Roman’s Public Apology

man with funny sign
Roman Shusterman

I received  an email from Joey Boots yesterday. Roman is in a psych ward, and he wants me to call him there. He thought maybe it’d help to talk to me about whatever it is he’s got going on. He also wanted to make a public apology.

I’d heard Roman wasn’t doing well in August. He’d stopped showing up at the Square, so I started asking people he knew what was up. I was getting mixed details about his whereabouts and wellbeing. Some were saying he was doing terrible, wanting all his videos removed and in a hospital losing his mind, while others said he was all good again and planning to return to the park.

If you don’t know who Roman Shusterman is, he’s the guy who went viral writing his strange but funny sexual declarations on signs and giving detailed speeches about them at the park. He first started his exhibitionist style demonstrations in 2010 when the Free Hugs phenomenon hit the square. He hung around those Free Hugs kids carrying a FREE MASSAGES sign. And it worked!

Those soon turned into “Free Massages + Foot Worship.” Girls who took him up on his massages would then be asked if they’d mind a foot worship session as well. Much to all our surprise that worked too.

Creepy guy kissing bottom of woman's foot in public
Roman foot worships woman while crowd watches

Then there was his “Peace through Face-sitting” campaign, getting girls to sit on his face for world peace. The Fart Smelling Movement, in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, and on and on and on. Roman is responsible for some of the most shocking and hilarious events I’ve ever witnessed. When asked what’s the most outrageous event I’ve ever seen at Union Square Park, I always give a detailed account of the afternoon Roman Shusterman took a lady “Out To Eat” in front of everybody there on the steps. It’s safe to say I have always adored what he brings to the Square.

man with funny sex sign waving
Roman Shusterman smiling & waving

I put word out that I wanted to talk to him. I wanted him to know I genuinely cared for his well-being, and if there was any way I could help I would. I thought Roman needed to be told there’s nothing wrong with what he’s done, if that’s what he was regretting. He’s not hurt anyone. In fact he’s made a lot of people laugh. It’s comedy. Shocking at times, yes. But comedy none the less.

When I got Roman’s number to call, I realized I honestly cared for the guy. He wanted me to come visit him at the hospital, but I am away from NYC this month, so the phone call would have to do. I was happy to do it. I was anxious to do it! I wanted to talk to him myself and get the full story. I also wanted to ease his worry about whatever it is he thought he needed to apologize for. So this afternoon I called him.

The phone was answered by another patient in the ward who had to go find Roman, shouting his name to a room.

He spoke to me on the pay phone there used by everyone. It was clear he wasn’t his usual self. I started right off telling him he didn’t have anything he needed to apologize for.

“I want to apologize for anything I may have said or done that made light of the Elliot Rodger’s tragedy. I don’t feel that way and I deeply regret disrupting that event. I really want to get that out there.”

The top thing on his list was he wanted to make a public apology for any comments he made about being in solidarity with Elliot Rodger. At some point last year he’d attempted to disrupt one of the protests that followed the shootings & suicide. There were a group of protestors there with signs stating that Elliot’s views on women were common among men, and Roman hassled them with his usual “I deserve hot girls” routine. It’s a sentiment similar to Elliot’s. Roman told me he deeply regrets doing this, and making light of the event in any way.

At one point, when we he was telling me about the voices in his head he’s dealing with, the phone disconnected. His time was up and I had to call him back. He explained to me he thought the phone disconnecting was a sign he probably shouldn’t be talking about the voices.

It was clear to me after our 15 minute conversation, he’s pretty medicated and having to deal with a lot of troubling thoughts, paranoia and regret, and these are all weighing on him immensely. He also regrets not having planned better for his future.

Not to diminish what he’s going through, but I also reminded him that in the dead of winter feeling depressed, secluded and hopeless in New York is something a lot of us deal with. Winter can be a nightmare in this, the loneliest city.

Presently Roman’s in a cycle of taking medication and trying to heal. He wants to get back to the Square and regrets letting these events scare him away from it.
He and I have planned to get lunch when I return in February.

