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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

"Fast" Times Gone Awry -- Berkeley Resident Starves While Searching for Humanity

Posted By on Tue, Jul 10, 2007 at 9:59 AM

fasting02.jpg

Illustration courtesy of essenes.net

Some people need to test themselves. They climb mountains. They swim across the Bay. They run marathons -- and, keep in mind, the soldier who ran the 26.2 miles from the eponymous battle of Marathon to Athens in 490 B.C.E. dropped dead.

Gerald Horne does none of these things. But, in an effort to test his limits and answer some questions about himself, The Berkeley resident recently set off with 120 pounds of bulky equipment and his 95-pound pit bull, Zeus, hiked 12 miles under the blistering sun, intentionally went without food for the better part of two weeks and ended up in a Monterey County hospital bed after an air rescue.

Like you, I wondered, "What was he thinking?" So I asked him.

When I reached Horne in his hospital room, he was in the middle of breakfast. He is eating again, and seems to be doing all right. He admitted he was "perturbed by" the coverage he's received, which he feels has "ridiculed" him.

"The whole point was to get away and evaluate my life. That's all it was," explained the 38-year-old former mutual funds and insurance salesman. "It wasn't intended to be inviting the world to evaluate my life for me."

And yet that's exactly what happened. And the evaluations are not positive: Comments beneath articles recounting Horne's ordeal utilize the word "dumbass" with Red Forman-like enthusiasm.

Horne says that kind of negativity is what drove him into the wilderness in the first place.

"That's one of the reasons why I escaped. People are out of touch with what it means to be human. For people to make comments like they have -- I mean, one guy said 'What kind of idiot goes into the wilderness with no food to fast?' What kind of comment is that?"

"I wanted to self-evaluate and put everything in perspective," he continues. "I've reached a point in my life where I was a little unsatisfied. The things I've accomplished are just not sufficient for me. Looking back, I followed everyone else's advice since I was a kid. I never really followed my own."

By the time Horne and Zeus started their hike on June 26 into the Los Padres National Forest he had already been fasting for three days. He was carrying a heavy, queen-sized air mattress, a king-sized tent and, yes, plenty of snacks for the dog ("he was well taken care of").

Horne has undertaken long fasts before; he feels the pain and discomfort forces one to think harder about the big questions in life. He'd never fasted while hiking in blast furnace heat, though. Within a couple of days he knew he was too weak to walk the 12 miles back to the trailhead.

"I wasn't in a panic state. In my head I was pretty strong. I needed to wait it out a little bit, wait until somebody could see me and send for help. Dying wasn't an option in my head."

On July 3 he was air-lifted out of the park. By that time he'd gone without water for about four days and hadn't eaten in about 11.

He was discharged from the hospital shortly after our Friday interview and is now back in the Bay Area with Zeus. And while his fast didn't end as he'd foreseen, he did answer a lot of questions about himself and "made some sense about why I attach myself to this, this hustle and bustle and flow."

I have two questions, though. One, how are you doing?

Horne pauses. "I'm feeling a lot better than I did before I left."

And, two, would you do it differently next time?

He laughs. "Of course." --Joe Eskenazi

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Bio:
Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

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