When I was in my teens there was this guy whom everyone called “Smokey Joe” He would shuffle along the sidewalks chain smoking cigarettes he would bum, he had grey hair despite being only in his late 30’s. He had this pleasant and innocent sounding gravely voice and spoke very slowly when spoken to. Some of the other kids hanging around downtown used to heckle him as he walked by, but not I for I was his friend.
What made Smokey Joe, or Russ, as this was his real name, interesting was that he’d be walking along and suddenly go into some sort of fugue state where he would begin acting out his rituals. These rituals I eventually figured out were each a pantomimed Olympic sport, shot put, javelin throwing, weight lifting, archery etc…even ones I couldn’t for the life of me figure out.
I say he went into some sort of state as he was not aware of doing these things. If you tapped him on the shoulder while he was doing this and said “Hey Russ you okay?” it was as if he was coming out of a deep daze. He’d look around and very slowly eventually say “Yeah, yeah I’m okay” and then continue on his way.
I was always very curious about this guy and would sit and speak to him at times, I learned that his name was Russ, he was in his late 30’s, liked classic rock and lived in a small apartment owned by the community mental health center. He told me once that he would like to find a job but everytime he looked in the paper for one the words would just “swirl around”.
I assumed at the time that he had schizophrenia, but it was obviously a very rare form of schizophrenia, as all he presented with was flat affect and going into these bizarre Olympic mental states…
Russ has since long past away…rest in peace Russ. But I still wonder what it was that made this guy go all Olympic all of a sudden…why Olympic sports???