That’s Rich


Jacob Greenia

Richie Ahlgrim

Illinois native Richie Ahlgrim finds his equilibrium through his passion for the band Twiddle, seeking out ideal camping sites, and advocating for environmental protection. Basement Medicine recently sat down with the published music journalist for an exclusive interview.



You’re a Midwesterner from Illinois — how did you end up here at Johnson?
My freshman year of college, I went to New York and it was my first time being on the East Coast, other than Florida. I just really liked being in the mountains and I love the Appalachians. When I was looking for transfer colleges, I looked back on the East Coast. Johnson was one of the few colleges on the east coast that had photojournalism and looked really nice.



Where is the strangest place you have ever travelled to?
For the most exciting, I’d have to say Alaska. I went on a cruise from Washington and stopped at three smaller towns on our way to Juneau. From Juneau, we took a bus to Denali and went around the national park, then took a plane to the northernmost city. The weirdest place, I would have to say, is the Chicago morgue. My dad works as a funeral director, so I worked with him a couple times. The Chicago morgue is just super weird and just a good story.



What place do you really want to travel to that you haven’t yet?
I’ve never been outside of North America, so I think my goal would be to go to Sweden. That’s the biggest place I want to see. But I definitely want to visit all seven continents at some point in my life.



Why Sweden?
I think that the area is really beautiful, I think the government is really nice, and I think it’d be awesome to live there. I really like the weather — I find I like colder places better than warm places.



How about the strangest food you have ever eaten?
I guess this would go back to being in Alaska. I went by a whale festival and they just had a whale in the center of town. They just chopped it up and gave everybody pieces of blubber. That was definitely the weirdest food I’ve had.



What genre of music best describes your personality?
I think it’d be a mix between house music and jam bands. House music is really chill and it’s fun to dance to. I feel like I’m a really chill person. Jam bands just tell a lot of cool stories and I love the guitar solos. My favorite band is Twiddle. They’re not that well known but they put a lot of thought into the stories in their songs and I think that’s awesome. They tell really intricate stories throughout their songs and they’re all just really great musicians. They go off jamming and correlate with each other so well, even though it’s all improv.



Do you play any instruments yourself?
Well, I know how to play guitar and drums, but I’m not very good at either. I used to take guitar lessons as a kid, like most people. I used to be better, but since I went off to college I haven’t had much time.



Your writing has been published online. What site were you published by?
It’s an online company called Musiqtone. It’s a small company and one of the co-founders worked at my college last year, so that’s how I got into it. I was at Harper Community College in Illinois, which was right next to where I grew up, so when I went back home that was an easy spot to get into.



You were a science major before this. What made you switch to photojournalism?
During high school, I always really loved chemistry, so when I went on to college I thought that was what I wanted to do. The school I went to was more over the top than I thought they would be. So I was in engineering calculus, and I was taking chem and bio at the same time. Both had labs and it was way too much at once. I realized I couldn’t really keep up with the math work. My other passion that I had in high school and during college was writing. I took an environmental writing course that was my favorite course during my whole freshman year, so that was what influenced me to change over.



How was your most recent camping excursion?
I went to the Brewster River Campground, because I tried to go to Smuggler’s Notch but they were full. Brewster River is right around the same area, but is a lot smaller. One thing I didn’t like about it was that the campsites were really close to each other. We had people on either side of us within 20 feet. There wasn’t much privacy, and it didn’t seem as outdoorsy as I had wished it’d been. It was a lot of fun — I spent all day Friday just hanging out in the river and in the swimming hole down by the river there. It’s a beautiful place.



Where would be your preferred campsite to visit?
My favorite that I have been to would be the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. I was a boy scout all through high school, so I worked at Philmont after my senior year of high school before college. It’s a couple hundred thousand acres of land and it’s all mountains and forest — it’s just beautiful there.



