Several years ago I realized that I wanted to strange up Salem. It just seemed so right.
I didn't spend a lot of time -- well, actually not any time -- pondering what "strange" meant before I dived into writing a Strange Up Salem column for our city's alternative paper, Salem Weekly, from 2013 to 2015.
I'm still strangeing away on a Strange Up Salem Facebook page. (Give it a like! I love likes!)
Yesterday someone left a visitor post that simply said, No, let's not.
That shocked me. How could anyone be opposed to strangeness? It's obviously so wonderful! But then I realized that I'd never paid much attention to what "strange" meant. I just felt it was a really good thing.
Because I've always been attracted to the positive connotations of strangeness. Which, after some Googling of "strange definition," were found to include:
not before known, heard, or seen
exciting wonder or awe
different from what is usual, normal, or expected
out of the ordinary
So, yeah!, I sure do want to Strange Up Salem. Let's make Oregon's capital city a fresh discovery, inspiring wonder, better than expected, way more than ordinary.
Defining strange, though, is much different from the experience of strange. A definition is conceptual; an experience is, obviously, experiential.
Everybody is different. One person can look upon something and find it appealingly strange. Another person can see the same thing and feel repelled by its strangeness. After all, "strange" also connotes:
not comfortable or at ease
causing puzzlement, perplexing
But maybe these supposedly negative aspects of strangeness aren't so different from the positive aspects. After all, who wants to be always comfortable, surrounded by the familiar, cushioned by certainty, relaxed and at ease?
Strange often feels like a jolt. A waking-up. A shock. A shove.
We're propelled out of a habitual way of experiencing the world. Yes, this can be disconcerting. Also, exhilarating. Or at least, a pleasurable break from a sojourn in the ordinary.
I'm a fan of the Walking Company's Abeo LiTe shoes. (Yes, the brand has a capital "T" in its name -- strange!)
When I saw that a new color, orange, had been added to the men's line, my reaction was a blend of attraction and uncertainty/puzzlement. I'd never had a pair of orange shoes. Viewing them online, I felt they were appealingly colorful.
But maybe... too garish?
"Screw it!" was my next thought. I ordered the shoes. Now, I like them a lot. I've had people I don't know comment positively about them.
I've worn the shoes quite a few times. I always enjoy the flash of color on the bottom of my legs as I walk along. Yet there's also a certain unsettling sense that comes with wearing the shoes. I've been so used to gray, black, and other subtler-hued shoes, the orange jolts me a bit with every step.
In a good way.
This is how I want Salem to make me feel. Alive. Unique. Different. Bold. Expressive.
In short, strange.