I was speaking to some really fun women last Thursday at the Mystery & Mirth Book Club in Madison, Ala., and several said they are like me and seek out the weird places on the map when they travel. They look for World’s Largest Things, car-part art and quirky attractions. I think Weird Tourism is on the rise, as I wrote in my recent humor book. Following is an excerpt from “Not Quite Right: Mostly True Tales of a Weird News Reporter.” Get your signed copies for Christmas gifts by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the most telling things about my current job is that I wouldn’t have one if all of you weren’t weird, too. That’s right. I went there: You’re all weird.
Here’s how I know: Weird tourism is on the rise. It doesn’t have an official name yet, although I’d like to suggest a few. Internet, if you’re reading this, how about Oddball Odysseys, Weird Wanderings, or Peculiar Peregrinations. (I didn’t really know that last one. Aren’t online thesauruses great?)
One of the weekly features I write in my day job as a digital reporter is called Odd Travels. In addition to weird news commentary, I actually wander around Alabama (and sometimes neighboring states) writing about any weirdness I stumble across along the roadside. As you might imagine, Alabama is the gift that keeps on giving. In a good way. We southerners hate hiding our otherness. We like to put it right out on the front porch where anyone can enjoy it, even when that means an old toilet with petunias planted in it.
We like to put a tiara on it and have it lead the crazy parade. Why do you think Mardi Gras is held in Mobile and New Orleans? And now much of the rest of the world is catching on to what southerners knew all along: Quirk is cool. Peculiar is popular. Weird is wonderful. Now don’t you wish you hadn’t called me all those names when I said you were weird in the first paragraph? Okay, you’re forgiven. I’m magnanimous like that. (The thesaurus again.)
Let’s have a little serious heart-to-heart here: I really do believe wearing our weird on our sleeves is going to be a great unifying movement for this country. With the recent political divisiveness, we all need something to believe in. Especially in Alabama where many of our top officials have been indicted for something, and our seventy-something-year-old governor, who looks like Mr. Burns from “The Simpsons,” left office after he was recorded awkwardly stammering sweet nothings to his young and pretty aid. (Yes, that was really weird news, and more than mildly repulsive, but I left that to the professional political reporters).
Knowing all of us have a little weird in us, that none of us is completely normal, is what makes America great. And that will be my platform when I run for president in 2050. When I’m 85. (Nope, no amount of begging will make me run sooner. I feel sure I won’t be finished writing about weird things until then. Plus, at that point, if any old nude photos surfaced during the campaign, I’d be proud rather than embarrassed.)
Now that you know Peculiar Peregrinations is what will save the country, you are probably dying to know the types of weirdness I have come across in my travels. Or at least you’re thinking you’ve read this far, so you might as well keep going.
Some of my favorite oddities are the things the person who created them didn’t even know were weird. Like the art installation that’s just your average, everyday Satanic goat-man statue surrounded by a group of tiny animal “followers” in the park where children play. In front of the Methodist church.
It must have been created by some godless cretin from New York or California, right? Brought south to push their tired-old “liberal agenda” on the pious? Alas, none of those tales about the statue is true. The Birmingham statue was made by a local artist who was merely portraying a completely innocent scene of a creepy goat man telling a story to a group of mesmerized woodland creatures who are not, I repeat, not Scientologists. Although that one toad does look a little like Tom Cruise.
More oddities are listed in “Not Quite Right: Mostly True Tales of a Weird News Reporter.”