Let’s get this out of the way: I’m going to make this weird.
A Strange Signal is a project that started cooking on the back burner of my brain back in April. It was my first trip to a strange land that I’d always wanted to visit. It’s features? Constant firestorms, naked people shitting on sidewalks, disruptive and radical technology, the animated husks of hippies, natural splendor, semi-abandoned island prisons, Endor, independent bookstores to die for, Palm trees, legal marijuana, the Tenderloin, and, of course, my in-laws.
California, in other words.
California is one of the places that manufactures weirdness on an industrial scale then exports it in quantities that invade our world through box offices everywhere. It propagates it’s eccentric seed through publishing, through music videos, and through politics that would be unpalatable to many other states or even nations. It’s a place that has exploding porta-potties that shoot drug needles into bystanders. I’m not exaggerating. That last thing actually happened according to my sister-in-law, who heard the story from the victim, first hand.
And I was only there to see it for ten days.
My trip was restricted to the San Francisco Seven-By-Seven, Oakland, Berkeley, and Claremont areas. But, I got a good snapshot of the weird underbelly of the streets, homes, businesses, and neighborhoods of the Bay Area.
I came home with over a thousand photos on my iPhone. Some were what you’d expect. Selfies of my wife and I. Images of icons we see on television like the Golden Gate Bridge. The Transamerica Pyramid building. Touristy stuff at Pier 39. Then, there were weird head shops, unattended stuffed dogs on benches with threatening messages, and at least one Chihuahua wearing a leather harness emblazoned with a Slayer patch. Then there’s the unassuming but haunting images. Abandoned gas stations. Roadside paths that don’t go anywhere but into the woods. Power substations where you’d not expect. Strange graffiti. Antique architecture standing next to cookie cutter Starbucks. A panoply of eyesores and beauty rubbing shoulders. Palm trees and trailer parks. California had it all.
The weird didn’t even have to work hard to present itself. It’s was just there, waiting for me to pick it up and polish up that strange.
The whole trip made me realize something though. Weird is everywhere. I have thousands upon thousands-of digital photos from home, to Toronto, to Vancouver, to Phoenix, and back again because I have a smart phone and live in a more subtle, but equally weird, place. I don’t need California for weird. It sure helps, but my backyard is just as full of abandoned stuff, places Bigfoot might hide, and probably a few hucksters who promise miracles only the desperate would believe. Weird is where you find it. And, it’s everywhere.
You see, that’s what I want this to be all about: making life weird. Life’s full of mundane terror and banality. Let’s make the world we see a world anew, peopled with canine overlords, homeless magicians, and prophetic broadcasts from a radio station that only a rare few can even tune into. A place where the ocean hides (even more) terror, necromancers wear slick suits, and anything is possible if you follow esoteric rules and observations. I’m shooting for equal parts Joe Frank, Welcome To Night Vale, and Stephen King. I want it all, and I want it out of order, otherworldly, and quaintly terrifying.
We’ll see the sights, pay off the dogs where we can, and dial our car stereos into frequencies man was not meant to know. Just remember to never trust a closed door, look to the ocean with fear and disgust, and never, ever, trust a magician. They’ll only break your heart.
Or other things you can’t get back.
Welcome, weirdos, to A Strange Signal.