Suggested Audio Jukebox ♬
 Echo & The Bunnymen “People Are Strange”
 Japan “Quiet Life”
 Simple Minds “Theme For Great Cities”
“Blessed are the weird people: poets, misfits, writers, mystics, painters, troubadours – for they teach us to see the world through different eyes.”
Whoever wants to be normal anyhoots? Actually I’m not going to start by taking a pop at convention as it takes all sorts and we weirdos couldn’t steer this ship solo. That’s where the norms come in as, without them, the entire system would soon break down and I already told you it takes all sorts. There are over seven billion people on earth and we all serve our purpose, whatever that may be. Generally speaking, the normal amongst us are the pragmatists, the solution focused, the do-ers, those who keep things ticking along on a day-to-day basis without venturing out of their comfort zones. We need this stability for our economy to thrive, for the wheels of industry to turn, and for anyone out-of-the-ordinary to rebel against. Subtract the normal folk from the equation and we’d soon find ourselves in an almighty mess and I’m grateful to these average Joes for keeping things unerringly real.
Then there are the freaks, the unique, the abstract and strange, those of us who feel as though never placed here to simply conform. I’m speaking of the creative souls among us and, by and large, we are far more reflective than our common compatriots. We tend to think deeper, suffer more silently, crave attention far less, and challenge ourselves in an entirely different manner. Needless to say, others will likely struggle to fathom our logic and accuse us of having our heads in the clouds but we won’t hear them from way up there as it’s the one place we can escape the boundaries and restrictions enforced by the majority. To us there has always been something more and we’re desperate to suss out what that may be so we jeopardize our financial futures in the hope that our eccentricity will one day be celebrated instead of shunned. Many of us will never realize our dreams, or at least, not in a monetary sense. But that certainly won’t stop us dying trying.
I was never the weirdest kid in school and that dubious honor fell to others more willing to suffer for their cause. At that point I was still deciding which side of the fence to perch myself on and wasn’t quite ready to concede the long slog to social acceptance just yet. Thus I spent the lion’s share of my time in observation, endeavoring not to flash up on any unfortunate radars, and quietly taking it all in. That said, in the comfy confines of the classroom, I revealed a dash of my inner weirdo and found it far easier to pitch my quirks to a more limited audience. Within no time, I was considered the joker in the pack, and this made me just about compulsory enough for both camps to keep around. You see, I was as cool as the cool clique as a fair wedge of my spare time was dedicated to eighties rap and I could spit a handful of bars every time I spotted any incoming knuckles. And I was as weird as the weirdos too, as I named my testicles Pat Donohue and Clive the Jive when I should have been revising for tomorrow’s big test.
It was critical to remain largely incognito as I needed to know which path to follow once my scholarship drew to an underachieving close. The world outside was a mostly cold and barren wasteland so I’d heard; packed to the rafters with all manner of obstacles and harsh realities. So I had to be absolutely positive that my selection was painstaking before taking the plunge either way. There was still time on my Casio to calculate a preferred route through the unknown but I was under no illusion that judgement day would arrive eventually and planned to commence my last minute preparation the moment I could be bothered to do so. You see, laziness was a particular latch-on of mine, and this came from my refusal to conform to what I considered fool’s logic. Education was all well and good but it all got a little bewildering once algebra and geometry were introduced to curriculum. Now let’s not twist the lime here, I can crunch a number and at frisky pace no less, but swore with blindness that Trigonometry was the title of the upcoming Ice-T album and, oddly enough, that one never cropped up on my exam paper which may be why I flunked so hard.
