Meet Your PB Neighbor: Slomo ---- A former doctor finds peace skating in The Zone
Pacific Beach has its share of characters. Some you may know and some you will discover. All of them come with stories to tell. Pacific Beachers, please take a minute to meet your neighbor, Slomo.
He glides down the PB Boardwalk capturing the imagination of children, the hearts of adults and odd glares from those who don’t know of him. He’s a loner in our midst, carrying out his mission right before our eyes seemingly without a worry in the world, and a smile the size of a piano keyboard. The man in his early-70s is as jubilant as a kid in a candystore flying down The Boardwalk on rollerblades with arms outstretched like wings, and one foot in the air like a tail. He claims he was made like Batman, “desolate in the streets,” and we know him by his famous name: Slomo.
The man behind Slomo deserves an introduction like a comic book character. Every day for the past 20 years, he skates up and down the PB Boardwalk while listening to music that maestros a euphoric symphony of motions from his body, moving at the speed of slow motion.
“ ‘The Creator’ gave me my name,” says Slomo. He tells me that when he started skating, he spent a lot of time on The Boardwalk at night. At that time, there were mostly “drunks and crazies,” and “The Creator” falls into both those categories. He’d been shot in the head, which left him almost crippled, and he passed his time drowning at the bottom of a bottle. His biggest claim to fame, as far as we know, is giving Slomo his famous name.
“It transformed the introverted man into a celebrity,” chuckles Slomo. Most people will find it hard to believe that Slomo is a former neurologist, and a very successful one at that.
THE BACK STORY
For 25 years, he worked away at his job, while his personal fulfillment queue slowly dwindled down to nothing. Along the way, he acquired a lot of toys including a mansion, Ferrari and a collection of exotic animals. On the surface this sounds like a pretty good life, but when Dr. John Kitchin (his real name) saw his health deteriorating, he realized he had an opportunity to start over and pursue what he truly wanted in life.
He didn’t live in Pacific Beach at the time, but years back, he did his residency at the San Diego Naval Hospital during the Vietnam War. He said he loved it here, and after he quit his practice in 1998, he moved back to reinvent himself as Slomo. Now, he lives a simple apartment existence and every day he carries out his favorite activity: skating.
Three years ago, he was the subject of an award-winning film titled, “Slomo,” created by Josh Izenberg and his team at Only Human Films, and was licensed by The New York Times. “He was a great subject for a documentary,” Izenberg says. “He opened up his life, was honest and funny, and let us spend a lot of time with him.”
Check out the film online and you’ll find a man experiencing a level of divinity he calls “the zone.” To hear him talk about it makes it sound like something spiritual. Slomo believes that the acceleration he feels when rollerblading, however minute, allows him to tap into a subjective meditative state.
IN THE ZONE
Have you ever watched the NFL, and noticed that the look on some players’ faces is far different when they take their helmets off? Tom Brady and Drew Brees look wide-eyed, Russell Wilson looks almost sleepy. You may experience “the zone” yourself when you’re surfing or doing yoga.
Slomo knows all about it, and his in-the-zone face resembles that of an exhilarated child discovering dancing for the first time. He has a lot to say about it, and that’s why he wrote a book called, you guessed it, “The Zone.”
“It took a few years,” says Slomo. “Now I can enter into ‘The Zone’ the first second I take off, and can hold onto it for about a minute at a time.” Slomo is the author of two other books, “Slomo and the New World” and “The Trials of Slomo.”
If you ever get the chance to talk to him, you’ll find he’s opinionated, highly intelligent and his beliefs may surprise you. He has some negative views toward our justice system, and he took those issues on in “Trials.” Slomo figures that because he’s a loner and his skating is a non-violent protest against the establishment, it was only a matter of time before he ended up in the criminal justice system.
While society may want him to work hard for the betterment of mankind, or so it would have him believe, he now does what he wants, and some find that life practice dangerous.
“All three books deal with my paranoia,” Slomo says. “Paranoia can be good, as long as you’re aware. You have to have to it to avoid getting deceived.”
Filmmaker Izenberg says Slomo has plenty to say about life and death ... and about people. “He’s really good at figuring people out,” he laughs.
When Dr. Kitchin hit the middle-third period of his life, he began to notice that he was getting things backwards and his eyesight was failing. A condition developed, where he could not see faces clearly. He started to see people as having “personality types based on their color of clothing,” says Izenberg.
This I find to be completely true, because from the moment we met, Slomo took a look at my shirt and was able to tell me things about myself before I uttered a single word.
People who see him have been asking questions about Slomo for years. Most pass him off as a crazy homeless person. But as Izenberg points out, “People who we view as crazy and eccentric may actually have a lot more profound things to say about life than the guy in a suit walking down the road. Slomo’s story is about breaking free from yourself and not being afraid to change what your life’s about — even in your 50s and 60s.”
In the three years since the documentary release, Slomo has been approached by people seeking his advice on how to change their lives. “People were coming from all over the world,” Izenberg tells me. “Some even quit their jobs.”
As a former neurologist trained as a psychologist, Slomo is happy to fill the role, but he hardly expects them to slap on a pair of skates and find the meaning of life. Slomo found his own way to the meaning in his life, and insists it differs from person to person. “The whole endeavor of life is to find what makes you happy through your own will, and without killing yourself,” he says. “That’s the goal.”