After having spent an afternoon at a friend's vintage clothing store, the endless parade of strange people that came to shop ( and subsequently bought nothing) got me to thinking about weirdness in general and more specifically weirdos. Even Wikipedia doesn't provide the etymology for weirdo. I recall that word being used in some fifties movies, but I suspect that its origins go further back.
I don't want to indulge in any inflammatory remarks concerning this scene or that scene, but in my experience most people that I have met in the Rockabilly scene tend to be fairly down to earth people and normal human beings for the most part. The perception from the outside world may be different however. The obsession with 70 year old cars, 55 year old music and 50 year old clothing may seem normal enough to the average greaser, but incomprehensible to the average square. Yeah, so I like to slather my hair with half a pound of greasy, slimy shit every morning only to repeat the process the next day. Does that make me a weirdo? Weirdness is in the eye of the beholder, but compared to the quintessential comic book guy type of person, at least I look good dammit! True weirdos always seem to look disheveled ( I can't say that I look much better on a Sunday morning after a night of partying, but I seldom let anybody see me in that state).
Okay, we're a little on the obsessive/ compulsive side. I know some cats that have 10, 000 records, but at least the music is all cool. I know a couple of cats that have 20 or so rusting hulks in their backyards, but at least one of those cars is a drivable crazy hot rod. Another good friend of mine is obsessed with guitars, but he owns nothing but smokin' vintage guitars and can play circles around pretty much anybody I know. I guess it's all about what we do with all that weirdness and what the end product will be. Being weird for the sake of being weird and not even realizing it in most cases is what keeps psychiatrist's in BMW's.
Pure obsessive/compulsive behaviour seems to be the trait that unites all true weirdos. Lack of basic social skills seems to be another one. I don't have a psyche degree and can't explain why, but there is only one inevitable factor; these weirdos always want to talk to me.
There are lot of people who think that they are weird and to go many lengths to develop a persona which may be perceived as such. These self-deluded people actively seek to be weird because they think it will make them different. This is merely an affectation. Hippies are notorious for this and they go out of their way as they don outrageous accouterments, dabble in Eastern mysticism and listen to bad music. These people will grow up to be some of the most rabid capitalists and will gladly sell you a five dollar organic tomato as they accept your money with a reptilian smile ( not my money, I ain't enough of a sucker to pay 5 bucks for a tomato). Hispters will eventually grow out of their stupid clothes/even stupider mustache phase and will be taking your driver's license picture. They will still be smug however, secure in the knowledge that they are civil servants and can be rude to you. This is where the dichotomy lies; true weirdos never think about it and for the most part, probably think that they are normal. Here's a few places where you can find weirdos.
1. The Vintage Clothing Store.
When me or my friends think of vintage clothing stores we generally have visions of finding a really cool shirt or maybe some nice gabardine pants. While it is true that these items are getting more difficult to find, the average vintage hunter has very little interest in that style. That one afternoon that I spent in my friend's shop really opened my eyes. There were some truly strange people walking in. There were some rail-thin androgynous people with attitude, who's "style" completely eluded me. I was bemused by their strange demeanor. They hurriedly went through the racks as they sniffed and looked down their noses at everything. Lots of hippie-esque chicks came by desperately trying to buy an image for themselves. Being fond of irony, they usually go for some of the uglier items. An ugly, ill-fitting dress from the seventies does not age well. It was ugly then, and its even uglier now. There is no way making that cool. Also, a barbaric mismatch of patterns and colors only serves to hurt people's retinas and make them angry for no reason. You know those crazy ladies that you see wearing 8 or 9 layers and reading books upside down as they mutter to themselves? This is where they get their clothes. Kudos to my friend for having so much more patience and diplomacy than I . The sad part is that all the really nice pieces of clothing go untouched and are quickly passed over by the weirdos as some eyeball-searing polyester monstrosity captures their attention.
2. The Used CD Store
These places are getting harder to find, but there are still some of them around. There are some people ( like myself) who still enjoy owning an actual store-bought CD along with the art work that comes with it . I personally think that a store-bought CD sounds way better than an MP-3 ( no comments please, that's a whole other can of worms ). Since the day of it's inception, the used CD store, and it's even stranger predecessor, the used record store, have always attracted weirdos of all stripes. They always seem to be blaring some of the worst music that they can possibly dig up thus attracting even more weirdos. I remember encountering one of these record collector types in Vegas. He had bad clothes, an even badder complexion and a scruffy beard and yet had the nerve to berate a friend of mine for not having enough Rockabilly records in her collection. Like all weirdos, he was too stupid to be scared, and had the fear of being ejected from the event had not kept me in check, I might have have clocked him just for being so mean to a girl. I had a few stern words with him and told him that collecting records was not a contest. He probably didn't get it and at this very moment he is probably still in his mother's basement counting his records and sending angry letters to the government.
These are the types of "roots-rock weirdos" that haunt they aisles of used CD stores. They generally aren't concerned about what genre of music they are buying, they just want it all. It seems that it has less do to do with the music and more to do with the sheer volume of CD's ( or records) that they can acquire. Judging by their appearance and demeanor, good taste has very little to do with it. They will gladly pay big bucks for the original pressing of some obscure shitty 60's garage band , and if it's really scratched, so much the better.
Then there are the jazz-bos. They are an endless source of meaningless trivia and will gladly acquire 11 different versions of the same record. They seem to think that's it's important that the alto sax player had chicken for lunch on the May 1962 pressing and it changed the tone of his horn.
