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OK, really, how does he do it?

Ron Divino balances rocks on the beach as a way to balance a sense of

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At first, you can't quite believe it.

Ron Divino lifts up one of the rough shoreline rocks at the foot of Polk Street here - each rock weighing from 15 to 40 pounds - and finds a rounded or fairly sharp point.

Slowly, patiently, with strong fingers moving the rock around on top of another rock, and testing positions for several minutes, Mr. Divino finds the rock's exact point of equilibrium. Then he releases the rock. It stays there on a point of perfect, delicate balance on top of the other rock.

In an unbalanced world gone daffy over technology, wallowing in the cult of celebrity, and spawning overnight cyber-millionaires, Divino finds wonder and harmony in balancing ugly, dumb, old rocks.

You can't quite believe it.

Is it a trick? Is it an act of marginal value or a touch of genius?

"Tourists come down here," says Divino, starting in on another rock, "and ask if I'm using bubble gum or super glue, and I tell 'em, I know the rocks, I know the environment." He laughs with enthusiasm for where and what he is doing. Within an hour the energetic Divino has a forest of 15 rocks poised on their toes in a delicate hard-rock ballet.

You are beginning to believe it.

Another great balancing act, the Golden Gate Bridge, can be seen across the Bay from here in its entire splendor.

"When I first started to do this four years ago here," Divino says, "it would take me anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes to do one. But now I know what I'm doing. Each time I try to get more precision, to place it just on a hair point." He finds a rock's perfect balance in minutes now.

The tendency is to see too much and too little in Divino's feat. They are just rocks, and there is undeniable skill in the pinpoint balancing of an object usually considered lifeless and forgettable. But the real value comes when the rock star steps out from behind the rocks.

Remarkably, Divino is not a man trained in mechanics or engineering or masonry. He says he is homeless now, an ex-hotel worker and cook who bounced around from job to job after a grim childhood in San Diego and other hard experiences.


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