Saturday, February 10, 2018
in praise of the strange
The past week or so, I've been watching LORE, a podcast based Amazon original that details all sorts of interesting folkloric type things--vampires, lobotamies, changelings, victorian spiritualism. While I had heard of the Fox sisters, some of the most famous faces of that last topic, in passing, I wasn't aware that their entire career as mediums had later been revealed to be a big ole hoax. Suddenly, they seemed ripe as inspiration for a possible new series of poems and I set to doing more research, (like I need more topics for poems I never seem to have enough time to write) but I dived in.
I had a recent conversation with a friend about weird, oddball interests and their potential to draw strange and sometimes frustrating responses from the world at large..ie the "basics"--mostly uncreative people who do things like worship Crate & Barrel and Whole Foods and wear a lot of khaki and those ugly scarves from Burberry that cost like $300. In Chicago, in other decades, we may have called the female version of this "Trixies" and maybe now they are "Pumpkin Spices" but nevertheless, in my daily life, my contact with that sort of world is minimal. To most appearances, I am definitely not really "edgy" in any way,--preferring rather "normal" girly clothes and rather "normal" hair colors, and sort of blending in with the masses until I open my mouth and start talking about weird stuff. To all appearances, despite my hatred for the highway robbery of Whole Foods, you may have spotted me at least twice in a Crate and Barrel (though they were too spendy for me to buy anything). But really, "basic' has much less to do with trappings and clothes and retailers and more to do with mindset. This friend had previously dated a woman who forced her to edit her house, filled with amazing taxidermy and certain oddities down to a "respectable" home, to one outfitted in C& B and West Elm and suited for guests or children that never came or would eventually never happen. That sort of basic.
Luckily, thank god, most of the people I surround myself with are of the weird variety. If you told a basic, "hey, I'm going to go home and sit at a computer and make up imaginary people saying imaginary things in an imaginary world" they would probably give you that look. But then all writers do this to some degree. All artists with their pet passions and quirky obsessions. I once left a library art opening peeved when someone had said to me, in a kind of disparaging tone (or maybe I read it that way) "I could just never be creative. I don't know how you do it" And maybe it was a compliment, or maybe it was a jab, but it felt like the latter. The tone was definitely less awe and more "I don't know why you choose to smear yourself in feces, I could never do that." I left feeling more like a circus freak, a weird position for an artist who works in a library at an art school.
Last summer, I was in an Uber having a conversation with my bf (an actor, who obviously is used to entirely made up worlds.) and talking about Mothman sightings and how we had been trying to set up hoaxes related to the rash of sightings and explaining Mothman lore in general and then conversationally hopped, as we passed Calvary Cemetary on the lake, to the ghost of the WWII airman who apparently is known for stumbling across Sheridan Road during storms, and was about to launch into the story of Inez Clark in Graceland Cemetery and her wanderings during summer storms and stopped myself as I caught the eye of the driver in the mirror, who had that same look on his face that my co-worker did. I stopped talking and changed the subject to skyrocketing Rogers Park apartment rents, but I shouldn't have.
And not that basic is always bad. I'm not a fan of pumpkin things in general, but I enjoy an an occasional hazelnut latte from Starbucks. I even occasionally like Taylor Swift (well, earlier Red era TS). I laugh occasionally over my being drawn to pretty trendy fashion trends like cropped denim jackets and tulle skirts. I am super basic in my t.v watching--my Sex & the City binge recently a perfect example--even in my more fringe tastes toward horror and supernaturally focused shows that are loved my the general populace. I am not probably a poster child for edgy or subversive or even, really alternative. Enjoy many kinds of music, from country to pop to hair band rock to old bossa nova records.
But I do know quite a bit about weird things like ghost stories and fringe science and urban legends. About mermaids and circuses and horror movies. A new friend was once delighted by my deep knowledge of spontaneous combustion and I was shocked (didn't everyone know this? I guess not) A pissy comment from a former boss irked me once--that I would explain (whatever random library situation was at hand) by aliens (duh, aliens aren't really my jam, ghosts are. Get your facts straight if you're going to insult me proprerly!)
Maybe it's about finding your tribe of like-minded people, mine mostly artists or writers, but even some not even creatives, just geeks for sci-fi or horror or whatever..May I spend more time in their world than in the other.