People are weird. Humans – on the whole – are often very weird. What we like, what we don’t like, what turns us off or turns us on. Whether we have a lot of weirdness or a little, whether we wear it on the surface or bury it deep down, most everyone is some kind of weirdo.
I feel like, in a lot of books I read, the dark side of weird is explored, but the truth is, there’s a lot of fun-weird, happy-weird out there, too. Sometimes we get caught up trying to make our characters “real” or “relate-able” or “normal” that we forget that the designated “quirky” character isn’t the only one who can veer off the map. Sometimes in upping the drama or stakes we forget about all the thousands of moments in life that are funny or silly.
My reminder came this past weekend in the form of a place called Funky Town.
It’s a dance club outside of the city in one of those areas where they’d probably tell you not to go alone, especially at night, especially if you’re a woman, etc. and so forth. The Man and I had never been there before, but our friends had only spoke of it as a place from legend, in reverent tones with wide, lit-up eyes, and they assured us that it wasn’t something they could describe, “you just had to see it.”
They were right.
As a setting, it’s a storyteller’s dream: a club that specifically plays music from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, that caters to everyone from octagenarians to twenty-somethings, from the two-stepping couples in plaid shirts to the girls in barely-there clothes who just came to dance in a circle. Classy, trashy, old, young, inner city, rural – they all come to jump around under the glow of a thousand clashing neon decorations. Eye-searing yellow and orange and pink cogs and wheels that spin on the dance floors backdrop. Seussian-shaped cutout buildings on all the walls rigged to wiggle and dance suggestively to certain songs. A full-out opening ceremony that consists of a man in a crazy-ass space suit appearing to pull levers to start insanity, complete with power sanders rigged to throw sparks all around him. An array of toys above the dance floor, including one that dumps suds on the dancing crowd during “The Car Wash.”
Atmosphere. They haz it. And, more importantly, they embrace it. They’re not trying to be cool or trendy. They’re ridiculous, over-the-top, loud, obnoxious…and fun.
And people LOVE IT. They wait in line in the cold. They load their pockets with cash – no cards allowed – and pay a cover that they would call ridiculous anywhere else. They come in costume. They bust a move to every song – sometimes in the giant cages, sometimes on the lighted platform. Flailing, grooving, throwing themselves around.
You could write a story about every single character there.
- The older gentleman in the Canadian tuxedo and hat who just wandered around all night
- The guy who wore a horse head mask on the dance floor but had sweet enough dance moves that he became a hot ticket with the ladies
- The middle-aged sisters who knew the “official” disco line dances and the kid in the yellow shirt who picked up all of their steps after watching for, like, two seconds
- The man in the full-on velvet purple suit with the afro wig
- The middle-aged guy we dubbed Mr. Funky Town (my favorite) who danced with all his heart to the beat of a whole different drum in jeans and an Affliction t-shirt, long arms flying, sharp elbows jutting out to make some room
You don’t go to Funky Town to be taken seriously, and that’s what made it amazing. People were weird. Happily weird. Embracing the fun and the ridiculous and silly. Letting their freak flags fly with abandon.
It occurs to me that maybe that’s something I need to let my characters do sometimes, too.