Send in the Piano Clown

“I don’t know if I should laugh or cry into my beer,” Leon said.

“Do both at the same time,” Samantha said.

“Feels like we’re stuck in limbo in this bar,” Leon said. “Like we need to do something to get to heaven.”

“That’s easy,” Sam replied. “Just walk out of here.”

Leon said, “But I’m riveted to this guy’s spoken-word poetry about his doomed relationship with Carol while he plays piano and sings ‘Send in the Clowns ‘and ‘Piano Man’ and tosses back cocktails.”

“It’s a weird mix, that’s for sure,” Samantha said. “Is this what people mean by ‘avant-garde’?”

Leon shrugged. “I think it means whatever you want it to mean.”

“That’s not helpful. Why is he dressed as a clown? Is it some kind of symbol for how he feels inside?”

“Maybe,” Leon said. “Or what if it’s a social commentary on being a performer? You know, like a trained monkey?”

Sam shook her head. “We’ll never know. Look at that. He passed out.”

“Poor bastard.”

“Him?” Sam said with a laugh. “We’re the poor bastards who had to listen to him. C’mon, let’s go. We’ve been granted freedom.”

As the couple walked toward the bar’s exit, they saw the other patrons were still watching the clown draped over the piano. Perhaps they wondered if the clown would sputter back to consciousness and continue to entertain them with his act. Or perhaps, after a rest, the clown would start the second act of his performance that was different than the first. Samantha and Leon would never know, as they left the bar and walked towards another bar across the street, their feet moving with the hope of a more “normal” situation in the other bar.

copyright © 2021 Dave Williams

Learning a Little About the Students

An aardvark walking, with small bushes behind it.
by Louise Joubert/Wikimedia Commons

On the first day of school, the teacher asked the elementary school students to say one thing about themselves.

Starting in the front row, each student spoke. Some spoke energetically, some softly. Olivia Murrell’s favorite color: purple, Noah Hillman’s favorite food: pizza, Sofia Valdez’s favorite movie: The Wizard of Oz, Makayla Weber’s favorite food: cake, Dominic Rowley’s favorite color: red, Xavier Carrasco’s favorite baseball team: Los Angeles Dodgers, Ellie Ishida’s favorite holiday: Christmas, Anthony Arborghast’s favorite animal: zebra.

The teacher help up her hand and said, “Let’s take a little break there, please. I have a question. Anthony Aardvark Arborghast, could you tell the class why your parents picked your middle name? I’m very curious.”

Anthony Aardvark Arborghast was a shy boy and his voice was low, but he managed the explanation. “My mom and dad wanted my middle name to be an animal. But they couldn’t agree on which animal. My mom’s favorite animal is the aardvark, and my dad’s favorite is the albatross. They had a contest for who could pick my middle name. They played one round of miniature golf and one round of gin rummy. They worked on the crossword puzzle in a Wednesday edition of the New York Times to see who could get the most answers. They jumped to see who could jump the farthest. They wrote essays about the possible dangers of technology. Three of their friends served as judges to pick the winner of that one. They took a test of real-world math, which included household finances, sales tax, and statistics in news stories. And finally, they made funny faces and funny voices to a friend to see who could make the friend laugh louder. They agreed on a complicated scoring system for all those contests to see who won the whole thing. My mom won.”

Silence in the classroom as the teacher and students took in all of what Anthony Aardvark Arborghast had said. The kids looked around at each other. The kids looked at Anthony Aardvark Arborghast.

The teacher said, “Well, Anthony, I think you have interesting parents.”

“Weird is more like it,” Anthony Aardvark Arborghast said.

copyright © 2021 Dave Williams

Individual Weirdness

Photo of caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland, created in Christmas lights.
by Joshua Coleman/Unsplash

Yesterday, I posted a review of Felicia Day’s Embrace Your Weird: Face Your Fears and Unleash Creativity. I’m following that with a post about the perception of weirdness, as I like how the book put into words what I’ve felt about the word “weird.”

I’ve certainly tried to fit into what seemed mainstream. But, as I’ve grown older, I’ve become more comfortable with what makes me different than others. And I’ve shifted what I consider to be “cool.” I used to think it was dressing in a trendy way and acting in a certain way.

However, is it cool to conform to what most people are doing? Or is it cool to not follow the popular trends?

“We’re often called ‘weird’ for the very fact that we defy stereotypes in some way.” — Felicia Day

I’ve called things “weird” as a way to describe how bad they were for being different. I’ve heard family and friends do the same thing. Granted, some things are different and scary and intimidating. A species of nasty, tentacled aliens who want to wipe out all humans? That fits the bill.

But I’ve tried to reduce using “weird” as a go-to label when meaning it in a negative way. Because weird can be very interesting. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland had many weird moments, and the book is lots of fun. Surely, it has inspired writers and artists to create their own wonders. To go down the rabbit holes of their imaginations and see what they can come up with.

“Our weirdnesses are the most fertile places to start when we want to create.” — Felicia Day

While reading Embrace Your Weird, I nodded at several parts. The idea of seeing our differences as positives. Of trying to be comfortable with them. Of taking walks with them, having a drink together, playing games, getting to know each other better. Those weirdnesses can generate ideas in working on creative projects.

As a writer and illustrator, of course I’m going to encourage people to take a shot at creative projects. It can be fun to move from spectator to inventor. If you don’t want to show the results of your inventing to the world, you don’t have to. Believe me, I have created stories, poems, and drawings that I’m not going to post on this blog.

But if you’d like to share, then put something silly in the world — as Shel Silverstein suggested. Or something scary or adventurous or melodious or dramatic … and so on.

If it wasn’t for creators who took what came before them and explored their media in different directions, would there be The Wizard of Oz? Abstract art? Terry Gilliam’s movies? Ursula K. LeGuin’s books? Dr. Seuss’s books?

The list can be much longer. And I’m glad those artists created works, so we can enjoy their individual voices.