Note: I’m a columnist for the Reader Weekly, an alt-weekly newspaper in Duluth, MN. Every Tuesday I post a new column.
Do you see the great cloud of shame forming over Superior, WI? No, not the cloud of failure. That’s always been there. No, not the blanket of alcoholism. That’s been keeping the city warm for over a hundred years. It’s a new shame, deep as the debt of its residents, smothering the city alive.
While Superior has always been shameful, its residents have never had any shame whatsoever. But that is slowly changing. This fog has begun forming over my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Superior, as plans are made to build a new student center.
What’s shameful about building a beautiful new student center? Nothing, except the bastards aren’t planning to name it after me.
It’s long been known that I am Superior’s most famous former resident. The city’s historians often give Paul Ryan tours, showing areas where I vandalized and befouled the town. “Here’s the Hardee’s restaurant where Mr. Ryan stepped on the toilet seat and broke it, and then wrote ‘Balls to everyone’ on the wall. Here’s the Spur station where Mr. Ryan ate two bags of mashed potato balls only to vomit them upon the side of the building. Here’s the Globe, where Mr. Ryan purchased an old Playboy magazine for 50 cents and randomly placed it in the mailbox of a city resident.”
I don’t mean to be cocky, but would there even be a new student center if not for me? I can’t count how many times I accidentally broke things in the old student center: A half-dozen chairs downstairs, an upstairs wall I stuck my elbow through, fried chicken grease stains on the concourse floor. All these acts of carelessness helped convince current students that a new student center was needed.
I’m not asking for much of a tribute. You don’t have to call it “The Paul Ryan Student Center”, or change the design of the building so it looks like my face. Just commission a nice oil painting of me and hang it by the restrooms. If you don’t want your restrooms soiled, perhaps you could create a wall of fame in an out-of-the-way corner somewhere, listing all the “famous” people who have visited UWS.
Remember when the large, sassy black lady from the movie “True Lies” came and did stand-up comedy? Remember how she spent three-fourths of her show trying to help us remember the tiny part of the movie she was in? Sure, her jokes were painfully unfunny, but so are mine, and I’m going on the wall.
Other people on the wall can include Arnold Schwarzenegger, J.W. Beecroft, Barton Sutter, and the guy who played Skippy on “Family Ties” (did I dream that, or was it real?). Feel free to lie about some celebrity visits as well. Did George Clooney once visit UWS? He did if you put him on the wall. Did Aretha Franklin stop in to use the bathroom? She might have. Who’s going to call you on it? Put her on the wall, then put my biography slightly above hers.
Give me my due. Superior’s fog of shame can only be lifted when this great injustice has been rectified. I don’t blame the current students and administrators for their mistake – they’re young and naive, and couldn’t possibly comprehend my current and previous greatness – but I do expect the school’s elders to correct the oversight. If spending four years earning a B-minus average doesn’t get your name on the side of a building at UWS, then that’s not the school I’ve known and loved for all these years.