2015 Resolutions

Sasha Janegs Union Square NYC
Sasha poses Hunter S. Thompson style at the Square

I’ve made a New Years resolution that I plan to actually come through on this year! That resolution is to learn the essential knowledge necessary to update the site. To make this happen I’ve gotten a Lynda.com membership so that I can teach myself WordPress to a greater extent, and other valuable skills so I can stop looking so goddamned dated online! Lynda Weinman’s book on Dreamweaver is what I used to first learn that program back in 2000 to build JesusDressup.com! I’m hoping to bring everything that’s at normalbobsmith.com either to here, or archiving what’s no longer being updated. It’s time. I know this. So I’m thinking. parts like Super Chics, hate mail,  Sheeples, etc (which have all fallen to the wayside) will be archived, while Amazing Strangers, Jesus Dress Up, the store, etc (which keep expanding) will take center stage. Simplify!

TrueStoryASA vs Joey Boots & Normal Bob

Joey Boots from 2014 Matchgame Postcard
Joey Boots drawing from the Union Square Matchgame postcard

So what else is new? Well, one thing that’s happening is TrueStoryASA keeps striking & deleting videos of mine that they appear in! And about a week or so ago they threatened getting lawyers on me if I continue to oppose their strikes.

“our next step would have to be legal action from our end”

You can read more about this on Reddit. This might be a good place to also tell you that I’ve opened a Reddit account and I’ve been really impressed with the traffic results it’s bringing in. I plan on posting updates there, as well as things like favorite videos & photos from years ago, related news, and whatever else. It’s also the ideal place to ask any questions you may have about anything related to the site.

Amazing Strangers & Reddit

creepy photographer with boy's underwear
A stranger who was taking pictures of me while holding his camera with a pair of boy’s underwear

Amazing Strangers 2015 Year In Review has been posted which means there’s little else going on at the Square now that winter has stomped its brutally cold foot down there. That doesn’t mean though that there’ll be no more videos until spring. Shaggy and I frequently meet up at Starbucks this time of year, so you can bet if something’s going down there I’ll try to record it. And there’s been some funny shit I’ve caught happen there before!

And btw, if you’ve been wanting to get more interactive with the videos and the site in general, Reddit’s the place to do that at. I check it frequently and am more than happy to respond to questions and/or encourage posts that have to do with my site, Union Square, or whatever else you might have to say about what’s been going on here.

For now that’s about it. It’s about 6 degrees where I’m at right now, so I’m chillin’ out in front of my online tutorial learnin’ stuff.

Goodbye Summer, Hello Holidays

BDSM Jesus Dressup magnets
BDSM Jesus Dressup fridge magnets ($15) include Betty Page wig, Leather Daddy, Nurse & Horsetail Buttplug

I just received word that the cargo ship carrying my BDSM Jesus Dressup magnets has completed its journey across the Pacific Ocean, docked safely at the coast in City Of Industry, California, and its contents are now being loaded onto a truck to begin the long track across these United States to New Jersey, and then NYC. That means they will be here by Monday or Tuesday, so this is your last opportunity to purchase aforementioned magnets at the preorder, discount price of just $9. On the day that that truck arrives at my front step honking its horn, and I am lugging those 20 pound boxes up my staircase, that’s the same day put them back at their normal price of $15 each. There’s already been a few handfuls of these preorders made whose envelopes are postmarked and ready to fly out the door, so consider yourself fairly warned. Now’s the time to buy if BDSM Jesus has been on your or your dom’s wish list. I’m really looking forward to a thriving holiday season with these li’l demons back in stock.

Also, I have about 60 sets of the Star Wars Jesus Dressups left (just under two boxes – 40 per box). The same goes for the Jesus Christ Superstar sets (3 boxes) and the Original Jesus Dressups (2 boxes). Once these run out, that’s it. Especially the latter two, I have no plans in the near or distant future of producing again. There’s too many other versions I want to spend my time and money making, like Batman Jesus! 2015, I hope.

