The first thing I learned about Ryan Bedell is that, as an employee of NYU he is getting his Stern education for free, which means he has made at least one more solid business decision than I have. There may be several others. Jury’s still out.
Since then, our classmates and I have learned that Ryan is one awesome, chill dude, bro. Funny, laid back, and the guy can put together a smorgasbord like none other. In fact, he literally smokes and sells his own bacon. But then again, you should know that already. If you don’t, just see what his classmates have to say about Ryan, both the man and the budding bacon entrepreneur that he is.
“For months now I’ve been trying to decide which is more tender: his bacon, or his soul. I guess my conclusion is: yes.”
What more could the ladies want? He’s got you covered for a romantic night on the town and breakfast the next morning.
“Even if Ryan was cloned, he’d still be one of a kind. And the better looking one.”
Unique and handsome!
“In addition to being a wildly talented meat curer, Ryan is one of the most loyal friends I’ve ever made. He cares deeply for others and truly knows how to make you smile. I know I can always go to him for a good laugh, music suggestion, and most importantly, honest advice.”
What more do you need to hear?!
“He really packs the meat. And his bacon ain’t bad either.”
I’m not sure what this person is getting at, but I can testify that his homemade bacon is delicious!
There aren’t too many men out there like Ryan, and that’s a real shame for the rest of us. If you haven’t met him yet, you’ll probably want to after reading what he has to say. The most amazing thing, though, is that even after some wild life experiences, he remains as chill as ever. The dude abides.
So how did you end up as a study away adviser for NYU?
I actually had no desire to be in education when I finished undergrad. I was a business student. Education was nowhere near my brain, and I moved to South Korea after I graduated just because I wanted an international experience. My mom works in a blood donation room and a donor came in. She was talking about how her son wanted to do something international, but wasn’t quite sure what, and this guy was like, “Yeah, my friend works at a school in Korea. I can connect them.” So I email this woman, literally just trying to ask for advice on how to live outside of the country and she said, “My school is hiring. We could probably use you if you wanted to come this way.” So I applied and left two weeks later, which was a bit of a whirlwind.
I was living on a volcanic island called Jeju Island and it was real pretty. Lots of good stuff. That was fun, but I was working with middle school boys and middle school boys are the embodiment of evil, so I decided I wanted to get away from there. I applied for a job at my study abroad place that I had gone to as a student in Rome, and that was when I started to realize I might like education. Basically, I just ran out of visa sponsorship in Rome, so I needed to find what the next step was. I went for an education masters in England, which was fun. I did that for a year and tried to stay in England, but nobody wanted to sponsor me for a visa, so I was like, “I need to find a job in the U.S. because my money’s running out.” So I was applying all over using other people’s addresses so I would look like I was a local for all the places I was applying, and I ended up at NYU. I’ve been here about two and a half years.
How many countries have you lived in or been to?
I’ve lived in the U.S., England, Italy, and South Korea. So, four. I’ve been to 40-something. I’ve been really lucky. I just sort of f*cked around in my 20s and I wouldn’t change it. I’ve sacrificed a lot of things. I think other people are probably further along in their careers or more financially stable, whatever it might be, but I’m happy.
Which country was your favorite?
That’s tough. I’d probably say Italy was my favorite across the board. I really loved living there, I love going back to visit, but in terms of standouts, definitely Iceland. Iceland is super beautiful. New Zealand, same thing, really beautiful. I really liked Perth on the west coast of Australia. Tunisia was a really memorable trip. I’ve literally never been on a trip I didn’t like. I’ve liked some more than others and had bad experiences obviously, but I’ve never thought, “I never want to go back to that country.”
When you were in Tunisia, did you go to Tatooine?
I did! There’s pictures of me there. It’s interesting. It’s literally just out in the middle of the desert. There’s nothing around it. Obviously they’ve got a good tourist game set up. They’re selling Star Wars stuff outside of it, but it’s literally just an abandoned movie set. It’s kind of crazy.
No. Unfortunately, not.
Maybe fortunately. That would have been pretty morbid. So why did you try to pursue an MBA?
That’s a great question. What made me decide to pursue it is that it was free. That’s pretty much 100% of the reason. Also I just wanted an out from education if I ever needed it, and it’s beneficial in any career I think. There were really no cons besides the time commitment.
So we’re here to talk about romance.
Exciting. But you and I talk about romance all the time anyway.
Well, I’m not sure the readers really need to hear about that kind of romance, so, uh, what would you say you’re looking for in a partner?
You know, people always say things like “What’s your type?” and I feel like the common thread is goofy, silly people who are not afraid to be ridiculous. Beyond that, I’ve never been a “I only like blondes” or “I only like brunettes” type. I feel like I just tend to gravitate towards people that are a little goofy or weird or out there. I’m looking for a relationship if that’s your question.
