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Flick: A joke gone humongous, and one good deed

Flick: A joke gone humongous, and one good deed

Ryan Bustle ... in 24x12 living color!

Ryan Bustle ... in 24x12-foot living color!

As the times of COVID-19 continue:

  • Did you notice recently the billboard along Veterans Parkway in east Bloomington, next to the old Circle Lanes bowling alley, with nothing more than a humongous photo of a fellow in an orange necktie and short-sleeved shirt standing next to a flowing fountain?

Ryan Bustle noticed.

That's him on the billboard! 

You say you've heard all the hilarious practical jokes played among great friends? 

Maybe not yet ...

Seems about a year ago, Ryan — a B-N native, now 38 and assistant principal at Pontiac High School — intercepted an old high-school prom photo of Eric Bohm, the Pontiac High principal, and for good laughs, posted it at school for all to see during the televised morning announcements.

Everyone guffawed.

With smiles and smirks, everyone mentioned it to Eric, too.

And that ... oh, that was just the start ...

By Christmas, Ryan Bustle began having people from all over the school district thank him for his wonderful Christmas card, complete with his 2019-20 Pontiac High school photo, the one of him in a light blue shirt and orange tie.

Except … Ryan hadn’t sent out any cards. At all.

But Eric Bohm had.

In a good-natured touché, Eric sent out dozens of photo Christmas cards to school district personnel ... with Ryan's school photo on it.

"I have reason to believe that he sent out my card in lieu of sending out one of his own family," says Ryan.

Next, Ryan got invited to a get-together at Crawford’s Corner Pub, a popular spot in west Bloomington.

There, Ryan noticed a huge photo on a restroom door. And it was him! It was that same school photo of his — now poster-sized — put there by Bob Crawford, an owner of the pub and a Ryan friend.

Then comes now.

One recent day — after school classes had gone online in wake of COVID-19 — Ryan is cruising along Veterans Parkway. He happened to look up on a billboard.

And it was that school photo of his, now 24- by 12 feet, being electronically beamed across B-N's most heavily traveled road.

“Stunned," chuckles Ryan, "would be an understatement.”

Seems two more friends (Kyle and Marty Rave, of Rave Homes in Bloomington) had joined in the joke and in Ryan’s words, “graciously given me” an entire billboard.

"This whole thing has been awesome," says Principal Eric Bohm. "We have had some great laughs during a time when we all need more opportunities to laugh."

And now of course — well — it's even made the newspaper.

Congratulations, Ryan.

  • If you see Van Baker wallowing in a ditch in Normal, maybe carrying an open beer or bottle of liquor, commend him.

He’s doing a public service during these coronavirus times.

Retired and a guy who’s seen a lot in his 71 years, Baker volunteered through his church to pick up litter twice a week in an area of north Normal the church had “adopted” — along Linden Street, up to Ironwood Gardens.

“It’s good exercise,” says Baker.

And an education.

A non-drinker himself, Van says he's found all kinds of beverages, even exotic ones like Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey and Eagle Banana Bread Beer.

He's discovered countless food and drink containers, as well as underwear, condoms, bottles of 5-hour Energy Drink, a bathroom tile inscribed "VIRGINITY ROCKS," a large Budget Inn and Suites marquee sign broken in pieces, even a garage door opener including its complete 6-foot rail, chain, motor, mechanism, and all.

There also have been, as Van calls them, "incidents."

Like, being chased by wild turkeys or nearly knocked down by jackrabbits fleeing from weeds. Hauntingly, there have been huge masses of birds on wires above chirping at him, like in Hitchcock's "The Birds." He’s lost his shoes in the mud while also “tumbling down the ditch into the murky creek that runs beneath the road."

He’s found money, not $100 bundles, he attests, but still money. Sadly, he's also found weathered photos, including one of a cute baby. "Who tears up baby pictures and throws them out a car window?" wonders Van.

Most recently, he found — yes — a used face mask, a byproduct of this time.

And one other thing — what else would you think if you saw a 71-year-old man trawling in a ditch on a town’s outskirts while carrying any number of alcoholic beverage bottles.

Yes, while in reality doing a good deed that involves his church, he recently also was mistaken for being a homeless person.

“A nice young guy offered me a $20 bill,” Van says.

These coronavirus times, we won't forget them.

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