Purple haired Sketchgirl Nat
Sketchgirl Nat looking alien in her new goggles and purple hair

It’s October, and another unique year at the square is coming to a close. There’s been no shortage of Amazing Stranger drama there this year. So much so that I’ve had to take several weeks off just to regroup before throwing myself back into it! But now that I’ve got my head back together again, I’m wishing there were maybe a couple more months of that mayhem left before winter sets in. I’ve been pacifying myself by going through hundreds, probably thousands, of photos I’ve taken over the last decade and uploading my favorites to Reddit with dates & details. Most of these images have never before been published, so if you’re into the Union Square/NYC experience, these images will most likely fill that empty spot Humans Of New York can not. Which is also my point.

I’m sick of being an obscure reference. I have confidence enough in the content I’m churning out to have it seen by more than just a couple thousand views on Youtube! Some people are telling me I need to monotize my account (which I believe includes opening them up to bothersom ads), which in turn gets them into the YouTube promotion rotation. Others are demanding I get on Instagram (but I still only have a flip-phone) or the dozen other places there are for me to post my junk. I am happy to say though that the folks over at No Your City have made it clear they’re there for me. And more than a few different Amazing Strangers projects have been discussed, including the Union Square documentary of Union Square.

What else, what else? The production of a Jesus Dressup app is presently a mystery to me. I will let you know when I find out more.
I’m completely available for art projects. For Christ’s sake, hit me up!

 

Where I’ve Been

Since I seem to not be able to give you folks updates on any other section of the site, I’ll give it here.

First of all, I’m relieved to announce that the order for BDSM Jesus Dressup has been placed, and it’s expected to be here by October. I cut it so close raising the funds for these, but the BDSM Jesus has been the fastest selling version for me so far, and it’s the one the stores have been nagging me to get as soon as possible! My hope is that I can get over this Mohammed Dressup magnets mistake (I should have gotten the BDSM JDU ones done last year instead), then after the holidays, which I hope go well, invest in the Batman version next. Then, perhaps by next summer I’ll be able to get more of the Star Wars made (because those will be gone by Christmas), and get everything back to where I was a year ago. It’s been a struggle getting caught up since being forced to move in January. That took such a serious bite out of my budget, my energy, and inspiration. I’m really hoping to turn things around this Christmas.

BDSM Jesus Dressup magnets
BDSM Jesus Dressup fridge magnets ($15) include Betty Page wig, Leather Daddy, Nurse & Horsetail Buttplug

The new BDSM version has been tweaked and slightly updated. I redrew Jesus’ submissive nurse outfit, and replaced his pig mask with a sheep’s because of the whole “Lamb Of God” thing. Short of that however, everyone who I asked seemed to think it couldn’t be improved upon. So if it ain’t broke, yadda yadda yadda. Have a look at the sample sets that arrived as of 8/13/14! (Product is in stock as of 10/10/14!)

I’m not fond of selling sets in advance, but in an effort to catch up from previously mentioned setbacks I’ve decided to offer a discounted price for anyone willing to wait for shipment until October (possibly November). When they do arrive they’ll be priced at 15 bucks a pop. But if you know you want it, and you’re willing to wait, you can get them now for just $9 (no quantity limit) plus shipping. I wouldn’t even post this offer if I didn’t get so many emails asking where, when, and how to get them. Now I have an answer.

Amazing Strangers has been lagging, I’m aware. We’re all well aware. We had such a strong spring, and now it’s come to this! I’m not even sure if I ever announced the latest page update. Last month there were two separate, very real threats of violence if certain videos didn’t get removed, and in addition to that, almost every single day for the last month and a half it’s been Volleyball.

Volleyball, volleyball, volleyball. It dominates pretty much everything else at the south end of Union Square. Ask anyone there and they’ll agree. Volleyball eclipses all that’s happening at the park. It’s altered the mojo. Add to that Roman moving away, Wendell & Signs rarely showing, there’s little I can do but sit and wait for something to happen. If the section of my site were called “Amazing Volleyball!” you’d be getting lots and lots of updates! But it’s not. And to me there’s very little that’s amazing about these strangers.

