Monday, May 4, 2015

A Stalking Horse for Eccentrics

You are of course drawn to eccentric characters, those individuals of all ages who are molded and manipulated by their interests, abilities, and beliefs into behavioral distortions.  The moment you entertain notions of you being one of them, some surprising eccentric appears before you, having the effect on you of disabusing those notions while leaving you stalled in the lurch of normality.

In the process of changing the focus of your reading from one of immediate, spot on enjoyment to attempts at deconstructing a skillful author's technique in order to enhance your own approaches to the writing craft, you've become convinced normality may pass for acceptable behavior in Reality, but eccentricity is the required norm in literature.

From time to time, you'll catch yourself, noting some preference or behavior pattern you consider an eccentricity , some unusual preference for a midnight snack, some conventionally inadvisable mismatching of colors or shapes, some reading preference that might seem more weird than merely unusual for someone of your age, a preference for Nancy Drew or Trixie Belden mysteries, for instance.  

You reference the trait in a notebook, captioned "Screwy You," only to discover, on your regular return to this notebook, that you are far from screwy, there are indeed screwier things than you, close to hand.  To prove it, all one needs do is compare the screwy, unorthodox things that form so much of our twenty-first century global dialogue with one's own visions of one's self in orbit.

Not long ago, when you were at a coffee house,considering the existential limitations of your eccentricity and in effect coming to terms with the reasons why you've not in all these years made it to the major leagues of eccentricity, your attention was yanked away from your own personal problems by the conversation between two persons you've come to classify as L.A. People.  You are pretty good at spotting L.A. People because, don't forget, you were born and raised there yourself.  You had the experiences of yourself being judged if not explicitly eccentric, at least an California Person or an L.A. person.  In other words, you're all but a licensed eccentric, yourself.  Except that you aren't.

The L.A. persons were male and female, by your estimate mid forties.  "I have,"  she said, "just come from leaving a gift of appreciation to the porpoises."

"Gift?"  the man said.

"Yes.  I tithe to the porpoises."

"Tithe?"  the man said.

"At least ten percent of everything I make.  You have no idea how much I owe them.  They are always sending me gifts of inspiration."

"How,"  the man asked, "do you know when an inspiration is coming from them?"

"Oh, they let you know. They have ways of making sure you know, that is, if you're a dolphin person.  Which I am."

"How do you know if you're a dolphin person?"

"They let you know.  They have bigger brains than we do.  They recognize that they need some of us as --I hate to say this because of the way it sounds--as gofers.  We do things for them and in return, they give us creative ideas."

You have always wished you had the power to invent such things, but in fact, there are all these eccentrics milling about, doing it for real better than you could invent it.  If you were to attempt to invent such things--as indeed you have on occasion--they would not have the ring of absolute conviction.

Many of your short stories, in particular the closure segments, come to you from eavesdropping or from someone you think has eccentric second sight, which allows them to see you as someone you can approach directly, or have the equivalent of conversations in his presence.  This happened to you with a short story, "Keeping up with the (small j for jones as in addiction)Jones."  You were months trying to find a way out of the story until, one day at the beach, where you'd gone to walk your dog, an eccentric approached you with the volunteered information that dogs understood Sanskrit, which, did you realize, was a holy language. You could not wait to get home because that observation gave you the ending your sought.

Because you have had a number of insights and journeys outside the boundaries of convention from eccentrics, you regard these individuals as inspirations, the moment you see then, with the added asterisk-as-indication-of-footnote as providers of  gifts.  You envy the way eccentrics pass gifts along to those of us who are civilians of the ordinary.

You are a roamer, a wanderer, plying the streets, in a sense making yourself a stalking horse for eccentrics, looking for insights and other flashes of awareness to worlds you would cheerfully spend more time in, but the doors are often rusted closed, and you have no WD-40 with you.

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