Gritty in Pink

In a quest for fame and fortune, a unicycling superhero battles the stigma of a troubled past.

It's not that Maxfield doesn't understand people's anger and fear. He has kids of his own. But he wonders when he gets to move on with his life and career. He wishes people could accept that his sole aim is to make people happy. "I'm an example of what to do and what not to do, goddamnit," he says.

Crestfallen over the Register story, Maxfield escaped to Kauai, Hawaii, where Myrica and their children had recently moved. He lived there for a while, sleeping on the beach with a collection of eccentric characters. But soon enough, one of them learned of his past. He would have to move again. And again. And again.

For a decade, Maxfield bounced around the world, pinking it as he went. He pinked Houston, Berkeley, San Francisco, New Jersey, New York, and the Pacific Northwest. In Florida, he pinked Jacksonville, Key West, and Miami. He eventually made it all the way to Vancouver, Tokyo, Paris, and two towns in Germany.

Maxfield financed a small amount of his traveling with money he won in a settlement with a Danish advertising company that used his image without permission. But most of his travel has been bankrolled by generous friends and strangers, who have offered rooms and meals and plenty of financial support. He owes some friends thousands of dollars.

Between trips, Maxfield views the Bay Area as a home base. He's always had friends here, and San Franciscans have seemed largely unaware of his backstory. While Maxfield is nervous about cooperating with this story, he sees it as one final test: "If I can't be embraced in San Francisco, that's it."

Entering the Lafayette BART station on his way to the city, Pink Man is an instant celebrity. As he cruises toward the ticket entrance, people tear through their bags for cameras and beg him to wait: "Can't I get a picture of you?" "My daughter will love this." Pink Man is happy to oblige, but when he notices the time — 11:13 a.m. — he becomes impatient, because November 13 is his birthday, and he interprets this as a sign that he must get going.

Pink Man is really big on signs. He sees them everywhere, and they all point in the same direction: toward pinking. The fact that the flamingo lawn ornament was created in the same town he hails from: That's one sign. Then there's the Energizer Bunny. It's pink, like him, and it never stops. Beyond this feeling that he's supposed to be pinking, there is also the simple fact that after all these years, it's still damn fun.

After climbing the escalator out of the Powell BART station, Pink Man immediately leaves the Rollerblading reporter and photographer in the dust. He twirls his way down Market, flapping his arms, chasing pigeons, and making his signature sound, "Doo, d'doooo!" Finally he stops at a fire hydrant and pretends to take a piss on it, but loses his balance and falls off the unicycle. Laughing, he gets up and tears off, crossing streets with abandon, dipping in and out of stores and instructing passersby, "You gotta keep your eye on the pink."

He wheels by Market and Montgomery, where crowds of construction men, bike messengers, and office workers are sitting on the marble steps, eating their lunches. One fan, a bike messenger named Mike, gives him a big welcome. Mike loves the fact that somebody out there is determined to be the best part of people's days, dressed like a maniac, and not asking for money (Pink Man never does that). "There's room for him and a lot more like him," he says.

Although plenty of people are snapping photos and others are cracking up, one guy in a business suit seems disturbed. "That's uncomfortable to watch," he says. "I wasn't raised that way." When asked exactly what he is referring to, the guy says, in total seriousness, "Pink."

Apparently even some people who know nothing about Maxfield's history are turned off by his appearance. His color of choice, flamboyance on the wheel, and graceful dancing have a way of convincing some people that he's gay. Even in the Bay Area, some people appear to be put off by him.

In Berkeley, people have tossed batteries and beer cans at him. One day, somebody in a car leaned out of the window and grabbed his sweatshirt, and he got dragged about 50 feet. He reported the incident to the police and gave the car's license plate, but says that after the owner was tracked down and denied doing it, the matter was dropped.

Making matters worse, about ten years ago, Maxfield suspects somebody in Berkeley looked up his past on the Internet, and soon everyone seemed to know. People began yelling at him in the street, calling him a molester. Sometimes a car would pull up, full of smiling people, and he'd start to dance for them. He'd spin around a few times, and then stop and look back at the car, and their faces would all be like this, he says, giving a cold stare. "It affects me to have people think the worst," he says. "I'm a really sensitive Pink Man."

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