Eventually I was shat out into the big wide world and it appeared I wouldn’t be permitted to continue before first pledging allegiance to one of these two conflicting causes. What a toss-up that was but life hadn’t roughed me up at that point, thus I opted for normal and prepared for the sound shit kicking it was billing. Did it come? Hell yes it did, reality is many things and a friend of mine ain’t always one of them. Targets needed meeting, obstacles required overcoming, and I scurried around my exercise wheel like the lab rat I had become while real life prodded and poked me seemingly for its own vile amusement. However, I’m nothing if not adaptable, and it didn’t take long for me to pull my neck in and focus all my attention into keeping up with the Joneses. Let me tell you about those Joneses, they’re a relentless crowd, the kind that rev their engines alongside you at a red light and revel in forcing you to suck up their rancid vapors the moment it turns green.
Like the change in a chump’s chinos, I endeavored to keep pace, and seemed to be making a fairly decent fist of it for a while there too, although this left precious little time for maintenance and I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that it was all going to conclude with a pile-up. Surely this wouldn’t prove too much of a catastrophe? I mean, normal folk are only too happy to pull over on the hard shoulder to assist their own right? At the very worst I would be required to flash a little leg and my beloved grandmother regularly commented that I possessed a pair of pins that made Polly’s look unsightly so figured it wouldn’t be long before I was tossed a tow rope. Indeed it wasn’t and there seemed nothing that a quick service wouldn’t fix so I headed off on my merry way once more and broke down at the very next intersection as luck would have it. Apparantly this is not out of the ordinary and the bane of many a motorist’s existence but what I would have given for a magic carpet back then. Normal folk don’t believe in such rustic rugs, normal folk see right through magic, normal folk haven’t the time for its tantalizing trickery. Normal folk are missing a trick.
However, I still hadn’t ascertained that I was on the outside of this regimented world looking in, and forever destined to remain this way if I didn’t remove my thumb from the one place it fits most snugly. It wasn’t that I hadn’t snuck inside the fortress and pitched my tent, more that I had done so without first obtaining planning permission and knew full well that the rangers would eventually request less than kindly that it was time for me to move on. You see, they can spot a weirdo from a mile off, our poxy clown shoes give us away and the bright red honk balls on our hoot fins certainly don’t aid us in remaining inconspicuous either. The punishment for trespassing seemed dreadfully acute and entailed the modern-day equivalent of being tried as a witch, before being dunked in a ferret’s piss water until your lungs exploded. That’s to say you’d be donated your marching orders and told never to darken the doorways of reality again or else pay the most grave of all penalties. Skullduggery was evidently afoot as it appeared that a firewall had been constructed without my prior knowledge. And I hit that shit like a gnat smooches a windscreen with the kind of precision that only slo-mo can afford.
I was mooching about the forty beacon when the decision was made for me to return my shit to factory settings and that last defrag had proved just too thorough to endure any longer. Hopelessly dejected, I begun to drag my heels, warble my woes, and feel like the worst kind of “special one” for being singled out, while the wretched Joneses were guarded by the kind of desktop defender whose services money really can buy. Fucking normal bastards had shafted me, promised me the earth before handing me a shovel, painted my portrait only to spend their lunch hours putting up incriminating ★ WANTED ★ posters all around the town square. Little did they know that a closet weirdo like myself would sense the irony in being sold down the river and their snub had opened the floodgates to entirely different waters. Hence me birthing Rivers of Grue and electing against epidural just so I could feel myself tear. You see, there’s method behind every last morsel of my madness, even if I’m not fully aware of it at the time. And this is where the subconscious pipes up after years of being stuck behind laborious paperwork.
I was enthralled by its suggestion but petrified in the very same moment. Granted, weirdness had proved an indispensable part of my workforce, but I feared for its ability as public speaker and was already nursing a critical injury so didn’t fancy affording all my chickens to go free-range in one hit. Surely they would run riot and the last thing I needed was mass exodus on my hands when it was growing ever more vague whether I should wipe front to back or vice versa at this juncture. That said, there was a plethora of provocative prose whispering in unison as it glanced past me, and it appeared to be something within that I had no idea was even under my jurisdiction. I’d always considered the soul a rather weird piece of kit and, having hung out with said vital force for the past few Christmases, feel thrill in reporting that this particular Secret Santa is far from just another voice in the crowd. Regularity doesn’t load up its sled, mundane existence won’t feed the ever demanding reindeer, health and safety protocol won’t get its child-bearing hips down our chimney stack. Besides, isn’t he effectively a home invader? Doesn’t anyone else find that a bit… well… weird?
