Monday, December 3, 2007
Why Are You So Weird?
To prove my recommitment to all things blogging, I shall now post something. And not just 'cuz the mighty Trick told me too. I am my own boss.

So: "Why are you so weird?"

This was a question asked of me when I was merely 8 years old, by a friend, without malice, merely curiosity. I'll admit to being flattered.

The answer? All writers are weird. That's the simple version. But WHY? Well, in my case, the environment I grew up in was enough to ensure the bloodiest psychopath (don't worry, I didn't succumb. I am exceedingly kind and far too empathetic.) But I am weird. And well, people, I can only say this: It's In The Blood.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a fascination with shadows and gloom, of things that go bump in the night. To me, twilight has always been the most beautiful time of day. And sunrises have nothing on sunsets. Myself and the darkside, we walk hand in hand.

Terror in training

There’s me at age 8, three days before Halloween. My mom had just brought home a leotard and pink fluffy tutu for me, no doubt hoping I’d dress up as a ballerina. Ha.

Two hours after this picture was taken, I doused myself with a half gallon of fake blood, and my Uncle Cyrus whipped up a nifty cardboard creation that when affixed, looked like a hatchet was buried deep in my skull.

I proudly wore my costume to school the next day, the envy of all the miniature ballerinas and cowboys. Then, despair. My teacher ordered me to go to the bathroom, wash the blood off my face, and change into clean clothes, because my costume was 'too scary' and some of the kindergartners were frightened.

Being a happenin’ fourth grader, I was not amendable to being ordered around by some kindergartner. I hid in a bathroom stall and waited for revenge. A few minutes later, the kindergarten class finished lunch and headed toward the bathrooms. At the first sound of tiny feet tapping on the bathroom floor, I leapt out of the stall, clawed the air in front of the little girl, and screamed, "I’m going to kill you!"

Three things happened, simultaneously: The kid screamed, fell down, and peed her pants. I had to stand in the corner and miss recess for punishment. It was so worth it.

I come from a strange and murky lineage, a bloodline full of psychics, mediums, charlatans, fortune tellers, and the stark raving mad. One aunt was even a haruspex, and if you don’t know what that is, you’re lucky.

But I'm getting off track here. This is really a story about my maternal great-grandmother, and what she passed down.

If anything in this world is going to screw you up, it’s your family. It’s sort of their job, in fact. And you can’t get away from it: it’s in the blood. I’ve alluded to my dark and strange family history and the people who fill it here, the fortune tellers and the insane and the cockeyed dreamers.

One of those people is my Great Grandmother Hartley. I barely remember her; to me she is just a faint perfumed shadow sliding by in a swish of seamed pantyhose. She would make rag dolls for me and my little sister, big, floppy things with hideous faces that must’ve been sewn in the dark, or by a demented mind. Dolls that made children cry, and wonder if you ought to burn them before you threw them away.

Great Granny Hartley’s favorite past time in the entire world was attending funerals. Not of people she knew; just any funeral that happened to be in town. She didn’t attend to pay respect, or to ponder the deeper meanings of life and death. For my grandmother, this was first rate entertainment. Every Friday she joyfully set her hair into hundreds of tiny old-lady curls and ironed her second best dress with its print of tiny green flowers in anticipation of the weekend to come. She loved funerals, my granny. She was renown for having a wall full of ‘dead baby’ pictures, the kind people took of their dead infants way back when people did things like that, lying pale and still in a silk coffin. These pictures followed the staircase banister all the way up to the second floor of Granny’s house, and in the deepening summer twilight, their pale, blob-like faces floated eerily in the dark.

One day, Granny Hartley made my sister and I dresses. Unlike the dolls, they were beautiful things: all silk and satin, puckered on the top and coming down to just above the knees in a skirt of pointed pleats. Best of all, they were full of rainbow colors: shimmering white, deep blues, pale lilacs, dreamy greens. They were the most beautiful dresses little girls could wish for.

