“A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him, saying, ‘You are mad; you are not like us.‘”
-St. Anthony The Great
If you’re from Brooklyn, Ohio, chances are you’ve seen Keith and Andrea buying groceries or getting dinner together. In a lot of ways it’s really no different than any other love story you’ve ever heard. Boy meets girl, falls in love, and decides he wants to spend the rest of his life with her. The only real difference between this classic romance and the one I’m about to tell you about is that the boy is actually a man in his late fifties that dresses in women’s clothing and the girl is a stuffed unicorn with blue hair.
When I decided that I was going to write a piece about the legendary “Unicorn Guy,” I realized that all the stories I’ve ever heard about him were merely anecdotal and generally positive, but I still didn’t know what to expect. I mean a man who gallivants around town with a stuffed unicorn as if were a sentient being doesn’t really scream “conventional.” But, I choose not to live my life in fear of these things because I’ve found that more often than not, my preconceived notions of what is and isn’t “normal” is just that shitty part of my brain that tells me to fear carbs and terrorism, and I find that the world is a much more colorful place when I decide to shut off that part of my mind.
After about a week of badgering the locals and a lot of driving around, I found his house. It’s a nice little home on a quiet street. I didn’t know that it was his house for sure, but I had a sneaking suspicion that the three stuffed unicorns proudly showcased in his window were a pretty good sign.
I knocked on his door, and as soon as he answered, I was met with a manic ball of energy that was inescapable. We introduced ourselves and then he asked me if I realized that if you took a human head, split it open, and examined the hippocampus, it looks identical to the Orion Nebula. He then proceeded to talk to me for about thirty minutes on how that proves we are cosmically connected to everything.
I stood there, silent most of the time, thinking, “It’s like Iggy Pop, Bill Hicks, and The Mad Hatter are all sharing a sleeping bag in his mind.” The rapid intensity in which he speaks is so intense that you’re left speechless at the end of the conversation because you don’t know where it went, why it went there, or if you’ll ever get it back. But, it doesn’t matter because you’ve bought a ticket into the fun house and a what fun would it be if it were easy to escape?
I realized early on that he wasn’t crazy. But, this man clearly knows where the line between sanity and insanity lies and is whimsically playing hopscotch with it. There is so much stuff in his head and there’s only so much room for it to go. He can only keep cramming stuff into that brain for so long until it explodes out of his mouth into a volcanic eruption of words that could destroy Herculaneum. I would go into the specifics of his meta-physical philosophies, but all it would do is prove that our conversation went completely over my head.
He opened the door, and I followed him inside. His house looked pretty normal, and outside of the display in the front window, you couldn’t really tell that this is where a unicorn lived. On his record player he was playing Peter and The Wolf, a Russian symphony written for children from the 1930s. “I love this so, so much. It reminds me of my childhood,” he said. “I still to this day try to see the world through the eyes of a child.”
I noticed a really nice high-hat cymbal in the middle of his living room and asked him if he played. He said he did and offered to play for me. I followed him into the basement, and when he sat down behind his kit, he burst into a twenty minute drum solo that can only be described as abstract and schizophrenic, but, nonetheless, entrancing. As I watched him lose himself in his playing, I started to wonder if he was gone forever, but then in a very comedic way, he said, “My drum teacher’s asking me for tips these days.”
He put down his sticks, and when we came back upstairs, I asked him if he could introduce me to Andrea. He went blank for a second. When he started to describe her, he did so with such fondness and affection that can only be heard by somebody speaking of their life’s work.
“I’m so lucky to have Andrea because it was a change in me. Everything was closed in here,” he said, pointing to his heart. “People at work would ask me if I was an introvert or an extrovert, and I would tell them that I’m an introvert by nature, but I want this extrovert out. This was always going to be an odd way of bringing it out. But, you see, I’ve always wanted to be a cartoon character. I remember seeing this cartoon with Koko The Clown where the cartoonist drew him as he was, and then Koko would just end up changing himself. Whenever he wanted. His head would get really big and stuff, and he would do all these outrageous things, and that’s what I wanted.”
This was fascinating to me because I started piecing together the meaning of it all. I remember being a kid and wanting to be a basketball player or an astronaut, but then something happened. I woke up. I realized that the marketplace for chubby basketball players and stupid astronauts had become pretty dry. This man dreamt of being a person who can make the intangible tangible, and it was only after his mother passed away that he realized he spent his entire life isolating and burying the part of himself that made him unique.
“I can remember looking out that window and my most precise memory is this, frantically thinking, ‘My God, I just don’t see enough. I don’t experience enough. I don’t feel a thing and I don’t know enough to keep me aware! I cannot take this. I could have a different life now and feel like I’m on stage.’ An early childhood dream I had was every time a Beatles song would come on I wanted to be on stage, and then in the sixth grade I was in a play, and I was on the spot. That’s what Andrea allows me to do. It’s very thrilling and calming at the same time. That’s the wonderment of what life should be. Not expecting or having to act appropriately, and there’s no past whatsoever. When I am with her, I am on the spot. I am here and now and in the moment when they’re judging me. So let’s go forward. She is an instant psychological profile without me saying a word.”
When Keith steps out of his house, he is being 100 percent authentic when he says that Andrea helps him move on from the pain he was in before she came into his life. To assume that this relationship is merely some perverted fetish would be a mistake. It is much more than that. When Keith looks at her, he sees who he really is, and through him, Andrea has some form of life. Keith is a conduit between the animate and the inanimate. It is the most personal form of performance art you’re ever going to see by anyone because, here, life and art are not imitating one or the other. They are the same thing. His life is art.
“One day I just stared at a blank piece of paper, and I wrote out the words love, trust, truth, beauty, peace, harmony, wisdom, understanding, patience over and over again.”