You were a boy scout in high school?
Right now I think I’m technically still registered as a boy scout, but I haven’t done anything since I left high school. I started in elementary school back in Cub Scouts, and once I got to high school I was kind of weary about it, but my dad kept me in it. Then I [made] Eagle Scout and I’m getting a scholarship for that, so I’m happy I stayed in.



Who are five people, dead or alive, that you would most like to go on a road trip with?
That’s pretty tough. To start off I would say Hunter S. Thompson, because he’s one of my favorite writers and I love his writing style. His writing really got me into reading more and wanting to be a writer myself. I think it’d be cool to talk with him and just learn more about him and his writing. I think it’d be cool to meet Lewis and Clark, either of them, because I don’t know too much about them. I think it’d be cool to learn about their expeditions in America. It’s so cool that they got to explore a land that was undiscovered by their civilization. You can’t do that nowadays because pretty much everywhere is civilized. This one’s not that specific, but I think it’d be cool to talk to a Native American tribe back before Europe came over and started colonizing. I have always been fascinated by Native American ideologies and their way of life. I guess one more would be Teddy Roosevelt probably. He just did a lot to further our national parks and national monuments and all that, which is really cool. I’m very environmental, so I think that a huge part of our nation is all of our state parks and national parks.



How do you feel about Pokémon Go?
I like it, but I think it’s pretty crazy that people are getting hurt just from playing and walking across the street without looking. It’s ridiculous. I think it’s a lot of fun, though, I played it all the time back before I started school here. I’m sure when I get more time here, I’ll start playing a lot more again.



Do you have a favorite Pokémon?
I don’t really know too many. I was never really super into Pokémon when I was younger. I used to collect the cards and I always liked Bulbasaur. He’s kind of a badass.



Donald Trump? Hillary Clinton? Jill Stein? Gary Johnson?
When the election started, I tried to listen to a lot of the debates, and I was really siding with Bernie mostly because he was the only one who was still fighting for environmental policy and stuff like that. Now that he’s out, I kind of just quit paying that much attention. At this point I’ve kind of decided that I want to leave the nation — I’ve always wanted to travel! Between Trump and Hillary? I think I would choose Trump, because the Clinton family is just so corrupt and I definitely don’t want another one of them in the White House. But I also don’t think Trump is going to make a good figurehead for our nation. All the other nations in the world see him as representing the whole U.S. That’s just not cool. I heard that Jill is a pretty good candidate. A lot of people have told me that they think she’s the best one running right now.



What aspect of Johnson State College do you like most thus far?
I think, before I came, my favorite aspect was the classes. It seems like they have a huge variety of really interesting classes and I think that’s really cool. Since I’ve been here I think that my favorite aspect is the community. Everybody I’ve met has been super nice, and I feel like everyone here has a similar mindset; we’re all into similar things. Even people I didn’t think that I would connect with, I have had really great conversations and I’m really good friends with them now.



How do you decompress after a hard day’s work?
My favorite thing to do to clear my mind would be to camp, I just love being outdoors. If it’s a weekend after tough classes, I just like to go out hiking in the woods and spend the night out there. But if it’s something at the end of the day, it’s usually just hanging out in my room watching YouTube videos or listening to music. I like drawing, that’s always a good stress relief. I watch a lot of motovloggers. They’re motorcyclists, and a lot of them are from southern California because it’s beautiful there all the time. I think they’re really interesting to watch. I’ve always wanted a bike but don’t have the money for it. Eventually I’ll get a bike, hopefully, and travel on it.



What’s your favorite novel?
My favorite would be “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley. I really like classic horror, so I like the horror elements in “Frankenstein,” but I also think it’s beautifully written. I like the way they talk about humanity through the eyes of someone who’s not human. Most writers can’t do that, because they write from their own point of view. I think it’s really interesting seeing how human connections are so different when you aren’t born into that.



What song lyric would you want to be etched into your gravestone?
“Relax and dream one day at a time, let the beauty of the music start to heal your life.” Those are the lyrics I would put on my gravestone. They really stand out to me because I get stressed out and nervous about things often. Music always helps me to relax and move past those moments.