Truth, justice and weirdness

It seems like only yesterday that I was lamenting the sadly mundane state of S’lano County’s day-to-day existence.

“Where has all the weirdness gone?” I asked plaintively time and again, only to be met with stony stares and silence.

Happily, the question was answered for me not long ago when I was transferred to the newspaper’s court beat.

Where had all the weirdness gone?

To the Hall of Justice, I soon discovered…

My opinion of the county’s overall weirdness level began improving almost immediately as I prepared to be swept away on a magic carpet ride through the county’s criminal justice system.

Standing patiently in line at the security checkpoint waiting to be screened by the Hall of Justice metal detector, I was met by a harbinger of weirdness-to-come that was not to be ignored.

The woman in front of me turned, poked her index finger repeatedly into my chest and announced in no uncertain terms “It ain’t going to do any good taking my shoes off for that thing. My feet set it off every time. It’s my feet, not my shoes. You’re gonna have to cut my feet off this time! Do what you’ve got to do! Go ahead, saw ’em right off! I’m going to jail anyway!”

Uh-huh.

“I hope that’s not your attorney, man…” commented a cheerful passer-by who’d overheard part of the conversation.

Yes, things were definitely looking up for the relative weirdness level in good ol’ downtown Fairfield.

And it only got better a short time later when I stepped gingerly out of Judge Kinnicutt’s courtroom to be met by an imposing fellow who seemed to be launching a one-man campaign against fly larvae.

“Maggots!” he proclaimed in thunderous breathlessness.

“Maggots! They’re allllll maggots! The Lord shall smite them and smite them again and again! Maaaaaaggots!” (Repeat 15 times without taking a breath to get the full impact of this encounter…)

A kindly court bailiff subsequently told me not to take the maggot man’s diatribe personally.

“He was down in from of Judge Harrison’s courtroom last week – really gets around this time of year,” the bailiff explained.

Better and better…

Then, just a few days ago, one man proudly marching through the Hall of Justice really turned up the excitement.

Rounding a corner, the musical fellow burst into a full-throated rendition of “My Boyfriend’s Back.”

For you younger readers, “My Boyfriend’s Back” was a girl group rock ballad from the mid-60s that told the story of a young woman done wrong by a teenage cad and the inevitable havoc her testosterone-fueled boyfriend would wreak upon the aforementioned cad when the boyfriend got back:

“My boyfriend’s back,

He’s gonna save my reputation!

Hey-la, hey-la

My boyfriend’s back!

If I were youI’d take a permanent vacation!”

No, it just doesn’t get any weirder than that, amigos…

Originally published November 02, 2003

Little paperback, big weirdness…

Looking for a weird time?

You need only look as far as the paperback book aisle of your favorite supermarket where, with any luck, you’ll be able to secure a copy of “Sleepeasy” by T.M. Wright (2001, Leisure Books, Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc., New York, N.Y., $5.99, 310 pages).

“Sleepeasy” puts the capital ‘W’ in weird and is an obvious candidate for Best Dead Private Eye in Another Dimension Supermarket Paperback of 2001.

Oh, and did I tell you, it’s really weird?

“Sleepeasy” tells the story of Harry Briggs, a fairly laid back philosophy professor who enjoys old mystery movies and watching his wife skinny-dipping in their swimming pool until he, er, dies.

The next thing you know, Harry’s been reincarnated as a hardboiled private eye driving aimlessly through the countryside searching for a missing woman who looks suspiciously like his spouse.

Harry’s got a trench coat, a fedora, a snub-nosed .38, a big ol’ Buick and a mission – what more could a dead philosophy professor turned private detective want?

Our self-created gumshoe doesn’t realize he’s dead, but he does have the feeling that he’s not in Kansas anymore. The landscape is an endless expanse of tall grass and nodding sunflowers, the people he encounters don’t make a helluva lot of sense and Harry isn’t exactly sure where he’s been or where he’s going.

And then he pulls into the placid little community of Silver Lake where everybody’s kind of vaguely pleasant and the cafe’s never open when you’re hungry.

While exploring the town, Harry meets the mysterious Amelia, who seems to spend most of her time sitting on a park bench staring at the lake shore and speaking in riddles.

There’s a reason for the mystery, of course – Amelia’s dead and she’s really Harry’s wife, Barbara, who’s equally dead and who created Silver Lake and all its inhabitants after casting off her mortal coil and stepping onto a kind of alternative astral plane.

(You’re still with me, right? Take your time…)

So Harry’s dead and he gets to spend eternity impersonating a 1940s private eye while his dead wife, Barbara, reigns over the perfect little community of Silver Lake.

Well that sounds just peachy for all concerned, but there’s trouble brewing in Paradise.

For one thing, Harry’s dead subconscious has been creating a few things of its own.

What does every film noir private eye need? An antagonist, of course. And who was the greatest celluloid villain of them all? Sydney Greenstreet.

Welcome to Silver Lake, Sydney…

Unlike the late actor, this Sydney Greenstreet is really evil. He’s into money, power and murder and his hobby’s homicide.

Worse, he doesn’t simply kill the artificial inhabitants of Silver Lake. No, Sydney somehow makes his way back to the land of the living where he’s bumping off Wall Street executives, haberdashers and attorneys with giddy abandon.

Will Harry be able to cross back over and put a stop to Sydney’s predations? Will Barbara be able to maintain her pristine lakeside retreat? And what about the voluptuous, scantily clad, dark-haired female French partisans?

If you’re not dead, just ease on down to your favorite supermarket and get all the answers for $5.99.

Originally published May 13, 2001