Quirky McQuickerson

I love quirkers. Truly. I adore weird people of every stripe and nonsense word they utter. I’d so much rather lunch with people who are strange and creatively unkempt than bland genericsons. In fact, I do seem to be one of those people who off-the-beaten-path types befriend. In college in Milwaukee, I lived down the street from a mental institution and a rescue mission (also, a few short blocks from Jeffrey Dahmer. And I’m convinced that if he ran into me at the corner grocer, he’d have confessed all, because I have that effect on people.) and I routinely came across the talk-to-themselfer, the screaming-into-the-air paranoid and the craggy, barefoot-in-snow garden variety crazy. And I loved them. And they loved me.

And at this time, I do not care to speculate on why that is. But thank you for your insight.


One of my favorite things to do in my early days was to frequent dive bars in the afternoon (also, not wanting to speculate on this habit right now, but again, thanks), because the map of humanity in there was too absorbing, too colorful for me to resist. I could think of nothing better than to engage in a conversation with Louby-Bird, the bespectacled, leathery guy to my left who could tell me a thing or two about life. And? I’m getting all excited now just remembering how he told me to “worry less, eat more beans.” From the mouths of quirks. I’m telling you: pure unexpected gold. I have yet to take his advice.


Milwaukee Bus Stop, Circa 1990


Bus Man in Milwaukee, June 1990


In my college photojournalism class, I chose “Bus People” as my thesis, because Bus People! What is more exciting than that? Who are these individuals? Why are they on a bus? The possibilities were endless (ah! college). So for weeks, I’d jump in front of Milwaukee’s city buses and snap photos of the behemoths two seconds away from flattening me AND my standard-issue Nikon. Then, I’d hop on the bus and take pictures of the down and out, the hopeful, the aimless, the defeated, the vibrant. And? They were all quirkers. There’s just something about buses…


Or maybe there’s something about people wherever you find them waiting, watching, being. I’ve often wondered at my fascination with quirkeys. And I know it has to do with my fondness for authenticity. Quirks are themselves — fully and without apology. Plus, it’s unexpected. How many times have you suffered through a phony small-talk conversation. And how long does it take to get real? And don’t you love that moment? Also, the myriad characters I met in the dive bars, at the bus stops, in grocery lines (see below) are flesh and blood flawed and beautiful. All is laid bare and you get to brass tacks right off. I mean, we all are flawed and beautiful, but we don’t show it much, do we? I like it when people show it. Finally, quirks reflect you back to yourself. They know you, oh you bet they do. And it’s nice to be known. (Let me also just say that maybe “quirks” and its ilk is not the right word. But I maintain that mainstream America considers anyone outside the norm (whatever THAT is), a “quirk.”)


Anyway, it’d been a long time for me and my quirkers. I just don’t run into the characters like I used to. But yesterday, my ears perked when at Trader Joe’s, the cashier said without pretense, “Hi. What do you do for a living?” Momentarily taken aback, I scanned my grocery items for what might have prompted the question. Seeing only bread, 18 bags of Pirate’s Booty and a sponge, I couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary. But something about the way he asked. As if he really wanted to know. I looked up at him and a glance passed between us. A-ha! I said to myself. A fellow quirkerson.


So I told him I about my freelance writing and editing, which led to what I wrote and edited, and when I answered, “restaurant promotional copy and IT reports,” his glazed look told me he considered me not quirky enough.


Also,” I said, “I have a mom’s blog.”


His ears perked. “Ah?” he countered. “How many kids?”


Two girls, aged two and four.”


Are they crazy?”


Totally demented,” I say confidently.


Funny.” He pulled out his iPhone. “I work part-time in an urgent care trauma clinic…”


And we’re off!


The next 10 minutes passed in an iPhone photo blur of jagged gashes, amputated fingers and chest x-rays showing the most unorthodox and disturbing swallowed items. I loved every minute of it. We were just about to get into a series of unsettling body art photos, when the line of people behind us threatened to draw us from quarter to quarter.


I left that Trader Joe’s refreshed and rejuvenated. And oh so very slightly, repelled.


