When people who have prosopagnosia explain how they get by in life with a substandard ability to recognize people by their faces, they often cite other features of people which can be distinctive enough for positive identification. The voice is an excellent identifying feature, but it only works within earshot when the person is talking. Some prosopagnosics identify others by distinctive walks. I believe it is possible to identify people by seeing a distinctive collection of details that can in themselves be more or less distinctive, a mode of identification that involves both looking at many details and seeing an overall pattern. The distinctive details can be just about any part of the body. Family ties can be seen in some teeth, a nice-looking set of teeth or crooked teeth, but not straightened teeth. A person’s overall build and bodily proportions can be very distinctive. Feet and ears can be memorable. Some people have elbows that really stick out. Even something as plain and overlooked as a back can catch the eye.
I often become scenically lost after seeing people off to the airport. I usually end up travelling through Midland and Guildford, looking around at the sights. Guildford is a pretty, peaceful place, with the historical old boys’ school, the disused weigh-station, the railway crossing that looks like a death-trap and lots of very old buildings that have been done up as restaurants or still operate as shops or hotels. Despite the interesting sights, I just didn’t feel like stopping for a visit. I’ve developed a bit of an aversion to historical places that look a bit forgotten, and prestigious old suburbs that look as though they are designed for the wealthy aged. I’ve recently had reason to visit an exclusive old part of the Western suburbs, and for me places like these and Guildford feel a bit too much like a museum, or a memento mori.
So I kept cruising out of Guildford, in the middle of a sunny weekday, but I was forced to roll to a stop at some traffic lights. A bus was pulled up beside me, and then a bloke on a motorbike stopped between us and struck up a conversation with the bus driver, who was very much exposed by an open window. I looked across and the appearance of the back of the motorbike rider struck me as familiar and interesting, but I never saw his face. The way his once-navy-blue-coloured t-shirt had faded to a speckled grey pattern from exposure to fabric-destroying salt in sweat and UV rays is something that I’ve seen before on the back of an interesting man who I know, who also happens to have a passion for motor bikes. The bike rider’s ridged and muscular back was another feature that these men have in common. With the exception of the odd young buck, normal men have backs that are pretty much flat from side to side, but the motor bike rider and the man who I know have backs with a deep depression down the centre and firm-looking mountain-ranges of muscle on either side of this valley. The man who I know is one of a small minority of blokes who are naturally and mysteriously blessed with a hard physique well into middle age, despite never playing sport, nor going near any gymnasium, and no use of steroid supplements. The most scruffy appearance of the motor-bike rider in Guildford made me doubt that his muscular back was the result of a membership of any health club, and I doubt that there are too many places or groups that would accept this rag-tag as a member, with the possible exception of a bikie club. The motorbike rider had an untidy style that is often associated with bikies, but he didn’t really fit the stereotype. His helmet was coloured, not black, his clothing didn’t look like a bikie uniform, and his bike couldn’t have been one of those excessively noisy ones favoured by bikie types, because he was having a conversation over the top of the sound of it running. I wondered whether I was looking at a man who is individually too wild for any group, and soon after that, I don’t know exactly why, I felt sure that I was looking at Adrian.
Adrian, otherwise known as “Mad Dog” or “Mad Adrian” once had a fan club of thousands on Facebook, but no one even knew what his full name was. He has been the subject of many true stories of first-hand sightings and numerous urban legends, indeed he could be described as a Western Australian urban legend. I remembered that the Midland area is a known haunt of Adrian, who for many years has displayed the interesting habit of roaming the streets on a bicycle or in more recent times a motorbike, barking, growling, yelling or swearing at drivers and pedestrians. I believe it must have been Adrian who I saw a very long time ago when I was in my teens or early 20s, somewhere in the Western non-mall section of Hay Street in Perth. There was a young man with a beard and scruffy curly light brown hair walking beside his bicycle barking loudly at startled shoppers, a hilarious sight when the look of terror isn’t on your own face.
The man on the motorbike didn’t yell or bark, but I knew there was something interesting about him. The lights went green and the bus and I took off, and I expected the bloke on the bike would zoom way ahead of us, but it appeared that he kept talking and keeping pace with the bus. I veered slightly out of my lane to pass safely.
A while later in hindsight I wondered – why did Mr Muscles on the motor bike like to socialize while in charge of a moving motor vehicle amongst traffic? I was recently stuck in a traffic jam caused by an accident involving a motorbike rider who was seen lying on the road not moving. Motorbike riding is not a safe mode of transport at the best of times. One could argue that motorbikes are for madmen, but it is also a mode of transport that preserves the sense that one is still in touch with the world as one travels through it. Did the man on the motorbike like to chat while on a bike so that he could make a fast escape if the conversation was not to his liking? Does he want to be among people while still controlling the distance between himself and the rest of the human race?
I later remembered that I had once seen a photograph of a man identified as “Mad Dog” in a book of photographs of Midland, and at the time I had been struck by the muscularity of his physique. They still have that book at the library. The information given in the brief caption of the photograph suggests that “Mad Dog” has had a difficult life. His face is partially obscured in the black and white photo, but I could see that his body and unkempt hair look the same as the motorbike rider sighted in Guildford. He is wearing a faded t-shirt that was once a dark colour, which is so degraded by wear that it is spotted with small holes. Clearly this is a man who likes to get his full money’s worth out of budget-priced casual attire. In this photo “Mad Dog” is holding a bicycle. I have never seen such a healthy-looking marginalized person in all my life. I have got to wonder if there is a link between the muscles and the marginalization. These days there seems to be nothing more unfashionable than unpolished, wild masculinity. It appears that the winners in our society are the smooth-talkers and the pen-pushers with pencil necks and flat backs. I’m sure they have comfy lives and have lots of money, but they never get mistaken for legends.
A link to a photograph of Adrian on Facebook – a poor image of his “back and crack”, wearing the same faded blue t-shirt
Gentile, Andrew Midland, a Swan Valley town: images from the passing of an era during the last years to century’s end. (text and photographs by Andrew Gentile), A. Gentile, 2002.
Some Facebook groups about “Mad Dog” Adrian of Midland
We love you, Mad Adrian
Mad dog (of midland) fan club….waaagh!
I’v been terrorised by “MAD DOG”