In San Diego, CA, most people don't even know the real name of the biggest celebrity in town. The man is known only as Slomo. He is an aged gentleman - maybe in his 50's, early 60's, and he spends his days skating down beach-side Ocean Front Walk doing a form of Tai Chi on roller blades, in slow motion, and to a soundtrack. Usually, he is wearing a bucket hat, blue tanktop, Bermuda shorts, his safety pads, roller blades, and of course his music. The young locals yell out his moniker "Slomo!" as he wistfully glides by blaring music (mostly classical) from his on-person speakers. In a beach town filled with characters, Slomo is the king of them all.
To me, until today, Slomo was the strange old man balancing on one skate with his arms outstretched, a huge smile on his face, brightening up the day of all those he slowly, and I mean slowly, rolled by. Today was the first time that I've seen him in a couple months, so after talking with some friends about the legend of Slomo, I decided to get to the bottom of who this man really was. What I found out is that "Slomo" was the alter ego of Dr. John S. Kitchin, M.D., a retired San Diego neurologist trained in psychiatry.
Before he was Slomo, John Kitchin was a neurologist and psychiatrist. He even owned a 30 acre ranch at one point with a petting zoo, and started a nonprofit foundation to bring children to visit the animals. The basis for his rollerblade skills was downhill skiing, Kitchin's former passion. Kitchin suffers from prosopagnosia, an affliction that makes it difficult to recognize faces. He believes his uncanny balance might be a compensation for his visual disorder.
In 1998, Kitchin retired from medicine. He already had taken to skating with headphones at Dana Junior High School in Point Loma. He began to see slow-motion gliding to music as a portal to religious ecstasy. He moved into a "monastic" studio a half-block from the boardwalk and took to skating the length of the boardwalk seven days a week. Naturally, his family worried about him.
Kitchin wondered if his obsession with oceanfront skating might be the manifestation of a psychological breakdown, fueled by the heady essence of the boardwalk. Years later, those fears have dissipated into the morning mist. He spends his days writing, creating art, mixing music and, of course, dressing in the Slomo outfit and skating for hours into the cosmos. Kitchin uses the Slomo character as a sort of meditation device/social experiment. Kitchin's philosophy of "the Zone," is where Slomo lives and where he meditates on eternal questions.
Kitchin has embraced the stardom of his Slomo alter ego. His Slomo T-shirts, bumper stickers, postcards and self-published books – "The Trial of Slomo," "Slomo and the New World," and "Portraits in Slomovision" – sell briskly at the Swings n' Things at the Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach (as well as on Amazon.com). He is the loved mascot of the beach community although most people do not know anything about him.
I now have a much greater appreciation for all that is Slomo. He definitely reinforces the ole adage,"you should never judge a book by the cover." Also, I now know that he does not recognize me, even though he smiles and high fives me every time we pass each other.