I feel like there’s so much about a person that I am ok embracing as long as they’re a good person. As long as they care about other people and are honest, want to do good, are ambitious, and want to do something with their life, I don’t really care if they’re like “Star Trek or Star Wars” or if they’re “New Girl or Always Sunny.” I don’t really think that tells you a lot about a person. That’s the small talk you throw out on a first date. And that’s great, I genuinely want to know someone’s interests, but I want them in tune on the bigger issues if that makes sense.
I think I’m a pretty content person. I don’t feel like I need to reach for a relationship. I’m comfortable in knowing that if I find someone it will be because it happens, but even if I don’t need someone, at the same time, everyone kind of wants someone.
You have a hobby of smoking meats in your own smoker.
I’m really glad you finished that sentence.
And you also have a small bacon business you’re running out of your apartment, so my question is if you really wanted to impress a woman, what kind of bacon-curing process would you use if you were to make bacon for her.
Oh, I’d just do it exactly like I do. My bacon’s the best bacon on the planet. There isn’t going to be anything special. The fact that I’m offering it to a potential partner is a big step for me.
In addition to bacon, are there any other types of meat you really get enthused about cooking?
Pastrami’s the new thing, man. I was not expecting that to take off like it has, but I got more pastrami orders this last time than bacon orders. My go-to, if I’m cooking with the smoker for myself, I love a rack of lamb. It’s so good. I like to make ribs, pulled pork, brisket. There’s really nothing I haven’t tried. If I’m hosting I go for pulled pork just because it’s a crowd-pleaser, but cooking for myself I try all kinds of meat. A classmate has me wanting to try peking duck on it, because you have to dehydrate the skin so it’s crispy and then you smoke it.
If I was going to cook for a woman and I was really trying to impress, I’d cook a filet wrapped in my bacon, smoked for a few hours and then seared. Just out of this world.
So the bacon business, is this just a hobby or something you want to make into a real big business down the line?
I mean, we’d like to. Right now I would hesitate to call it a business because it’s illegal to call it a business, but we would like to be legit with it at some point. We, being myself and our classmate, Alex. We’ve been saving some of the profits and poker money and putting it into a bacon fund. We just emptied the bacon fund to buy a food saver, so, very legit.
I wasn’t going to ask you about poker, but since you brought it up, you like playing virtual poker with your block a lot. Did you always like playing poker or was this more of a “connecting with classmates during the pandemic” sort of thing?
I’ve always enjoyed poker, but not to the degree that we did when the pandemic started. We were playing like three or four nights a week at one point. I still enjoy it, I still like to play, but it was a lot easier to have games when no one was doing anything. I feel like my life will now be back to just the occasional poker game with friends, but not nearly as frequently.
During the pandemic, you’ve been raising money for charitable causes with Facebook Live open-mic nights featuring you and your friends.
Yeah, I have always been a really musical guy. I played in bands in high school and college and some of my best friends are guys that I’ve played music with over the years. I think it was pretty immediate after George Floyd was killed. I don’t know if we had a happy hour planned or what it was, but all of us were feeling down about it and talking about how hard concrete action can be sometimes – not that it’s so hard to do it so much as it’s paralyzing to realize how much needs to be done. We were like, “What can we do that’s tangible that will allow us to give back to causes we care about?” So we decided to do an open mic with four or five of us and advertise it. If people wanted to play music or make some donations, whatever.
The first one was for Black Lives Matter Chicago and we raised $600. That was the first time we were like, “Wow, we can actually raise money with these. $600 isn’t nothing.” It really started to take off when we started getting corporate matches from people. Some of them we’ve raised like $1,200 in one night. It’s starting to fall off now that people are starting to get back to their normal lives, so I’ve been thinking of making it a real once-a-year in-person fundraiser. It’s been a good way to keep busy when you don’t have a lot of ways to keep busy, and do something good for society.
Speaking of music, If you had a choice between the woman of your dreams and a copy of Maggot Brain, which would you choose?
Well then it’s already been chosen. I may or may not have ordered it as soon as I got home from the record festival we went to [Ed: Record Riot in Jersey City], so the woman of my dreams. I’m a romantic, David. You know this.
So prior to working in student life/higher ed administration you worked in sports in a couple of different capacities, including a stint as the mascot for the Chicago Steel of the USHL.
That’s some good journalistic research on your part there. I was Rusty the Bulldog for a season for the USHL and that was real interesting. I’m a good skater, but not the best skater ever. My first night they really didn’t give me any direction. They threw this suit on me and I had interviewed, but they didn’t really tell me the extent of the promotions I would be doing. I just showed up, put on the costume and was like, “Tell me what to do.” So my first night they tell me to skate out to the blue line and I’m like, “Ok, I kind of need more than that.” I’m starting to freak out because the lights are going on the ice and I’m like, “What the hell am I gonna do?” So I skate out to the blue line and there are dudes skating by me and I’m like, “Maybe they said ‘goal line and I just didn’t get it?” So I just skate backwards into the goal and I’m on the opposing team’s goal line and these dudes just start ripping shots at me. It’s a completely dark arena and they’re just like, “Get out of the way, man!” The first experience I had as Rusty. But it paid me cash after every game. That costume smelled so disgusting. It was horrific.
