Crazy Man on Roof
Livingston’s “Urban Shaman” Appears on High—What’s Going On Here?
BY DAVID S. LEWIS
A mysterious and perplexing event took place in Livingston last month that went worldwide on YouTube. During the July 2nd Roundup Parade, a local man stood atop the Truex Furniture building doing some pretty strange things (see YouTube video: Crazy Man on Roof).
The man, since identifed as Ed Turner, Liv-ingston’s self-described Urban Shaman, gesticulated for some time in a strange manner, waving his arms and hands, alternately sitting, crouching and standing as if casting some ritualistic spell upon the cavalcade below from his rooftop perch several stories above Main Street. A parade spectator happened to catch the action on video as the blazing afternoon sun slipped slowly toward the horizon. As news of the video spread, commentators speculated about the crazy man on the roof and what he may have been trying to accomplish with his unusual behavior. Some, including the videographer, offhandedly assumed the man on the roof was simply nuts, a reasonable conclusion. Livingston, after all, has its share of reality challenged residents, from street corner star gazers who beam at spaceships to barstool prophets proclaiming the apocalypse. That explanation though ignores the profess-ional angle, that the crazy man may have had some method to his madness, a shamanistic strategy as the horses, bagpipers and classic cars streamed by below in a parade that draws thousands to downtown Livingston every year.
Others assumed that Uncle Ed, as he is sometimes referred to around town, was simply blitzed, that his behavior resulted less from an attempt to beam down on the parade then to beam up— Jim Beam.
The truth of the matter though (having discussed it with Turner himself) encompasses both of the above and more. Yes, alcohol was involved (it was a festive occasion), as were Turner’s shamanistic sensibilities, but a third more salient motive drove Turner to the rooftop of the Truex building that warm summer day. That motive, and the practice he enacted, derived from unseen causes set in motion before the fact, a dynamic we might observe as intrinsic not only to that event itself but to the greater mystery in which we find ourselves, the one we call life: shadowplay.
So what do we have? —We have, it would seem, a crazy man on a rooftop doing wild things that do not make sense. The key though is that Turner’s image along with a portion of the rooftop is cast in shadow by the sun at his back upon the street below, onto a shadow stage, as it were, upon which a shaman (all the world being his stage) might project himself.
But there’s more to this jester’s tale. Turner, you see, is no stranger to parades, and his unofficial participation in these events has not always been welcome. He is in fact somewhat of a professional heckler at parades and other functions, an enfant terrible, owing to reasons that are his own, and so much so that this year he was denied access to the perch he occupied at past parades—a room with a view above 2nd Street from which he heckled freely. The hotel’s owner forbade Turner’s heckling from his property, and so Turner moved his operation to the Truex rooftop (different building, same owner though).
That rooftop location, as it turned out, was beyond earshot of those below, and so as the sun plummeted in the afternoon sky, leaving the rooftop’s shadow cast along the middle of the street, Turner sought to project his own shadow upon the path of the parade as an alternative to verbal heckling. In the end, it was a child’s game that lasted but a few minutes, a play of light and shadow, and a projection not only onto the street below and the parade but upon the attention of those who watched, puzzled, even online, as we are all puzzled by events projected upon the screen of life, that of shadow and light, and as an “Urban Shaman,” Uncle Ed, amused himself on a warm sunny day in ways only he can understand. Though the shadow knows.