I hadn’t felt so quirkified since the day The Rock came home with a note a man passed him at breakfast with a friend. Seemed the man bonded with The Rock’s friend’s dog and as he left the restaurant, he left these words scrawled on a paper napkin:


“It has nothing to do with the bark. We are telepathic.”


What delicious enigma.


Forever in peace may the freak flag wave.


25 Responses to “Quirky McQuickerson”

  1. godDAMNIT, do you have a gift! i have goosebumps, tears in my eyes, and a big ole sense of LOVE for the quirkersons!

    my favorite part of this post? (since you asked…)

    “…And how long does it take to get real? And don’t you love that moment?…”
    despite what others may think, i thoroughly enjoy getting past the small talk and into the real-deal. i do this a lot in the office in work situations. someone will come up and ask an annoying question about some convoluted process that must be followed, and within minutes we’re talking about how much it sucks to be a parent to a 4yr old and a 2yr old, the oil crisis and the fact that we really hate our jobs, and we’re only here to pay the bills.

    while i am perhaps not a full-on quirkerson, i do try and be myself fully and without regret on a daily basis.

    love you something fierce, deb!

  2. myra says:

    i too love quirkersons! although i’m not sure i have the same gift to draw them from a crowd as you. and why are people scared of them? and why do we teach our kids to aspire to be normal instead of interesting? these are all things i want to know.

    i think quirkiness gives you a unique perspective on life. you know how little kids are able to connect with anyone and everyone in a total nonjudgmental way until their parents beat it out of them? my theory is that quirkersons never had it beat out of them. so they are the normal ones, right?

  3. Deborah says:

    absolutely delicious. I savored every word. One of these days we’ll see an anthology of your work in the window (and on the shelves!) of our local bookstores.

    Now, about those dive bars……

  4. FerdC says:

    Yep, I recognized it from the first of your words I ever read. LOVE the crazy!
    “flesh and blood flawed and beautiful” is what I love as well. Shakespeare did, too. He made a career and left a legacy out of the realities of our human natures, flawed and beautiful.
    Thanks, Deb, for this cool post from quirky you!

  5. Steph says:

    More people need to hop on the quirky train. It’s really a nice place to be. :nod:

  6. MommyTime says:

    I know this wasn’t your main point, but I keep coming back to this: “How many times have you suffered through a phony small-talk conversation. And how long does it take to get real? And don’t you love that moment?” Isn’t is just a sign of a great potential friendship when you can get from the small talk to the real stuff in just a few short steps? That feeling around for the mutual topic that will spark, that seeking for common ground…it does require a bit of small talk in the beginning, but you are so right that the moment it shifts gears, the world perks up on its axis.

    Oh, and 4 and 2 IS totally demented, isn’t it? This was their game a few weeks ago: “I’m a pretty princess” [said in a falsetto while holding up a blankie as a skirt] followed by a loud “BOO-YAH!” [said in a very deep voice while bumping bellies]. I love the crazies.

  7. pajama momma says:

    Very cool story. I’m not sure if I’m the nut or the nut attracter, but I’m so like you in that I used to hang out in the dive bars because the people are more interesting to talk to. They’re not pretentious and the stories they tell.

    I’m gonna have to ask my sister what Trader Joe’s she worked at because she worked there for two years and only stopped about 6 months ago. Encinitas maybe?

    I also wrote a bus story in college. My car was stolen and I had to ride the bus to school and man oh man, did I meet interesting people. The best college for meeting homeless people is San Diego City College in downtown cuz actual homeless people attend the classes, talk about interesting.

    I liked your post today a whole lot San Diego Momma!

  8. San Diego Momma says:

    MOFM: When I worked in an office, I did the same. Now that my office is the bathroom and kitchen, it’s even easier to get real. (Thanks for the sweet comments, too)

    Myra: I am totally going with your theory. I love it.

    Deborah: I so want to write a book about dive bars across America. But I need the financing. (Also, it’s kinda been done)

    FerdC: I love my band of crazy-lovers! Thanks for loving me back!

    Steph: When’s the first quirky train trip? Where we gonna go? I’ll be there!

    MommyTime: So true. And our kids would become instant best friends. I can tell.

    PJ Momma: Thanks for the bus tip! Also, the TJ’s I went to was in Liberty Station (Pt. Loma)…it’s fairly new. And finally: loving the fart post today! I’ve already played for an hour!

