Kage Baker found the walls of the world to be thin. Not thin enough, in her opinion, but definitely semipermeable.Osmotic. Frangible, even. And for her, always transparent.
The first time we saw LOTR, she started to giggle when Galadriel filled her basin with water, solemnly proclaiming that it would show what was, what will be, what might be … she leaned to me and whispered, “Heck, I don’t need a drink of water to do that! Rum, maybe, though.”
This was true. It might have been a Holmsian ability to read small physical clues, or her encylopedic memory of what she had seen and read and heard. She might have been a real good guesser. Maybe it really was the rum! Or perhaps, as she herself proclaimed solemnly, “I have the Sight – I’m psychotic.” All I know is, wherever we went, Kage was likely to stare into the near distance and make some interested observation on an event or building from the last century. Or the next.
That was just eye candy, though. She was acutely sensitive to moods and atmospheres. A party going sour or a quarrel brewing in a restaurant would have Kage heading for the exit in a split second. And sometimes, she just announced that some location or event felt weird – sometimes wrong or dangerous, but more often just – peculiar. Sometimes it was the passersby: “People look strange, today. Wonder where that one came from?” and she would indicate some gentleman whose bone structure suggested he did not include primates in his family tree.
People watching, as I’ve mentioned, was one of her past-times. You see a lot of weirdness that way … I recall a weekend we were driving around San Francisco on a variety of errands, pretty much quartering the City over two days. And everywhere we went, we saw young men wearing brightly patterned baggy shorts, knee high black socks and white tennis shoes. Shirts and hair varied normally, but all of them were clad in shorts that looked like they’d been sewn from 18th century trade goods calico. Plus the fuzzy black socks and glaring white shoes. All over San Francisco. We wondered and wondered what new fashion it could possibly be – a really dorky cult? A statistical anomaly? An invasion force with really bad fashion sense? (“I welcome our badly dressed overlords …”) We never found out.
Faire crowds were no end of fun, watching the customers wander glassy-eyed amid our wonders, doing their best top fit in: we always cheered their efforts, even when they were weird. Some of them were clearly out for attention – the lady with the iguana on a leash, for instance, wearing a few twelve-pack’s worth of aluminum tabs as a bra. The inevitable Monty Python knights, and Federation personnel. But others – we always got the feeling that some people came to the Renaissance Faire so they’d be overlooked in the general weirdness: people whose battle gear or wizard’s robes or chiton were too good, too casually worn, too used looking. People who maybe stepped sideways somewhere, and ended up somewhen else.
Sometimes you glimpse a questionable profile in a passing car. Sometimes it is the car itself, or the string of them – a dozen vintage cars, all mint, passing in convoy on the I-5 at twilight. An old man met in a gas station in the middle of nowhere, an old man with peculiarly hairy ears and a donkey in the back of his truck. The drunk – red haired, disheveled, eyes as blue and hot as gas flames – who stopped us on a dark street in Avalon to demand: “What did Finn do after the cattle raid?”
Today I was sitting in a parking lot at Cal State Los Angeles, waiting for my nephew, and idly watching the student body go by. I noted they like Nikes and stiletto heel boots, and favour branded sports clothes, and that all shades of pink are popular for hair this spring. It was interesting to compare it to the Bolivian-weave ponchos, bare feet and flower-decked hair of my own youth. They’re no more materialistic than we were, it’s just the styles have changed …
Then along came one maiden walking alone. She wore huarches, sage green. Her hair was the dull gold of the winter hillsides around Los Angeles – but under the surface, at the roots, flashing from under the bright locks, it was the bright green of new leaves. And her profile was straight off an Aztec monument. What was Xochiquetzal doing, crossing the campus in the spring sunlight?
I don’t know. It’s just general weirdness, folks. Like Kage always said, it’s everywhere.