When You're Strange
People from Austin often claim to be oddballs. "Keep Austin Weird" is practically the town motto. But a year in Colorado Springs has done nothing to quell my feeling that this is the strangest place that I have ever been. I tell people that this town of normal houses, a local symphony, churches and dive bars has everywhere else on the planet beat in terms of strangeness, but I have been hard pressed to explain how.
Then last week, I was talking to someone who had moved here from Berkeley. She too had thought that this is an odd community, and she too had had a hard time articulating why she found it so. After a few minutes chatting, we each realized that the thing that we miss most about our former homes is not the strangeness, but the feeling of being normal.
In Austin, everyone is normal, from Leslie the cross-dressing city council candidate to the commisioner of railroads. Walking out of the house dressed as yourself, you don't feel excessively judged, because no matter what you're wearing it's probably pretty conventional and maybe a little too dressed up. But here, I think, everyone who is not you is bizarre- the urge towards conformity in this town makes the smallest things look positively rebellious- say, voting Democrat, or riding a bike while not dressed in sporty spandex. It's all the normal that makes you feel strange. And the pressure of all of this normality makes the strange appear in some of the most unexpected places. For instance, did you know that this town has more tattoo artists per capita than anyplace else in the country? Something tells me that the Ted Haggard scandal of last year is just the tip of the iceberg.