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.
I'm O.K with any and all craziness you put forward, Brian!
Knock yourself out.
Unfortunately, as has been proven over and over, time and time again, your "strange" initiative
has been your credibility downfall.
And please don't get me wrong. You have no shortage of brain power.
(Other than what you send up in smoke!)
You need to pull your head out and ask your self why folks that go to court get a close shave and wear a suit. Why do they do that?
And there you are standing in front of Awesome Anna in a tye dyed tee shirt with a marijuana leaf and cockamamie "strange up" messages.
Who do you expect to take you serious?
Posted by: HarryVanderpool | January 10, 2016 at 10:25 PM
Maybe what makes Salem strange is the general reluctance to change. Perhaps a more ironic and subversive campaign to "Keep Salem Anachronistic", strange in its own right, might be more readily embraced by the rabble. Imagine the possibilities:
A fashion show featuring nothing but a variety of pressed denim jeans, sensible Clark's or Born shoes, short sleeved button up shirts, and a nice 3/4 zip polar fleece.
A home design show where all of the appliances are white.
An ice cream shop that only has vanilla.
Posted by: Not Even Wrong | January 11, 2016 at 08:48 AM
Harry, what's with the "only conformists should be taken seriously" pitch? You often note the fact that Brian is a rather bright follow, but you are basically saying: "Your mind doesn't matter if you can't bother showing up looking like the rest of the sheep at the table."
Please tell me about a time in which "conformity" led to human evolution or progressive community change?
You can't seriously be saying our community leaders are so fragile that they can't handle something as visually disturbing as a Tie Dyed T-shirt. Eeee-gads. That you are comfortable implying they are actually somehow in the right to be dismissive of people that don't look like them.... oh lord.
Everything, every little bit of forward motion humans have experienced is because someone pointed out there was a different way, possibly a better way to do things, and people were bold enough to say "ok change makes me super uncomfortable but... show me please". What you are saying is unless Brian is willing to show up 'looking' like he belongs in Stepford he shouldn't expect any respect what so ever for his views or ideas. How is that not the saddest take on the state of things for Salem and it's populous?
You may be happy living with in the confines of a preset measurement system. Have you ever once asked yourself - Is that because I already am like the example that things are framed around?
If the answer is yes, then perhaps that fact that society is already set up with you in mind, perhaps that's a better reason for you *specifically* to advocate for the people that don't look, talk, think or live like you. Perhaps it's time you turn to the community leaders and say "get over his t-shirt and listen to him for a minute will you - he is PART OF THIS COMMUNITY TOO".
Doesn't it make more sense for us as individuals to rise up to a point where we regularly are willing to questions change and difference before actually telling someone anyone - that if you're not like us - you can't expect respect or to be valued on any level?
Posted by: Logan | January 13, 2016 at 08:16 PM
Do results matter, Logan?
Results DO matter to me.
Let's talk about results:
Do you remember measure 37 and 49?
Brian KICKED EVERYONE'S ASS over, and over and over again that supported 37.
It was as if he simply COULD NOT LOSE!
And he did so in a very professional manner.
And he won.
I am so very grateful to him, Laurel, and Friends of Marion County for their success.
How is he doing with Awesome Anna?
Well, She is kicking his ass.
Over and over and over.
You can find videos of me slugging it out before the legislature over the last several years.
Yes, I was wearing clean jeans and a jean jacket and a nice shirt.
Posted by: HarryVanderpool | January 14, 2016 at 07:11 PM
Well now, had you just clarified it was that his t-shirt was dirty. ;)
I would love to pretend your response made a dent in the point I was making, but it didn't.
It might be safe to say we are not talking about the same thing here. You seem pretty focused on "the game" of politics. I'm talking about the importance of recognizing the value of our more colorful citizens.
As for Winning... (Please tell me you are saying that in your best Charlie Sheen voice!)
In all seriousness Harry, I'm not contesting what works and what doesn't or your victorious record what ever it may be. I'm pointing out that it's sad we have a city council in this day and age that is so consumed with vanilla brand conformity that it's willing to write off a large portion of it's community. (And that you are supportive of that and implying it should be expected.) I say, in this very specific situation, no it should not be acceptable at all!
They have taken jobs to serve the public, not just the ones that show up in whatever they've deemed appropriate attire. City Hall is not a private business. They serve US. All of US. Their jobs require that they hear, understand, deduce and properly represent the whole of their constitutes. Not just the ones that look like them.
Don't get me wrong, I see the value in dressing the part as best you can for a variety of things, if only that it naturally puts others at ease - but honestly that should really be more for things like a job interview or a role in a play. Citizens shouldn't have to stop being themselves when representing themselves or others. If my tax paying neighbor has an issue that he wants the city to address and he takes the time to go down and tell them about it. I expect our elected officials to be able to look past his 70 year old-triple-patched-oil-stained overalls and hear him out as a valued citizen they are here to serve. They wanted the damn job didn't they? Dealing with the variety that makes up a community is literally "the job".
I remember reading a great book written by a con-artist that basically said "People see what they want to see, so much so that I just had to look like I belonged to get the keys to everything I wanted to take". He was saying we are actually as dumb as door knobs when it comes to assessing what is right in front of us in regards to people. We don't think about the person at all, we think about the package they present themselves as, which quite often is literally a lie.
I can't really say I care if YOU have these preset rules for yourself and those around you - I really don't care about that. You're entitled to that. But it's the JOB of our elected officials to literally give You and Brian equal footing regardless of the visual before them. If you can't even bring yourself to do that for someone I think you respect, how can I believe they're capable of doing that? I can't and I don't and THAT is what I'm calling SAD and WRONG. Because they as representatives should be working hard to educate people to value of EVERYONE in the community. Not just the ones that look the part.
You say you are fine with Brian's call to Strange Up Salem. If you've looked up "Strange" you know that there is a level of nonconformity about it. So when you say the only answer to Brian's problem is he has to conform, how can you not see you are telling him he can't actually try to Strange Up Salem?
Not every great thinker, or civic minded citizen is going to come in same pretty packaging, for whatever reason, people are different and that shouldn't be a BAD thing. I don't want to miss the next great solution because someone in my community really thinks it's ok to write people off for simply being different. I'm fine with you not respecting people that don't fit the part as you see it - but I hope you understand that none of us should allow our representatives to be that way. Because there is value in everyone and we have to work harder at making the people that don't look like us, don't sound like us, don't live like us more comfortable so they will show up and share their civic suggestions too!
"Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth" - John F. Kennedy
Posted by: Logan | January 15, 2016 at 03:08 PM