Did they ever clean it?
Not in the time that I was there, no. I would throw out hot dogs for radio timeouts, as you can imagine, minor league hockey is a small operation. There was one night they had me up in the booth announcing. I did all kinds of crazy things with them. It was a good experience. I only had one game when people I knew were there to watch despite my efforts to get friends to show up. It was my parents, my roommate, and my friend from Italy. They all thought it was the funniest thing they had ever seen.
Did some kids ever pull some rude pranks on you?
They were reasonably well-behaved. The hard part was that when you’re on the ice you have to have skates on and then when you’re off the ice you’ve gotta have shoes on, so they had these big paws for the bulldog that went over your shoes, and they’re just impossible to walk around in. It’s basically like a big sleeve for your shoe and you just fumble around. The funny memories I remember are tripping over the bleachers in the crowd, you couldn’t see out of the helmet at all, running into things. I’m not going to sit here and say I was the best mascot ever, but I dealt with a lot of bullsh*t to work at that job.
So one season was enough.
Yeah one season was plenty. The $30 or so they gave me after each game wasn’t really cutting it. It was kind of cool, though. I got to go to promotional stuff. I met Benny the Bull from the Chicago Bulls.
Oh, mascot royalty.
Yeah, I met the kingpins of Chicago mascot life a few times. I met Tommy Hawk. That guy was crazy. Nuts. I just remember meeting the guy who was Tommy Hawk and thinking he was pretty eccentric, and thinking, “This is the type of guy who chooses to be a mascot. I get it.”
So, you have a podcast you occasionally record episodes for called Travel for Loop.
Yeah, I think it’s dead unfortunately.
Well, let’s pretend it’s not for the sake of this question. What’s the craziest story anyone has told you?
Oh man. That’s really tough. My buddy from when I lived in South Korea tells a story about being in Kosovo and driving through a war zone on the edge of a cliff in a rickety old car. That’s a pretty good story. The first episode also has a buddy of mine who rollerbladed across the U.S. He’s a little out there, but just a heart of gold, nicest guy you’ll ever meet. But you listen to him tell the story and you’re like, “You rollerbladed across the entire U.S. You hitchhiked. You slept in public parks.” He just has a level of comfortability with the world that I definitely do not have at this point.
You have a lot of tattoos. What made that an interesting form of expression for you?
My first tattoo, I was 18, and I had wanted it for several years. My mom, being a woman of sound mind, was like, “You’re not getting a tattoo before you’re 18. If you want to get it then, have fun.” So on my 18th birthday I got a fleur-de-lis in the middle of my back because I went to jesuit schools and I was pretty religious at the time – I’m not anymore – so I wanted it to remember my educational experiences. The second one was a Kurt Vonnegut quote on my wrist and I think that was the first time where I was like, “I can just like it. It doesn’t have to be a deep intricate thing.” I would say everything has a meaning to a certain degree. My right forearm is three different scenes and all of them mean something to me. I think if you’re putting something on your body it needs to mean something to you. Whether it means something when you get it or there’s a connection or feeling for it over time. I like tattoos because they remind you of where you were in your life when you got it.
How many do you have in total?
Do you plan to continue adding to the collection?
Yeah, I want to bring a forearm sleeve all the way up my arm at some point, but tattoos are expensive and there are more important things I could spend my money on right now. I feel like the times I decide to get one are because I’ve had it burning in my mind for a while and I have to do it because I can’t stop thinking about it.
My next question is ‘Can you name the only university in Illinois to win the NCAA Men’s Basketball championship?
I would be a real bad alum if I couldn’t right?
Loyola University of Chicago.
Yes, shockingly it has won more national championships than the University of Illinois or noted men’s basketball powerhouse Northwestern University [Ed: The Northwestern Wildcats have had exactly one NCAA Tournament appearance in the past 83 years]. Ok, so, most important Loyola-Chicago alum: Comedian Bob Newhart, longtime Chicago Bears owner George Halas, or Dr. William Scholl, the founder of Dr. Scholl’s footcare inserts?
I mean, from a personal perspective, I would go Newhart, but from a university perspective, you gotta go Halas. The gym is named after him. There are multiple buildings with the Halas name on them. He’s a presence.
No love for Dr. Scholl? Think of all the people who have back discomfort that he’s helped.
I did have a broken foot after a motorcycle accident at one time in South Korea. I was hit by a drunk tractor driver. I probably could have used Dr. Scholl’s help, but he’s just not someone I think about on a daily basis. But Bob Newhart, there’s someone I could think about on a daily basis.
Final question. On multiple occasions, you have shown me a photo of you dressed up like The Dude from The Big Lebowski. It is an uncanny image. Was that just a costume you wore for fun, or do you derive some sort of spiritual connection to that character?
Both. It’s just a costume I wore, but I definitely have a chill similar to The Dude. Also, Jeff Bridges, just a phenomenal actor. If I could get that comparison regularly, I’d be ok with that, I think.