As I’ve made abundantly clear this blog will focus quite a bit on the degenerates and weirdos I have crossed paths with. With that being said I think it is important to discuss the beginning of my weirdo fascination, and I think it began when I was an undergraduate at the prestigious Western Illinois University. It was my junior year and I was taking a poetry writing course, and one of my classmates was a man-child the likes of which I had never encountered before. His name was Ryan and he was about a decade older than everyone else in the class (aside from our professor). He had a perfectly spherical belly, but his prodigious girth did not necessarily lend itself to obesity. Rather he had the physique of a carnival strongman that had simply let himself go. He decorated his balding melon with a pair of thick steel framed glasses, and came to class everyday wearing what I could only assume were the same pair of blue jeans and plain white t-shirt (which struggled valiantly to cover his voluminous paunch).
Ryan fascinated me mostly because his bizarre behavior was coupled with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of belligerence. He always had to get his two cents in even if it was wildly inappropriate and/or made no sense. I remember one day a classmates’ poem referenced thumbs and our professor (who was fairly out there himself) replied “yeah, thumbs are really great!” Ryan replied “they’re what make us truly human.” His nonsense left me incredulous since all primates have thumbs.
Another time our professor was telling us about a poetry contest we could enter, and the grand prize was something like $15. Ryan was only too happy to fantasize aloud about what he would do with that money were he to win. “If I won that money I’d buy a suit, and find my 3rd grade teacher. Then I’d mock the bitch!” While most of my classmates were mortified I was enthralled.
I certainly had a mild obsession with this real-life Ignatius J. Reilly. Going to class was never a chore because it was closer to watching a new episode of my favorite television show than a learning experience. Watching his antics I could relate to the kid at the circus who wanted to be a tumbler after seeing acrobats perform, or a pre-teen girl obsessed with a boy band.
Unfortunately as the cliché says all good things must come to an end and after that semester I never saw Ryan again. I’m sure his reign of terror continued unabated but I was not there to witness it. I only had my memories of his antics and the doodles I did of him as various objects (including but not limited to a: trout caught in a stream, giant baby, and hermit crab) to remember him by.