"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Thursday, March 28, 2024

In Praise Of Creeps, Weirdos, And Freaks - Diversity's Missing Links

Arthur Hicks was just shy of run-of-the-mill, but those little oddities, each insignificant in and of themselves, when rolled up into one - a slightly prognathous chin; hair that despite the Frizz Away goop that Sal, the barber, sold him still looked thatched and corn stalky; eyes slightly off kilter; and a rabbity sniff - put him far east of the mainstream. As these things are wont to do, they gave him a complex, and in addition to being a package of curiosities, he became withdrawn and creepy. 

He had grown up in an age when bullying was a not tolerated; but his classmates found ways to make their eyes look goofy, spike their hair into chicken tail feathers, and twitch their noses into the salad without any teacher seeing.

He was a a good enough student, but when he turned thirteen his voice took on a growling timber, a guttural, phlegmy croak that made 'Jefferson' sound like 'Jowly Edison' and discounted all his right answers to D's. 

The priest paused before giving him Holy Communion, salesladies balked at making change, and the only place he felt completely at home was Jimmy's Smoke Shop where Arthur thumbed through girly magazines in Jimmy's back room with all the married men who didn't want to be seen. 

Jimmy liked Arthur, but that was probably because he was just a younger version of himself, a Picasso face with features that didn't belong where God had put them, but perfect for running a store which sold palm buzzers, flies in plastic, whoopee cushions and copies of 'Cunt' and 'Slit'.  

'Howzit goin'?' Jimmy said to Arthur when he came in to buy a Tootsie Roll and have a look at the latest edition of 'Come'.  Arthur could have been busted for letting Arthur back there, but as I said, he liked him and gave him a bit of running room. 'What's it to be today?'. 

Jimmy knew quite well exactly what it would be, Tootsie Rolls and the back room, but liked to humor him and somehow felt sorry for this misshapen, twitchy kid who had nothing to do with his Saturday mornings except Tootsie Rolls and smarmy sex pix.  

'Got a girlfriend?', Jimmy once asked Arthur as Marfa Peters and Billie Fehr brushed past him on their way to the toiletries. He only wished that they would brush up against him. 

'Huh?', grunted Arthur unwrapping his candy bar.  'Hopeless', thought Jimmy. 

Now, the point of this story is not about Arthur per se - there must be thousands of misshapen oddities like him in Connecticut alone - but about that collection of weird bits of God's creation farther off the beaten path of normal human beings than Arthur could ever be. Who would have ever thought that in this small New England town, known for its Puritan legacy - John Davenport and his Massachusetts Bay Colony dissenters had stopped there on their way to New Haven, spent a particularly bitter winter, and fathered the great-great grandfathers of the captains of industry still alive and well today - there would be drag queens, gangsta-rolling pimps, and transsexual hookers?  

How did 'diversity' (Jimmy hated that word and always said it with inverted commas) ever come to this? Every bizarre, outlandish freak got invited to the show while the true oddities - the dumb, the clueless, t and the mentally obtuse  - were left out. His shop was the real big tent of 'diversity', not that three ring circus in Hartford organized last year.  'A Summer of Diversity' they called it, a hodge-podge of every alteration to the American norm you could imagine. 

They had even invited Pequot Chief Johnny Horsetail, CEO of Foxcroft, the first Indian casino in America, multi-millionaire with just enough Indian DNA to get him the biggest tax free moneymaker in the state - his great great aunt, Silvana, had been abducted by one of White Wolf's Comanche raiders in 1890, sold to the Pequots for pirated gold, married a Pequot brave, and went on to have five children, one of whom was the direct ancestor of Johnny Horsetail. 

Alongside him on the dais were descendants of freed slaves from Virginia, bartered and sent North along with other beneficiaries of Jefferson's manumission.  They too had thin strands of genetic legacy to qualify them as 'diverse', but the organizers wanted to display not just black people, a dime a dozen in Hartford alone, but real black people with cotton-pickin' slave roots.  

Gay men and lesbian women were a dime a dozen as well, so the organizers wanted to speckle the spectrum with a more interesting mix. Bullard Fence was a transsexual man who had undergone the most radical transformation in Connecticut history. Thanks to advanced hormonal therapy and aggressive surgery, he had emerged from the pupa and chrysalis of a quiet, lovely, sweet Victorian lady to the macho man - a hairy, muscled beast, frilly seamstress turned pipe fitter and posthole digger with underworld connections. 

Little people had their own concession - miniature, low-level stands for autographs and pictures, a convention of Armani-suited dwarves who had left their offices at Chase and Travelers to represent their growing number.  Some of the more risky in vitro fertilizations were turning out little people by the dozens and genetic testing had not caught up.  Not that parents were encouraged to abort a little person.  Not at all.  Just like the profoundly deaf who formed a culture of their own and resisted cochlear implants, little people's culture was yet another example of America's unusual social tolerance.

'Bullshit', said Jimmy when the read over the invitee list published in the Hartford Courant in its special Diversity supplement; and wondered what Arthur Hicks, deep into the June issue of 'Crack', would think of all this. There should be break-out sessions for people like Arthur who, ironically, were so clueless that they wouldn't know how to register let alone find their way to Bushnell Park. 

Some politician had coined the term 'silent majority' to reflect the tens of millions of ordinary Americans who had no voice in national affairs.  These carpenters, plumbers, farmers, housewives, and clerks were nothing out of the ordinary and because of their quiet citizenship were largely overlooked.

Arthur Hicks and his ilk were a subset of that silent majority - the oddballs who added verve and flavor to the run-of-the-mill.  Good, solid Americans who had some pieces missing and bounced around in their own particular St. Vitus dances.  They were the real diverse America, not this side show assembly of prescription outliers 

'When does the next 'Cunt' come out?' asked Arthur on his way out of the shop.  Poor kid, thought Jimmy, a bit of litter on Broad Street blown in with the Peter Pan transit passengers on their way to Boston.  Unrecognized, unsung, completely unnoticed. 

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