Jeff Ryan is a man who lives in a town in Pennsylvania, just over the border from West Virginia. I cant remember the name of the town but it is very close to Morgantown where he does a lot of work with pottery and various ceramics. We stayed with Jeff for a night in January when we were driving home from the California desert. He lives above a bar that has a drive through window where you can purchase Yuengling six packs on the go. Jeffs apartment is painted red and his stereo has only one speaker and it makes a lot of records sound really really good.

   On the night of our stay he prepared Vietnamese catfish with greens and dumplings. He cooked the catfish in his own handmade ceramic pots and it was delicious. After dinner we listened to some tunes and began to talk about art.....art in general.....just whatever really.  The conversation soon turned to a discussion about Jeff's own work...different paintings he had around the house, a window shade he had made with the likeness' of Liza Minelli and David Gest, some silkscreened ceramic tiles, a very unique whiteboard that he reckoned would be great for hanging in any average kitchen to facilitate the notetaking of everyday reminders. Just as the tour of work was coming to a close Jeff, in a manner of perfectly calculated and suspenseful climax, asked us if we wanted to see the only "conceptual piece" he had ever produced. We all obliged.  Jeff very slowly walked over to where this piece was stashed and cupped it in his hands so that noone could see it, then began to tell its story. The story is, very roughly and without an ounce of the detail and suspense that Jeff told it with, is as follows:

   The local television station in nearby Wheeling, West Virginia was holding a contest, which may or may not have been an annual thing, i don't really remember, but the contest was for the local viewing audience to call in and vote for their favorite newscaster. They somehow tied in the term "local celebrities" to this list of newscasters. The newscaster with the most votes would have their likeness turned into some sort of official Wheeling bobblehead toy that people like you, I, or Jeff could display on the dashboard of the cars that none of us have. So essentially..this was a contest that was less about crowning a newscaster and more about crowning a "local celebrity" but since it was Wheeling,WV the only thing they could deem worthy of celebrity status were the obvious......local wig haired crackers that appear on television. Jeff was not having this. He was perfectly willing to cast a vote but if they wanted his opinion of Wheelings most notable celeb it certainly was not going to be one of the aforementioned dough faces. So basically he called up the station and told them if they really wanted a truly legendary local celebrity...someone who's face deserved to be manufactured into a bobblehead and distributed throughout the streets in town and displayed proudly on the dashboards of cars and in the windows of shops...the man they needed to consider was MOONDOG. 

   Moondog, unlike the musician of the same name, is a Wheeling man who loves bicycles and, judging by the small yet reliable amount of research i've done on him, just generally spreads joy amongst the streets of his town. He is a true local celebrity. One that every youth and probably many adults alike are very happy to see cruising through the streets....one that shares interactions with the people who live in the town....one who ties obscene amounts of flags to the back of his bikes and frequently wears a construction helmet with a headlamp attachment...one who doesn't seem too fond of the police....one who has very few teeth left and eyes that point in opposite directions.....one who under the 'who i'd like to meet' section of his myspace profile states very simply: " Anyone who lives in Wheeling, and anyone who rides a bike. I'm out with my bike most of the day. I'd like to meet someone who can roll with me and have a good time."  His profile is also adorned with several great images....one of a random man setting fire to a lowrider bicycle under which Moondog has captioned "I had to beat this guy up when i seen what he was doing", another of Lance Armstrong with the caption ,"Lance Armstrong the man's got 1 ball and can ride further than i can with 2",   and in his photo album several pictures of him sporting a green reflective safety vest, patrolling the neighborhoods and making sure the town runs smoothly......without the aid of the police department. Beneath one of these photos ,a vexed looking portrait, he writes " I not tink me gonna get dem damn cops no help no more". So yes....indeed a man worthy of being dubbed a local, if not a national, celebrity.

   A hero, a robin hood who doesn't even rob, a crossing guard, a one-man parade,an advocate of exercise, a man of justice, a living work of art, an ambient psychologist....putting smiles on faces simply by rolling through town on his beloved bicycle.

   So Jeff tells us about calling the television station and informing them , "This is the only man in Wheeling worthy of this award".  To which we all naturally inquired, "So what happened?".


Jeff uncupped his hands and placed a bobblehead toy on the coffee table. "They fucking did it......"