Then we found out what she made them of. Funeral ribbons. The kinds that adorn the giant frothy displays--and small bouquets--of flowers offered in sympathy, laid on graves and tilted against coffins during viewings. My granny had collected those ribbons for years, resulting in these masterpieces of dresses. My sister refused to wear hers when she found out, terrified that the dead people would come after her and seek revenge for the stolen ribbons. I just twirled and twirled in the sunlight, admiring the way my skirt flared out, the light shooting ribbons of gold through my gruesome finery.

How did that shape me into what I am today, I can’t help but wonder. Family will get you, all right. It’s in the blood.

So now it's your turn: Why are YOU so weird?

posted by Rhys at 1:36 AM | Permalink |


  • At 12/3/07, 11:28 PM, Blogger Patrick J. Rodio

    Nice post, weirdo.

    But weird is the new hot.

    I also think of myself as weird, and maybe a lil' nuts. But in a good way. Good nuts.

    I think WWWWAAAAAYYYYY too much about stuff, about everything.

    Like I'll think about my organs and how can they all possibly function and keep me ticking? Or I'll see a dead deer on the side of the road and picture its last moments (easy to imagine a BLAM! but you know what I mean).

    The list goes on & on, and I'd hate to have the dudes in white jackets come after me, so I'll stop.

    But where does it come from? Well, I had a shit childhood (family-wise, I had awesome friends) so maybe I had to think/imagine more. Because I don't think any of my family were weird.....Assholes? Yeah, but not-so-much weird.

    So maybe I'm an original weirdo. Or wacko. Or maybe it's this damn Jersey water I drink.

    Awesome post, Boo.

  • At 12/3/07, 11:44 PM, Blogger Rhys

    Yay, it's the mighty Trick! Cool, 'Boo'...does that mean I have a nickname? Cuz if I do it's perfect. Effin' rocks in fact. (OOOh, I said a bad word. But meant it in the best way.)

    Holy crap, dude, I can't believe how much alike we are! That list you just posted? Could've been written by me.

    Hideous childhood: same here. Assholes aplenty. The weird ones are the ones I like.

    I overthink to a ridiculous point about things until it becomes torture. Totally had the exact same deer moment, many times over. I still imagine what terrible things could have happened to a cat I lost years ago, and so on. And right this minute, speaking of organs, I'm trying to be rational and convince myself that I am indeed not having a heart attack, but just physical reactions to the stress of recent events.

    I think what makes people great as writers but often miserable as people (not miserable all the time, but every writer has experienced it) is too much empathy. It's what gives us the incredible gift to do what we do, but it's like trying to have a peaceful night's sleep except the window's wide open and harsh light is pouring in and no matter how hard we try, we can't close the window.

    A midnight metaphor. Better stop while I'm ahead. :)

  • At 12/4/07, 1:21 PM, Blogger Emily Blake

    I don't think I'm weird but everybody else seems to think I am.

    I'm not sure why.

  • At 12/4/07, 10:57 PM, Blogger Patrick J. Rodio

    Emily, you're wrong. We don't think you're weird. We do, however, think you are a freak. But you're our freak, so it's all good.

    As for my boo, I hear ya. I'm glad to have company on the weird wagon.

  • At 12/4/07, 11:56 PM, Blogger Rhys

    I'd definitely take it as a compliment, Emily. Freaks... weirdos...awesome.

    Lifelong member, Trick!

  • At 12/6/07, 2:11 AM, Anonymous Rory L. Aronsky

    Yes! Yes! Yes!

    I'm a night person too! Love the darkness, love the shadows, the streetlights pouring down onto the asphalt; love thinking of the cars parked in the neighborhood lot as my own car museum (looking, but not touching, of course, as is standard in a museum), and wondering what I would draw if I turned the entire street into a chalk mural while everyone's asleep.

    I'm glad every day for being weird. My childhood was ok, but marred by 20 years of listening to my parents fight. How they're still together after all that, I don't even know. Must be the thread I found out that runs in our family, that my ancestors on both sides came from the same village in Kiev in the Ukraine.