Remember Bob Smith USA? The movie by Neil Abramson about me and 6 other Bob Smiths? Well, earlier this month Neil granted me permission to post the full movie on my YouTube channel. I’m very excited for everyone to be able to see it now. I’m still very proud to’ve been part of that project, and to get that part of my life and the site documented for future generations. I strongly recommend it, and sharing it with your friends.

As for me and my personal life, I just turned 45. I think my vision is finally beginning to fail me. I’ve been single for far FAR too long, and everyone tells me it’s because I’m not on any dating sites. Is that true? Is that the only way now? Is that why everyone’s staring at their phones when they’re crossing the street? Did I lose touch because of my flip phone?
I’m beginning to think that guy who told me to “stop looking and it’ll come to me” gave me shit advice. Time to start peepin’!

A Free Spirit Bullies my Friend

So yesterday I’m at Union, and I’m sitting with this kid who’s a fan of the site, and he’s cool, and we’re talking. At one point I leave to go to the bathroom, and when I return there’s a couple sitting where I had been sitting. I don’t mind at all and just sit off to the left of them so they’re now sitting in-between me and my friend. There’s a comfortable space between us all.

Then, this guy shows up who’s their friend. He comes right up and sits next to them, which is directly on the step behind my friend. He puts a foot on either side of where my friend’s butt is on the step, leans around and says “You don’t mind if I sit here, do ya? You’re gonna look like my girlfriend! Hahaha!” And the three friends laugh. My friend doesn’t move from his seat, and I see the guy behind him shrugging his shoulders and smirking like, “Haha, I guess he’s not gonna move!”

It was clear that what he was hoping for was to be able to forgo any sort of respectful, “Hey. Would you mind moving over a little so I can sit here?” and instead just hoped his obnoxiousness would make the kid leave and sit somewhere else. When he sat down he didn’t know I was the kid’s friend, so he figured who gives a shit?

A minute goes by and I’m stewing over it all, and I say to my friend, “Hey, can I take your picture? This’ll be good. Trust me, you’re gonna want to remember this moment.”
So I get up and snap a picture.

Bully sitting emo kid
“Free Spirit” attempts to make my friend leave by sitting directly behind him like this.

I’d made myself known, and some more awkwardness is introduced to the situation. The three of them all get quiet and just stare down at their phones, flicking their fingers up and down on their screens. Total quiet. Of course I can’t keep my mouth shut now that I’ve already opened it and say, “Ya like this? It’s the new kind of tourist. They come all the way to New York City just so they can sit with their friends and stare at the phones the whole time.”
My friend is hearing me, but isn’t really saying much. I keep on going because I can’t seem to focus on anything else. “That’s a great move you did to get your seat.” I compliment. And he responds with something along the line of, “You like it? Haha, It’s good, right?”
“Yeah. You need a place to sit, so you just straddle up behind someone, put a foot on either side of ‘em and tell them they’re going to look like your girlfriend if they stay there. That’s a real asshole move!”

They’re all half nervously laughing, and half staring into their phones hoping it’ll all just go away. Of course I can’t let it go since the sitting arrangement hasn’t altered in the tiniest way. I say to my friend (but actually to the whole group), “That’s what happens. People come to the city and think this is how we all treat each other here, so they act rude because they think that’s just what we do.”

Now the guy says something like, “How do you know what I’m thinking? You’re the only one who seems to have a problem with this. Just let it go, buddy. Just stop talking about it. ” and “Listen. If he had been a girl I would have been nice and asked if it was okay” To which I shouted, “Yeah, but he’s just a guy so fuck him.”
And this shit he just said proves my whole fucking point. He did it to be alpha. Being polite to my friend, in his mind, is a form of submission to another guy. So to show he’s superior, this is how he approached the situation where there isn’t enough room to sit. It’s stupid fucking alpha male bullshit. And I’m seeing myself as a teen being just like this kid and having this stuff done to me all the time. This guy’s there with his friends, the kid is alone and a little smaller, so this is how you’re supposed to treat him.