You’re darn tooting it is, only the fruitiest of loops sign up for the big “W” and, even then, there’s no guarantee that their application won’t be rejected. It’s one thing wearing a sandwich board reading “Roll up! Roll Up! Come hither and feast your eyes on the weirdo. Available while stocks last. Terms and conditions may apply” but the last part is something of a dead giveaway that you haven’t yet amassed the minerals to go the whole “W”. Perhaps you’ve done enough to be announced a weirdist, someone who supports the cause doggedly before rushing back to the condo for missionary with the enemy while catching up on the day’s CNN. Weirdists like to think themselves jack of all trades, but they’ll never truly be crowned kings or queens and be doomed to spend eternity the whipping boys of aces high. Granted, they may trump a pair of sixes but only if another weirdist is prepared to tread water alongside them. Where’s the backbone I ask? Smells suspiciously like lamb chops to me.
No if I was going to do this, then I had to be prepared to go all in and pray that the river was kind. And there’s that irony again. You see, goodwill was evidently part of my soul’s agenda, using the words at my disposal to resist collusion and, instead, empower transfusion amongst those willing to spark some plugs. It seemed a no-brainer to me that I have faith in my soul to see me and others around me good and I leapt before George Michael could so much as string his guitar. The great thing about weirdos is that they love nothing more than to hang out together and, more often than not, have no prior appointments penciled into their diaries or mind-numbing seminars to attend. Anyone who dedicates their art to passion (lucky sevens aside), will know how it feels to slide their hand in their pocket and slide it straight back out with a lip tremble. Nobody seems to be recruiting us nutbags at present but, perhaps if we keep on doing what we’re doing, then lady luck will slip a green sheet or ten into our fanny packs and we won’t starve next month. Let me tell you first-hand from the very depths of destitute valley, it blows badger balls in Brassicville. But it is seldom boring.
Perhaps we can make it big in Bollywood, be noticed by a big top talent scout, or be pitied by a focus group. Any slither of possibility felt sufficient to justify wiggling down this rabbit hole further and sussing out where it led. Moreover, given that the wind was now firmly in my sails, I was intent not to spurn the learning and this approach proposed far more than an exercise in simply ticking boxes. I wanted to find out what I’d been missing out on all this time and make amends for years of sniffing around the wrong dumpsters for inspiration that was never forthcoming. Had I embraced my own weirdness, then it would likely have attempted to cop a feel, but at least it would have done so lovingly. Besides, when you’ve got this rowdy rabble volunteering to ride shotgun alongside you with such fervor, whatcha gonna do? I always was a sucker for a bleeding heart or several and someone had to stop the stubbled old geezer below from chomping down on Donatello’s jugular so may as well be me right?
Look at this shady looking mob, so absolutely batty that we make The Likely Lads appear utter certainties. I know what you’re thinking. How in blazes are any of us ever gonna get heard when we’re fused together like the extras in a Brian Yuzna movie? Well here’s where I owe today’s sponsor James Nordby a complimentary hand job. You see, while undoubtedly as weird as a fistful of inbred finger monsters, we happen to comprise poets, misfits, writers, mystics, painters, and troubadours. Every last drop of blood, sweat, and tears is bestowed with free hand and open heart, while any semen you come across is apparently great for the complexion anyhoots as long as you remember to peel off those face masks before taking your daily trip to the grocery store. The bottom line is this – I’m hella glad I decided to embrace my inner weirdo as, thanks to the glorious souls who endorse my shenanigans, I’m now aware how wonderful a thing that can be. Now where’s my complimentary hand job dagnabbit?
Thank you for reading…
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
© Copyright: Rivers of Grue™