July 17, 2013

Why It’s Good to be Really Weird.

Photo: Pixoto

Maybe you aren’t as weird and strange as you think, but if you are, this could be a great thing.

Because the strangest people in the world invent things, they think outside of boxes that haven’t yet been made, and often, they help us all to feel less strange as a result.

While I was born into a prism of two differently rich cultures that both rivaled and revealed what was real, sometimes feeling ‘less than,’ and other times, feeling ‘more,’ I have always been referred to as different, weird and strange.

But these words are now music to my ears as I know that strangeness leads to a more authentic and albeit adventurous life.

I suppose that Michelangelo knew that he was quite odd while painting the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican. Surely, lying on his back for hours to paint frescoes on a ceiling about God and Adam, while church leaders threatened his life couldn’t have made him feel what we might today call “normal” or“accepted,” but boy, did he ever end up with a masterpiece.

I gather that when Shakespeare was writing Much Ado About Nothing and MacBeth, it may have occurred to him once or twice that no one had ever written anything like that before. I also gather that he wrote on anyway, as the play has been completed, and that writing something original and incredibly odd at the time might have even inspired him to continue.

And I assume, quite unabashedly, that when Einstein was pondering the theory of relativity, he wasn’t nervous about whether it might ever actually lead to anything earth-changing, or worried that if it did, that his peers may scoff at him here and there at his weirdness at cafes and parlors.

I once had a dream about what I now refer to as “this theory of strangeness” when I was about nine years old.

In the dream, I was visited upon by songwriter Cole Porter, writer Mark Twain and comedian Groucho Marx, while Vivaldi himself played the violin as Sophia Loren danced the tango for the pleasure of many men, including my father.

I simply skipped about here and there towards a table of artist Frenchmen and then past a bench of nude Ruben-esque models, and eventually sat myself down at a picnic with Frida Kahlo and Jesus Christ.

We ate exotic fruits and pheasants, drank funny drinks that spilled from the cascading trees, and smoked funny-smelling cigarettes like my elder siblings.

What I remember from the dream is a feeling of peace, and that none of the floating characters thought that I was strange at all. On the contrary, they seemed to whisper effortlessly that I needed to attempt to be even stranger, but only if that is what I desired.

After that dream, which frankly was not any weirder than the reality of my life, I blossomed.

I began wearing black berets like I believed a 1920s philosopher might wear, even in the heat of thick, smoggy and hot California summers. I wrote in backwards cursive like Leonardo Da Vinci, spoke in an English accent like Alistair Cook and on every other weekend, like John Cleese.

Sometimes I even pretended I was Scarlett O’Hara at lunchtime while at school, entertaining many fine suitors as if I were at a barbecue while surfers fought over me to bring me their lunches of bologna sandwiches and Twinkies.

I remember moments from childhood when other children pointed at my siblings and I, laughed, mocked and sang verses of cruelty—not just because we were of mixed race, but because we were the children of rebel artists.

My mother is a Japanese fashion designer and used to make clothes for Cher, Mick Jagger and Raquel Welch; homemade designs spun from antique kimonos that she would custom sew for these oddsters during the 1970s in her Hollywood Blvd. boutique, as I sat in a playpen, eating a peach and singing Broadway show tunes on an endless loop.


My sister and mother

My father, a Russian, Irish-Welsh Jew, once traveled as a poet with Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac along the sweeping, romantic hills of San Francisco, part-Beatnik, part poet. He later became a painter and taught Art at UCLA, where he never felt he belonged due to its stifling politics and retentive qualities. Today, he is a full-time artist, content as long as he painting.


My father

As my family spent our life between the shores of Hawaii and California, I would always prepare myself for the kids at new schools to comment about how weird our motley our crew was, but in all honesty, I enjoyed it, and came to expect stares, gasps and near brawls whenever my family set foot in a new town.

This goes back generations, with my great grandfather being shot on a street after he wrote a controversial editorial as a newspaper publisher in Oklahoma about American Indians, to my grandfather who was a Samurai fisherman who drank too much but lived honestly, and now even to my own creative daughters, who believe that what is truly strange is anything that is dishonest, and that being real is their only salvation and reality worthy of living.

The older I get, the more strange I feel in a land of strangers, but somehow this feeling is at once comforting. It means I am alive, and it means that I might be inspiring someone in a way or ways that they have may have been waiting for a very long time.

I am filled with awe and refreshing splendor when I hear of a new idea, something odd and weird and fruitful at its very core. And perhaps, owed partly to that life-changing dream of youth, as well as to my eccentric and brave family who are never afraid to stir the pot of their most passionately strange desires and thoughts, I seem to be thriving.

This is a dilemma that is both warranted and wanted, and although being different can be lonely at times, it is inevitably fueled and filled with passionate moments—moments that are indescribable and worth their every indiscretion and social beating.

On this note, I shall have an adventure of the mind and the heart today, writing a short fiction piece about childhood that is at once so sentimental, that perhaps writing it may just ruin its very pristine memory, and reveal moments that I do not care to revisit.

But this is the wonderful brilliance and miracle, the gift of allowing yourself to be different, not indifferent.

And the person that you owe this gift to above all is yourself, without any question. Because you are the first person who speaks up, who says strange and perhaps-brilliant things, and then puts these things into action the way that a thousand people together might do if given half the mind to.

And that is the only way that you learn to help others to do the same.

Quotes on Being Weird

“Because it’s so weird” ~ John Lennon

“It’s not so much what you have to learn if you accept weird theories, it’s what you have to unlearn.” ~ Issac Asimov

“In nature, nothing is perfect and yet everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they’re still beautiful,” ~ Alice Walker

“Is it weird in here, or is is just me?” ~ Stephen Wright

“I don’t plan to be Captain Weird. It’s just what I do.” ~ Johnny Depp

“Where’s your will to be weird?” ~ Jim Morrison

“I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult.” ~ Rita Rudner

“I used to think that anyone doing anything weird was weird. Now I know that it is the people that call others weird that are weird” ~ Paul McCartney

“There is no such thing as a weird human being. It’s just that some people require more understanding than others.” ~ Anthony Robbins

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” ~ Hunter S. Thompson

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Ed: B. Bemel


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