  9. Quirky I’m okay with. Flat out crazy makes me a little nervous. Trader Joe’s definitely hires for quirky–that and friendly.

    I guess we know why you live in Ocean Beach and I live in Scripps Ranch!

    I was reading a blog with some info about a writer’s website and wanted to make sure you checked it out.


  10. pajama momma says:

    I looove going to the Pizza Nova in Pt.Loma. I used to work at the one in La Mesa.

    Makes me miss Ocean Beach when I think about Pt. Loma. Got my tattoo in OB, which unfortunately they’re now called “tramp stamps” and I may or may not be the reason they aquired this particular nickname.

  11. Da Goddess says:

    Considering that my friends are all kinds of quirky, I totally get it.

    My mom made me this way. Of course, she’s a former powderpuff derby driver, so that explains it a little, doesn’t it?

    Throughout my life, I have known and collected odd characters as friends. And I have friends who collected ME as their oddball.

    Sort of all works out in the end.

  12. San Diego Momma says:

    Jenn: Thanks SO much for passing that link on. I found it really helpful and motivational.

    PJ Momma: Garlic knots at Pizza Nova! LOVE! And I’m an Obecian, so I’m with you on the OB thing. Your tattoo parlor is prob the same place I lingered outside of for hours while trying to get the courage up to enter (I never did.)

    Da G: I want to hear more about your mom!

  13. “Quirkers” I swear, that’s a new word in my vocabulary and so NEEDED. QUirkers. I’m a total quirker, but never realized it til I read your blogpost. Awesome.

  14. Deborah says:

    San Diego Momma: it doesn’t matter if the dive bar book has been done. They say there are no new ideas, just new ways of telling them. Take do a search of Amazon and you’ll see what I mean. And your voice would be a unique – very unique! (ahem) – way of telling it! Go for it! Use your photos, or take more. Yay, it’s a coffee table book of dive bars and the quirkers! Have I officially joined the quirks, or did that boat said a long time ago (with me on it!)?

  15. Deborah says:

    I mean “do”, not “take do”. Will I ever learn to edit myself??

  16. pajama momma says:

    PJ Momma: Garlic knots at Pizza Nova! LOVE! And I’m an Obecian, so I’m with you on the OB thing. Your tattoo parlor is prob the same place I lingered outside of for hours while trying to get the courage up to enter (I never did.)

    Don’t! This is me now. http://gprime.net/video.php/tattooremover

  17. San Diego Momma says:

    PJ; HAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Where in the world would I be without SNL?

  18. mommypie says:

    This is one of my most favorite of your posts. Love it.

    And now, for another EERIE TWIN MOMENT: I was a bartender all through college. I was absolutely fascinated with the customers and their stories. Their quirkiness.

    And here’s the kicker. For a film school project, I wrote a script about bar stools and all the people who’d sat in them over the years.

    Later, when I lived in Denver, I’d hang out at the airport, sitting at gates, just watching people and writing. It really was a fantastic place to stimulate the creative juices.

    Quirky Twin.

  19. Jamie says:

    Love this.

    Especially this, “How many times have you suffered through a phony small-talk conversation. And how long does it take to get real? And don’t you love that moment?”

    And this, “What delicious enigma.”

    And everything else freakishly delicious to share in these thoughts.

    So, Wednesday night, can we sjust skip to the “that moment” part?

  20. […] the background: Way back in June, I wrote about my college photojournalism project, where I composed a pictorial on “bus people,” those enigmatic, haunted, sometimes […]

  21. Quirker is how my new pet name for you. Quirker don’t do small talk with Picket, am I right?

  22. magpie says:

    love the quirk. and trader joe’s. and, why didn’t i get to meet you?

  23. Miss Britt says:

    “And I know it has to do with my fondness for authenticity. Quirks are themselves — fully and without apology.”

    Yes. That’s why I always end up talking to the quirks at the party.

  24. Kel says:

    “quirksters” I just love it! I find it completely amazing to meet people out of the ordinary…totally opens my eyes to the world around me and brings new shades of color to my life (and well, probably moreso because I’m a bit quirky myself) *wink*

Leave a Reply