Then this hippy guy who’s been playing the goddamned flute on the other side of us turns to me and says, “Hey buddy. Just let it go. You’re the one who keeps talking about it. Quit bringing up the past. What’s done is done. Let it go. Just drop it.”

See now, I’m baffled that everyone is treating me like I’m the one who’s the problem, and not this guy.
“How would you like it if I sat right behind you, put a foot on either side of where you’re sitting, right here and here” I point to the space on his sides, “and then leans in and says in your ear – If you stay here you’re going to look like my girlfriend?! and then laugh about it?”

At some point in here Shaggy arrives and asks what’s going on. I describe it all to him. He laughs about it, then tries to get me to leave the situation with him because he sees I’m fuming. I totally refuse to leave and Shaggy walks away, the whole time trying to get me to go with him. Very stubbornly I don’t budge and tell him, “I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying right here. There’s more that needs to be said.” Mind you, still nothing has changed in the seating arrangement this whole time. My friend is still sitting in-between this stranger’s feet.

This hippy guy says something like “I wouldn’t mind. Maybe where these people are from that’s a normal thing to do, to be close to each other” or some shit like that. And the guy sitting behind my friend is saying “Buddy. Just drop it. I didn’t do it to be an asshole. I’m a nice guy. I’m a free-spirit…” [Yadda yadda]. I swear to you he said “I’m a free spirit” to which I responded, “Yeah, you’re all free spirits who just take and take and take.”

“Buddy. Just drop it. I didn’t do it to be an asshole. I’m a nice guy. I’m a free-spirit…” [Yadda yadda]. I swear to you he said “I’m a free spirit” to which I responded, “Yeah, you’re all free spirits who just take and take and take.”

At this point his buddy chimes in “Listen. He is my friend and he’s a nice guy with a sense of humor. You’re just misunderstanding…”
And I keep going with my “Yeah, he’s a really great guy who forgoes any sort of courtesy wherever he goes and just sits where he wants. And if someone’s there? Fuck him because he’s a free spirit!”

Let me make it perfectly clear here again that still no change has been made to where this guy’s sitting. His feet are still my friend’s armrests.
Finally there’s some quiet. I shut the hell up for a minute. They all just sit there. The guy at some point quietly moves his feet up so his knees are up against his chest, still quite stubbornly not moving from where he’s sitting – so as not to admit defeat I’m guessing.

I say to my friend, “Would you like to sit over here where there’s space so you don’t have to look like this guy’s girlfriend?” To which they all gasp, including the hippy guy, that I can’t just let it go. My friend does indeed get up and move and sit in the space next to me, and there’s more awkward silence.

Finally after a minute more the guy says to my buddy, “Look. I’m sorry if I disrespected you. I didn’t mean to. Now can we all just mind our own business now and drop it?” And my friend says “It’s cool. No problem.” And I say, “Thank you” and the guy says to me, “I’m not saying this because of you. I’m saying this to your friend!” I tell him, “That’s fine with me. It’s about time. I’m just trying to help you be better people. Be polite. And I appreciate that you apologized.”
They’re all – “Okay. It’s done. You’re cool. We’re cool.” And I wash my hands of the situation and move over to where I’m not facing it any longer.

Don’t get the idea from any of my self-debasing as I tell the story that I regret at all saying anything I said, or standing up for my friend.
They still stuck around and sat there for a while, until one after another, people I know at the Square were coming up just to say hi, or hang out, and they realized I knew a lot of people here. So after about 15 minutes of this they finally got up and left. We all shook hands, and my friend thanked me for sticking up for him. I asked him if he was at all bothered by the guy’s move, and he had a sense of humor about it. He even said he thought about lying back into his lap to pretend he was the guy’s girlfriend.
I, on the other hand, felt like I was in the fucking Twilight Zone being the only person there who saw the guy’s move as being as rude and obnoxious as it was. Hell, I’m still fuming about it the next morning.

See more on this story’s page of Amazing Strangers.

Artist, Atheist, Anthropologist