    When they went at each other, I always tried to find something to do. That's how I discovered the works of Charles Bukowski in my room in our apartment in Valencia (I'm in Southern California), and how I became so obsessed with movies.

    Better to be weird than the averageness I see every day. It's what makes life worth living.

  • At 12/6/07, 2:17 AM, Anonymous Rory L. Aronsky

    Oh, and by "ok," I mean in the books that I read and a lot of the TV I watched, including repeats of "The Love Boat," (watched that religiously when I was little), and Sesame Street, Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, Doug, Jeopardy, Rugrats, Eureka's Castle, The Elephant Show, Double Dare, The Adventures of Pete & Pete, Clarissa Explains It All, Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, and even Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (my favorite episode which I was actually in awe over was during the original run when the Zords were destroyed, falling apart, and wires exposed). And there's more, but those are the ones worth mentioning.

  • At 12/6/07, 2:27 AM, Anonymous Rory L. Aronsky

    Sorry. Some of the memories come after I've posted.

    I remember once when I was 7 years old, I actually got up before 5:30 a.m. just to see not only what it was like in the early morning, but also to watch Mr. Wizard's World on Nickelodeon.

    And I guess I was destined to love the night, because I was excited every New Year's Eve when I was older, curious about those after-midnight hours.

  • At 12/7/07, 12:30 AM, Blogger Rhys

    Hi Rory! Wow, gorgeous description of the night. You really captured the essence. Makes me want to go roam the streets now...darn crack hos always getting in the way. Hmph.

    Mr. Wizard rocked!!! And I had a crush on Beakman for a while. Shhhh...

  • At 12/7/07, 1:46 AM, Anonymous Rory L. Aronsky

    I'm still torn on which of Beakman's assistants I was into: Josie or Phoebe. Phoebe was quirky, and Josie was hyperactive, from what I remember. I don't know. Maybe Phoebe. Maybe not.

  • At 12/7/07, 11:05 PM, Blogger Patrick J. Rodio

    Good stuff about the night. Love it, too.

    Sometimes I'll have the window open or go out and sit on the deck and just listen.

    I live in a quietish neighborhood so it gets pretty calm, but sometimes you can hear the drone of traffic or a blink of an airplane floating across the dark.

    My Aunt lives out in the sticks and I used to go there (Usually at X-Mas) and I loved looking at her night sky, I mean, you could literally see EVERY SINGLE STAR.

  • At 12/9/07, 3:49 AM, Anonymous Rory L. Aronsky

    One of my other oddities: I like to smell books. Especially true today with my copy of "I'm a Lebowski, You're a Lebowski." Just happened at random while heading toward the South Coast Mall in Costa Mesa.

  • At 12/9/07, 10:31 PM, Blogger Patrick J. Rodio

    Rory - Smell books, yes! Actually I like to smell almost anything. Books, cards (I LOVE LOVE LOVE that fake plastic smell - LOVE IT!).

  • At 12/10/07, 3:18 AM, Anonymous Rory L. Aronsky

    My Aunt lives out in the sticks and I used to go there (Usually at X-Mas) and I loved looking at her night sky, I mean, you could literally see EVERY SINGLE STAR.

    I'm not good at direction at night, since I'm in awe of the silence and emptiness of my street, but where I live, at a higher elevation, you turn to one side and there's the Little Dipper; turn to the other, and there's the Big Dipper.


  • At 12/10/07, 4:59 PM, Blogger Patrick J. Rodio

    Nice, me and Orion go way back. And I've got a thang for the 7 sisters.

  • At 12/11/07, 5:56 AM, Anonymous Rory L. Aronsky

    And I've got a thang for the 7 sisters.

    Ambitious man. ;)

  • At 12/13/07, 11:47 AM, Blogger Rhys

    Rory and Trick are total poets of the night! Awesome!

    I liked both the assistants on Beakman's World, and of course, Lester the Rat. How awesome is it that people know what I'm talking about? Writers are kewl.

  • At 4/14/08, 9:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

    WoW! Very twisted, but I suppose everyone is a little off center in their own way hahaha
    Huge Tits Fucked