly puzzled, rolls away.

Brumit and Horowitz couldn't have been much happier with the outcome of their Haight foray. They were one step closer to accomplishing their goal of becoming the best-known jackasses in San Francisco.

About The Author

Jeremy Mullman


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