Man, what a strange weekend.
I went to a University of Iowa alumni meeting at a local bar, because the beer was free, and I know a few UI grads in town. I figured it’d be a pretty good time to just hang out, even if I only hung out with my friends the whole time and didn’t really do any networking or anything.
When I got there, none of my friends were there yet, so I just sort of hung out at the bar and stared at the televisions, periodically looking around for people I knew. A whole bunch of strangers, but down at the other end of the bar, nursing a beer and looking lonely, was Ryan Gosling, just hanging out by himself. I was baffled. What was he doing there? Why wasn’t he being mobbed by people?
Well, I was a couple free beers in, so I wandered down to the other end of the bar and sat down next to him. “Hey, man,” I said. “University of Iowa? Class of ’02.”
“’14,” he said. “Ph.D. in Otiotics.”
“No shit,” I said. “I only went there for undergrad.”
None of my asshole friends were showing up, so we just kept chatting. I’d had no idea he was a UI Alum, but apparently he did his time in earnest, even wrote a whole dissertation. And because he’s Ryan Gosling, some commercial publishers were asking him to rewrite it in non-academic language to publish as a mainstream book. Fascinating, right?
“Man, you’re actually interested in my dry-ass academic writing? It’s pretty niche.”
“Hell yeah, I am. It sounds super weird.”
“Well hold up, I’ve got a copy in my car.” He left and then came back, handing me a weird book with vellum pages and leather binding– like, actual leather. I guess Ryan Gosling can afford to have his books printed and bound in a pretty fancy way, and not just slapdash jobs at the local University bookstore. I flipped through it, and each page had something completely strange on it– spot-varnish embossed Hebrew characters, or lacquered characters in Arabic, only visible at certain angles.
“What’s with the weird spot-varnish foreign language stuff?” I asked.
“Oh man, no one’s noticed that before,” he said. “Don’t worry about it.” He seemed kind of upset, so I didn’t follow up.
I kept reading, though. The first third of the dissertation was a collection of lab experiments, but they were all written in a variety of different styles. Some were a lot more literary than they were strictly academic / scientific. I was totally digging it.
The title of the dissertation was “Geographical Origination Identification Via Borborygmatic Emission Descriptors,” which meant nothing to me. When I asked him to summarize, he kind of smirked. “It’s all about how I can tell where someone’s from based exclusively on the way they describe the sound of a fart.”
“You’re crazy, Ryan Gosling,” I said.
Anyway, a few beers later, we headed down to the Salt Lick for some delicious barbecue. When we got there, the place was closed for a private event, but I guess being with Ryan Gosling has some benefits, because they let us in anyway. We stood out horrendously, because everyone else was wearing black dress clothes– it turns out that the private event was a wake. In the middle of the courtyard, there was a huge temporary-construction aboveground pool, and floating in the pool was an open old-timey wooden casket with a dead woman inside.
The barbecue was incredible.