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Bo'sun here and I'm ever so excited to introduce the newest member of the Crew. She's J Perry Stone, aka Scuttlebutt Stone (I just made that up...could change) and we're damn lucky to have her. She'll be with us the last Thursday of the month. Scuttlebutt writes Historical Romance and is well known for flashing her ass. I give you, the Scuttle.
This past weekend, my husband and I spent some “sans kids” time in Key West, Florida. We ate carpaccio drizzled with truffle oil, drank mojitos stuffed with limes and fresh mint leaves, and watched the sunset in the most southernmost part of these United States.
We also toured the Hemingway House on Whitehead Street.
Now I’m not much for Hemingway (please don’t yell at me if you are) because I tend to think he writes insipid female characters. But there was something about touring his home/life in Key West that endeared him to me in a way I’ve never allowed before. Or maybe it was just Key West in Hemingway’s time? Either way, what a collection of nutball characters.
Hemingway himself collected six-toed cats because he thought they brought him good luck. Personally, I think all they did was make him laugh with their furry little hitchhiking thumbs but whatever.
Tennessee Williams lived there during this time as well and had a lover who bicycled around town towing a bourbon-drinking goat. Cool.
Joe Russell, a la Sloppy Joe’s fame, once littered the sidewalk with all the urinals in his establishment just because. Well okay (Hemingway later took one home and made a water fountain out of it for his cats).
Such a wealth of originality is just the sort of stuff I love sinking my teeth into. My dad is an eccentric, after all. He’s a choral conductor, has an entirely twisted sense of humor, is a curmudgeon, can fix anything in the world, and laughs at fart jokes. I ask you, who do you know who reads the score of the St. Matthew Passion for fun then will look up to tell you a fart joke? By the way, he was also the one who picked out my wedding dress—a gorgeous thing if I do say so—then came home and crawled under my car to fix some greasy part.
But all this has got me thinking about eccentrics and the writing of them. What, exactly, is it that truly makes a person/character eccentric?
I’ve come up with a few things.
First, I think one thing all eccentrics have in common is contrasts. Here’s Hemingway, Mr. Economy of Words… and his 50 six-toed cats. Here’s Tennessee Williams’ lover towing his goat, which is a rather humane practice it seems, but feeding his goat bourbon. Here’s my dad, who, the first time he ever went skiing, headed down the hill in a straight line, bat outta hell-fashion. He was considered the bad boy of his day. My mom said the girls sighed when they saw ice on his eyebrows at the bottom of the hill. This is also the same man who spent hours saving baby chicks trapped in the dam near my school when I was little. Tore his arm up to a bloody stump. Did all this while my sister and I stood on the banks of the pond, bawling our heads off and praying the chicks wouldn’t die.
I think the other thing eccentrics have in common is that they aren’t actually aware they are eccentrics. A person who sets out to act weird is just self-conscious and annoying—like the ding dong girl at the rockin' party who sits in the middle of it pretending to meditate. Oy and true story (ask my sister). But an eccentric is just deliciously nutball. They don’t know they are eccentric because they don’t particularly care what you think of them in the first place. You gotta love a person who doesn’t give a damn what others think of him. That leaves out politicians and movie stars. Notice I didn’t say actors, just movie stars. To call Orson Welles a movie star is to deny his eccentricity, I think. Matthew McConaughey is a movie star. Orson Welles wrote, directed and acted in Citizen Kane, for God's sake, and was a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.
Some other eccentric characteristics are creativity, genius, and sometimes instability (not my dad). Think Howard Hughes. Albert Einstein even.
So how about you? What’s your definition of eccentric? Do you have any in your family? Do you write them? Have you read any good ones lately? Please, regale us with weirdness.