The first time Patrick Carroll met Matt Hoffman, they didn’t say a word to each other.
Carroll had recently opened ARMADA Skate Shop when Hoffman walked in, sat down at a table in the corner and proceeded to sketch a silhouette of a ketchup bottle. When he was done, he stood up, showed off the drawing to Carroll and his business partner, then stormed out of the shop without a word.
It was in that moment a friendship was born, and it would last until the day Hoffman died.
Last Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, Hoffman was cycling on Morehead Street when he was stuck by a car beside Uptown Cabaret.
Hoffman was in a coma until he died a few days later, leaving many in his circle of friends lamenting the loss of a man who was highly intelligent, always entertaining and often misunderstood.
Hoffman, 40, was a fixture around Charlotte.
He could be spotted walking around with unique clothing choices — thigh-high shorts and mismatched knee-high socks or strange T-shirts.
Friends recalled him riding his bike in the center of the road while giving drivers the middle finger, dancing in public (also giving the middle finger) or pacing around Uptown having a one-sided conversation on a disconnected desk phone. Last month, he was seen walking the wrong way through the finish line chute at Charlotte Marathon.
He would show up at real estate open houses just for the free food. He stole a $10,000 bike once at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show — not because of its worth, but because it looked like pencils. “It did look like pencils,” said Mills Davis, who knew him through the cycling community. “He was just so aloof — classic Matt.”
Being around him was never boring, his friends said. Cycling was both his only form of transportation and a way of life for him. He also loved running, dancing and music, said his sister, Melissa Hoffman.
Hoffman was extremely smart — he got a near-perfect score on his SATs in 7th grade and was offered a full ride to UNC Chapel Hill. Yet, he struggled with mental illness and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder (at the time, called ‘manic depression’) as a teenager. In the years after, he was in and out of hospitals and psych wards as he struggled with his mental health. In recent times, Urban Ministries was helping him, having set him up with a social worker and a small apartment of his own, Melissa Hoffman said.
It was this part of him that led others to feel that being different was OK. “All my life, people would call me weird. As weird as I am, when I came in contact with Matt Hoffman, I’m the new norm,” ARMADA’s Carroll said. “I don’t care how weird you are. Matt wasn’t in the box. He was the color outside the box. He just let you know that there were different people out there.”
“You could see his battle with not fitting in and not being understood — it almost liberated him,” Carroll said.
Davis recalled meeting Hoffman in 2006 during a show off of Eastway Drive. Hoffman appeared from the woods dressed in business casual but with fairy wings and green glasses, Davis said. “He was perpetually just as endearing as problematic,” he said. “It was just so strange watching his decline and the way he pissed people off just enough to scare away any hope he had of being cared for properly.”
Seeing Hoffman struggle with mental illness was eye-opening, Carroll said. “We all go through depression from time to time, we all have our down times. He had a true condition, and he did the very best he could with it. He never used drugs, he was a wealth of knowledge.”
A few months ago, ARMADA began featuring Hoffman on their Instagram stories. “He would come up every day just to do a bit, just to say something,” Carroll said. Between the ARMADA stories and Hoffman’s YouTube page, he gained a following. His most recent YouTube rant vented both about yoga pants being unfashionable and his desire to be respected as a cyclist on the road.
Carroll and Hoffman had made plans to create ‘Make Hoffman Great Again’ T-shirts. “A lot of kids that don’t really know him are broken up by this,” Carroll said. “They’re saying, ‘I let this guy get into my heart somehow.’ It’s not just me that’s going through it.”
Bill Cleveland knew Hoffman through cycling. “RIP to a true weirdo,” he posted as his Facebook status on Sunday. “The best way to put it is that he was a deeply troubled guy, but cycling was a way of life for him, and that he was killed by a motorist while riding should only remind people to be aware of their surroundings and to drive safely,” he said about the loss of his friend.
Melissa Hoffman had not seen her brother in several years, and she said Hoffman’s battle with mental illness put some distance between him and the rest of the family. However, as soon as she’d heard about the accident, she rushed to his side at CMC Main. Their mother flew in from Victoria, Texas, and the two of them spent the next few days at his bedside, where he remained in a coma until he died on Sunday evening.
It was there that the community support started pouring in, with people visiting to tell Hoffman and his family what a difference he had made in their lives. Friends drove from New York, Boston and flew in from Los Angeles to see him and say goodbye, Melissa Hoffman said. “I wasn’t prepared for the outpouring of love,” she said. “He was difficult to be around. I’m sure he made a lot of people smile, but I’m sure he pissed off a lot of people, too. Yet, the community really embraced him.”
In one of his last YouTube videos, Hoffman said he wanted better for everyone. “We’re out here creating monsters with all this meanness, and that’s not cool. I ain’t about creating monsters. I’m about creating a beautiful life, a beautiful landscape, a beautiful everything for everyone so everyone can flourish and be beautiful — and that’s it.”