Looking back


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One year ago, the man you see here was caught defecating on a city sidewalk. We went in search of him and found a man named Stuart Irving – a man arrested almost 100 times, over almost 40 years, almost always for the crimes of the homeless. We wrote about him, and called the story “In full view”. Nothing could have been further from the truth…


The tall man with the knot on his forehead took the bill from my editor, danced a little jig, and headed north on Hogan in the shadow of the Skyway.

He went into a shop to buy breakfast but wasn’t allowed to eat inside. He smelled too bad. He was laughing and talking to himself, as well. Out on the sidewalk, he stooped to pick up a cigarette butt, and I introduced myself.

It was a chance encounter.

Long lost family and friends of Stuart Irving had called the Times-Union after an article about him ran in May, telling the story of a 57-year-old man arrested again and again for minor offenses over four decades. Faced with a blow by blow of Irving’s fall, they wanted to tell the story before the story. Their tales showed how one bad thing is often enough to nudge a person over the edge, but when followed by another, and another, the descent can turn to free fall.

Still, throughout their explanations, the man himself remained elusive, quarantined in hospitals and assisted living facilities. Until this recent morning, when he panhandled my boss.

I had searched for Stuart Irving for months, but now that I had found him, would his addled mind be able to tell me anything I did not already know?

His cautious brown eyes looked into mine, then away.

His hands shook a little, his nose wrinkled in a pained grimace, his eyes in a feverish squint.

He turned his body, rested his head in his right hand, and rubbed furiously at that lump on his scalp.

“I’m t-t-trying to hold back the tears,” he said. “My childhood. Things happened…”

CLICK HERE for the full story, published October 28, 2007, in The Florida Times-Union.