I’m a creep,
I’m a weirdo
What the hell am I doin’ here?
I don’t belong here
Thus sang Thom Yorke. Is he really a weirdo? I don’t know. I’m not a Radiohead fan and even though Thom Yorke is constantly in the news I just don’t know anything about the man.
But I do know myself and I know weird. And I’m a weirdo.
It started when I was young. I grew up in a tiny duplex packed with two Catholic parents and six kids. My friends never came over. None of our friends ever did. Why? Because our house was weird and we were all weirdos. It’s OK to have a weirdo over. But you never go into a weirdo’s house. Ever.
What distinguishes a weirdo from a normal person is relentless introspection; a conveyor belt of self-appraisal that channels itself outward into the world. It MUST go out. When it turns itself inward, it morphs into garden variety insanity.
In school, it was readily apparent that I was not like 90% of the kids. Sure, I was smart. But I was also neurotic. I wanted to fit in, but the conveyor belt just wouldn’t stop. I had to channel it in a way that avoided causing offense or alerting authority. For me, it was comedy. I was a class clown par excellence.
In high school, my weirdness found an outlet: drugs. Not only did drugs put me in touch with my inner freak, they also introduced me to the weirdo sub-culture. Punks, criminals, vagabonds and degenerates. The ones that normal society sneers at derisively. They were my friends and mentors.
Weirdos don’t play sports, but they sometimes obsess on the statistics. They love film but they rarely become film directors. They find religion laughable or join bizarre cults. No in-between. They adore Science with all its complexity but can’t be bothered to pay attention to simple social mores.
Worst of all, once you’ve surrendered to weirdness, you can’t go back. It’s like trying to pray the gay away. It’s just isn’t going to happen. And even if it did, they really don’t want to take you back into the fold anyway.
Nope. Once you’re weird, your path is cleared.
Weirdos tend to recognize each other and congregate. More importantly, our individual manifestations of weirdness aren’t as important as the fact that we are simply weird. A weirdo musician gets along swimmingly with a weirdo novelist. But they never really talk about it openly. It’s assumed that the sports-and-TV-loving 9-5 normals of the world have rejected them and thus it’s “Welcome to the Monkey House”.
Want some searing irony? The normals that won’t come to our house are the same ones who adore our artistic pursuits. In order to maintain the pecking order, the normals embrace some weirdos and champion them as “talented”.
All artists – all great artists – are weirdos. Across the board. No exceptions.Even ones you wouldn’t expect! For instance…
Elvis Presley was fucking weird. The music and style that he popularized among normals was a quantum leap from the straight-laced Doris Day crap that had a stranglehold on popular American culture. He swam in drugs, fired bullets at his TV and lived in a museum of weirdness. Paul McCartney? Without weirdo John Lennon prodding him endlessly he would have been a Liverpool guitar instructor.
Since weirdos are weird, sometimes it’s hard to distinguish them from people that simply operate outside of one’s norms. Some people can seem weird to you, but they aren’t really weirdos. It isn’t always obvious. Check this out:
- Ernest Hemingway
- Jackson Pollock
- Daniel Day-Lewis
- Jimi Hendrix
- Chuck Palahniuk
- Bob Ross
- Tom Cruise
- Lady Gaga
- The Dalai Lama
You see, weirdness isn’t “oddness”. An artist can create some weird works and be as normal as a Ritz cracker. Weirdness flows from within. Like the Force.
Weirdos that become successful often do so despite themselves. Other weirdos employ their “conveyor belt” with great tenacity, finding fame after years and years of fruitless effort. Usually, it never happens. But they expend the effort anyway. Not to make money or become famous, but because THEY HAVE TO.
Let’s take Lady Gaga.
Almost everyone would assume Lady Gaga is a weirdo. In fact, the only people who can see through to her normality are weirdos.
You see, dressing outrageously, behaving outrageously or outraging people isn’t weird. It’s often a tool that normal people use to establish a veneer of weirdness and thus enter the rarefied world of the weirdo.
Lady Gaga’s primary expressive form – her music – is so painfully mundane that no weirdos will even listen to it. Bumping and grinding to dance music and penning lyrics about nightclub sexcapades is about as weird as a cinderblock.
Fortunately there is a counterpoint to Lady Gaga. Her name is Fever Ray (Karin Andersson) and she’s from Sweden (an incredibly normal country).
Fever Ray does what she does because she must. She’ll never see the Gaga dollars and it doesn’t matter. What’s important is that she opens her mouth and lets the conveyor belt unleash its weirdness unedited.
The music she writes with her brother Olof is mysterious, personal and informed by tradition and innovation as well as internal turmoil.
When I watch her numerous music videos, I don’t see someone trying to be weird. I see a weirdo expressing herself. To be sincerely weird is, ironically, normal. For a weirdo.
I love Fever Ray.
So, how do I do it? How do I cope? Where’s my conveyor belt?
You’re reading it.