AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) - For five years, Joe Shead, 50, has been enjoying his regular neighborhood walks in the Old West Austin/Clarksville area in Central Texas. Some of his neighbors have enjoyed watching him stroll by. Others most assuredly have not.
"For two years, 2007 and 2008," said Shead, "it seemed to get just more and more friendly. People would honk all the time and I'd wave."
Lately though, some people, especially parents of young children, express somewhat less enthusiasm.
"You get both," said Shead. "You get angry parents and you get liberal parents who think it's a really good thing and that's the way I see it."
Indeed everybody "sees it," one way or another. It's just really, really hard to miss: The thong that enwraps Shead's private parts as he meanders down the street. You see, the thong is the only thing the man wears, the only thing other than the socks and athletic shoes that protect his feet.
So why on Earth would one intentionally subject himself to criticism, insults and scornful looks?
"It's fun and it's harmless, as I see it," comes the answer. "So when people ask me why I do it, I usually just say I'm fun; it's fun, I mean. But it is a lot packed into that."
The packing started back in the wild and wooly decade of the 1960s.
"I was born in 1962, Shead said. "I grew up, you could say, in the early '70s and late '60s. That's when I got my first impression of how the world is and where the world is going.
"Things were awfully different back then. People were different; they were trying lots of new things, spiritual things, more open sexuality.
"I grew up really thinking that that was just going to evolve into more and more of itself."
That, of course, is not how it went down. By 1981, Ronald Reagan was in the White House and the country had begun a decided turn to the conservative.
"How that happened, I don't know," Shead said, "but the disappointment was very great."
By 2007, the man had had enough. He shed his clothes save for the thong and spread out a blanket for his repose at Zilker Park. It took only 20 minutes for the police to show up.
Over the ensuing five years, Shead estimates he's been stopped and sometimes briefly detained at least 30 times.
"Ninety-five per cent of it," he said, "it's not the police; it's the people that call them that are the problem. All they do is pick up that cellphone and it's just so easy and it goes without punishment. They can say anything they want.
They can say, 'He's naked!' and the police have to make a response. And they come and they see that I'm not."
So the thong wearer has never been arrested because what he is doing is simply not illegal. And if it's not against the law, Shead figures he's got every right to wear his thong wherever he wants.
"I think our freedoms are something that you have to, you have to exercise them or you're going to lose them," he said.
"Some people would argue, 'Well, if you don't stop exercising it, you're going to lose it because you're exercising it.'
"Yeah, and I say, 'Well, in that case then I never had that freedom. It was a false one; it was just a mirage."
That is the political and philosophical chip that Shead wears on his bare shoulder, where he hopes, everyone can see it.
"If people never see something, then yeah, they're going to feel uncomfortable with it," he said.
When people do notice his behavior, he hopes, they will slowly come to think of it as no big deal.
But what happens when it's children doing the noticing? Well, when it comes to them, Shead makes no apologies.
"As a child," he recalled, "I saw what things could be and I saw that it was possible for things to be different. Here and now, I really, I want the children to see that you can still do this, walk around with a thong on, here in Austin at least.
I want them to see that and know, when they grow up, if it's no longer possible, to know that it was."
But what Shead really wants is for more like-minded people to take to the streets in thongs of their own.
"If it's just me," he said, "then, then it's easier for people to say it's a lunatic fringe doing it."
"Why don't people do it?" he wondered aloud. "And why don't people do it when so many people really do want to? That puzzle has been in the background and the foreground of my life my whole life."
Meanwhile, Shead realizes that if it came down to a neighborhood vote, he might well lose his right to thong around town.
"That's the difference, though, between democracy and majority rule," he said. "You don't just put everything up for majority vote. You have to protect the minority when they're not doing any harm."
"Harm," of course, lies in the eye of the beholder, but the law is on Joe Shead's side.
In court documents filed Monday afternoon, 20-year-old Jacob McDaniel was officially charged with reckless homicide and pointing a firearm in the shooting death of a Noblesville teen.
Sunday night, Johnson County officers were called to a Whiteland home, when a woman called to say she was being attacked by her 18-year-old grandson.
Work began in the old Indianapolis City Hall on Monday morning.