By Brian Chasnoff
To the drifters who idle daily in Travis Park, he is Rocky Runningbear, a homeless man who plants himself on the same bench every day and spouts science fiction, often exploding in unthreatening anger at imagined threats and government plots.
To the father who has spent years searching movie theaters and promenades in Santa Monica, he’s Sean Masciana, a troubled schizophrenic who disappeared in August 2008 from the sailboat he shared with his dad in a marina on the Pacific Coast.
Shocked that Sean, 45, had surfaced in the Alamo City, Pepi Masciana flew Tuesday from Los Angeles to approach his son in the park and persuade him to return home.
“He means more to me than anyone or anything on Earth,” Pepi said. “He’s my only son, and he needs help.”
At first, the reunion was fraught: Rocky reared his head.
“What are you doing in my neighborhood?” he asked when he saw his father. “I live here.”
Turning to Ron Brown, courtyard liaison at Haven for Hope, Rocky said, “I don’t know why he’s here.”
“I’m here because I love you,” Pepi said.
“Nope,” Rocky said, “sorry, we’re not actually related.”
Pepi, 68, had expected conflict.
His son was born with autism and developmental problems but at one time led a stable life, living with a girlfriend and going to church and theme parks. But in 2002, his girlfriend left him, and the schizophrenia emerged.
“He denounced the whole family,” Pepi said.
Sean boarded a bus to San Antonio, claiming he was married to Selena, the Tejano music star murdered in 1995.
“He thought he had a mansion there,” Pepi said, “and he was the manager of (Selena’s) band.”
His father found him at the local state hospital and convinced his son to return to Los Angeles, where he made room for him on his sailboat.
Sean lived on the water, watching action movies in his bedroom and accompanying his father to the homes of movie stars in Beverly Hills, where Pepi cleans pools. He met Balthazar Getty and Ernest Borgnine, both clients.
In 2008, the schizophrenia took over, and Sean became Rocky Runningbear, a famous Native American rock musician and manager of Selena, whom he had resurrected and wed.
He would grow angry at his father, cussing and foaming at the mouth. One day, driven furious, he disappeared.
“It was about Balthazar Getty leaving his wife and four kids (for Sienna Miller),” Pepi said. “He’s got a good set of morals, Sean does.”
Getty, a film actor, appeared on the celebrity gossip website TMZ.com last month toting a poster of Sean.
My friend “hasn’t seen his boy in two years, so I’m doing everything I can to help him find his son,” he told the paparazzo.
By then, Rocky was hundreds of miles away.
Hungry and dirty, he was sleeping at Ghost Town, the shell of an abandoned construction zone near U.S. 281. By day, he would hold court at Travis Park, finding food where he could and steadfastly refusing to go to Haven for Hope, the center for the homeless.
Last week, a San Antonio Express-News reporter Googled “Rocky Runningbear” and saw that his real name was Sean and he was missing. He called the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and then Pepi after a detective gave the reporter a phone number.
Unaware Tuesday that his father was coming, Rocky sat on his park bench and schemed for lunch, his belongings packed beside him in two trash bags. A bike cop rolled by and trilled something to Rocky.
“I want him off the force,” Rocky said.
Brown passed in a white van, and the sight inspired in Rocky a ferocious glee.
“Shut him down!” he growled, eyes flashing. “I want that little son of a rat exploited!”
Yet later, as Brown sat with Rocky in the park, the homeless man asked the Haven employee to baptize him. A reverend, Brown doused Rocky’s face with water from a drinking fountain, and both men began to cry.
“I never asked a reverend to do that for me in my life,” Rocky said.
Brown gave the homeless man his watch. Minutes later, Pepi walked up, nervous but calm with his hands in his pockets.
“Balthazar said to say hello,” he told his son.
“I don’t know him,” Rocky said.
He walked away, leaving his father to stand with Babe, a friend that had accompanied him on the journey.
“Somewhere in there, he knows who you are,” Babe said. “In his eyes, I could see.”
Pepi mentioned a gift awaited Sean in Los Angeles: The homeless man’s grandmother had died Sunday, bequeathing a house and thousands of dollars to her only grandson.
“But he’ll toss it aside,” Pepi said.
Brian Wicks, a street feeder who has grown close with Rocky, arrived at the park, and Pepi gave him a photograph of his son’s late grandmother. Wicks sat on a bench with Rocky, trying to convince him to go home.
Rocky protested but eventually stood up and walked toward his father. His face was softening. Rocky was disappearing, in his place the lost son.
“How about new pants?” Pepi asked.
Sean accepted those and much more – a fajita dinner, new shoes, a movie at the IMAX.
Grabbing his trash bags with both hands, Sean followed his father to a hotel across the street.