Saturday, January 20, 2007

We're Proud of Our Crazy

I don’t think I realized how much I would enjoy living in California until we settled in here a year and a half ago. I had fond memories of life in San Diego as a small child where I petted a cheetah at Wild Animal Camp and hiked among the monoliths in Sequoia National Park. I’m always having these moments where I say “that is just SO California.” Sometimes it has to do with the perfect weather or preponderance of bean sprouts, and last night it applied to a billards parlor that specialized in sushi, but most often it’s the unabashed weirdness of people. Californians bask and frolic in their weirdness.

Now, it’s been my experience that the population is equally insane regardless of which part of the country I’m in, it’s just handled a bit differently. On the Gulf Coast we dress up our crazy folk in debutante gowns and hope no one will notice, or refer to them charitably as “eccentric.” In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula the crazy folk retire to isolated compounds and put up bizarrely worded signs warning the government to stay off their property. In St. Louis they brood in basements and cubicles, except for Mr. Tutu and Beatle Bob who inspired folks to break out of their societal fetters.

In California, crazy is part of what makes you a whole person. Here you are encouraged to embrace your crazy, and when strangers ask you about your crazy, you smile and tell them all about it. Here the crazy is warm and contagious.

Today when we arrived at the farmer’s market, a large group of beaming young people was holding large signs announcing “FREE HUGS.” Ickie and I watched as a small boy recoiled in horror when an alarmingly gleeful stranger squatted down to embrace him. Shortly thereafter, we spotted a green Ford station wagon with longhorns attached to the front, piloted by a stern woman with a Mohawk and an arm full of vivid tattoos.

The biggest celebration of weirdness in Santa Barbara is the annual Summer Solstice Parade. Anyone can sign up for the parade, as long as their floats are human-powered. Before the parade, little kids crawl all over State Street and cover it with chalk drawings and glitter. This year I wore my butterfly wings. I saw one girl dressed as a banana, another man as a Dr. Suess character on an acid trip (and we were just the spectators). My favorite person in the parade was a man who just showed up in his boxer shorts and bedroom slippers and strolled along the parade route.

Lots of people have told me that I'm weird or crazy, and I can't argue with them. I just have to keep up with the competition.

1 comment:

Kevin said...

Yes, I know lots of crazy folks in California. For example, I know this one woman--otherwise completely sane--who is crazy enough to marry a political philosopher who plays fake sports such as 'disc-golf' and runs around screaming 'War Eagle' all the time.

Initially, I thought that he was the crazier of the two. But I don't think he can help it--he's just ill. But her--she willing to voluntarily put up with him.

Now that's crazy.