There are the single-minded collectors. Some will buy nothing but movie soundtracks ( a candidate for snapping and ending up on a roof with a rifle if there ever was one). Some other OC collectors will be obsessed by some shitty and very obvious band, like Kiss for instance, and have dedicated their lives to obtaining everything and anything pertaining to that band. Back before digital technology, some geeks would smuggle crappy tape recorders into rock concerts. They would copy that onto vinyl and call it a "bootleg". These remain sought after "collector's items" and the weirdos will gladly pay obscene amounts of money for these unintelligible recordings.
Nowadays, the last remaining CD stores are a sad testament to what was once a vibrant industry. Most of the people who work there are hipsters who are there simply for the ironic factor . They will scoff at all the music in the store and denounce it as not obscure enough, yet will play Led Zeppelin ad infinitum cuz it's ironic ( as opposed to tired old Rock cliche).
A close relative of the roots rock weirdo is the electro-weirdo. I am not referring to computer geeks, who's brilliance always impresses me. I am referring to weirdos who are completely consumed by their obsession with electronics. Not long ago, I was browsing at a funky antique/curio shop. The owner had acquired a vintage Citation tube amplifier and some bearded weirdo was fiddling around with it. I made the critical error of showing a little bit of interest in said amplifier. This seemed to be a cue for the weirdo to go off on some crazed technical tirade. He proceeded to go on about pentodes, capacitor loads and bias adjustment about a foot from my face and ten decibels louder than any sane human being would speak. His rantings escalated as the spittle flew from his mouth and his wild-eyed stance became even more unhinged. I happened to know what he was talking about, but that mattered not to the lunatic. Even if I had wanted to intersperse a few words into the one-sided conversation, I would have been unable to. It turns out that this freak was the store's technician. Smart enough to fix your stereo but crazy enough to walk in front of a speeding train.
3. The Local Bike Shop
I know some master hot rod builders, big rig drivers, guitar pickers, motorcycle fanatics and all manner of greasy people and they are comfortable with what they own and who they are. The same cannot be said about the average bicycle owner, who for some reason are incredibly anal about their (usually broken down piece of shit) bicycle . I might be a bit of a weirdo myself because I happen to ride bicycles. It's good exercise and I can ride them while hammered, thereby saving myself from unpleasant encounters with cops or hair-raising rides on public transportation. A good friend of mine ( who is also endowed with infinite patience and tact) owns a bike shop who specializes in restoring vintage Schwinns. Like most bike shops, the meat and potatoes of his operation is repairing bikes. People from all walks of life saunter into his shop with all types of bikes in need of some sort of servicing. I'm thinking that the laws of physics don't apply to these people, because the outrageous conclusions that they arrive to at are mind-boggling. My friend has twenty-plus years experience as a bike mechanic, yet these people will continually argue with him about shit that doesn't even exist or are physically impossible ( at least on our planet). Like most specialty shops, this shop attracts fanatics that like to hang out. Let's call them bike-weirdos. Like the raving electro-lunatic, these people will rant and rave and incessantly talk about "what their gonna do to their bike". Unlike the electro-weirdo, these people have very little technical skill. Some will adamantly state that they will soon build their own bike ( I've yet to see that happen). Their absolute lack of metal working skills doesn't deter them one bit. Neither does the bike that I have fabricated that is sitting right under their noses. My buddy's vast technical knowledge doesn't seem to filter through from their ears to their brains. They just keep flappin' their gums, oblivious to the fact that the front wheel on their bike is about to fall off. Like many other weirdos, they always seem to want to talk to me. Although their verbal diarrhea assault is more akin to being talked at.
4. The List of Craig.
I have touched on this subject in the past, but no discussion about weirdos would be complete without mentioning craigslist, specifically selling stuff on craigslist. They crawl out of the woodwork once you post an ad on there. The more obscure the item, the weirder it gets. Some weirdos will call you and offer to barter one of the hundreds of useless items in their possession. Others will call you several times to ask inane questions about the item. They have no intention of buying, because they claim to have no money but are all to willing to spin some yarn as to what they would do with the item, why they want it, their medical history and the inevitable request to show them how to use said item. Some are willing to pay the asking price but expect you to solve their engineering conundrums. More often than not, what they are thinking of using the part or item for will definitely not work. They will end up smacking into a wall at 90 mph, electrocute themselves, lose a couple of fingers, set all their hair on fire, end up in jail or even end up dead. One is reminded of the Darwin Awards credo; " Those helping to improve the gene pool by removing themselves from it". I really enjoy making a few extra tax-free bucks from craigslist, but there is a price to pay which is dealing with rambling freaks. I don't want to sound harsh but I cannot accept responsibility for the unintended consequences of a $20 item. If someone impales his head with said item, I can't be blamed. It's twenty bucks, give me the dough and figure it out yourself. The craigslist weirdos never listen to technical advice anyway, so it would be futile to explain why a bicycle brake won't work on a 50 h.p. go kart or a metal detector won't locate Captain Jack Sparrow's long lost treasure. Maybe I should insist that craigslist buyers bring along a bottle of whisky along as a fee for listening to one hour of inane bullshit.
I'm sure that I've only skimmed the surface of weirdness because I'm sure that there are many more types of weirdos out there ( yeah, I'm talkin' to you dungeons and dragons players). Feel free to tell us about some weirdos of your own in the comments section. I have to sign off because I have to check the humidity index and temperature in order to select which hair grease is appropriate. I will crank some Rockabilly on the stereo as I choose one of the 23 different types of grease, taking into account the wind chill factor as I ride my 1952 Schwinn to the beer store. Yep. Seems perfectly sane to me and not in least bit weird.