Over the years, I have seen countless strange things in public. I did, after all, work as a librarian for twenty years earlier in my life. And I am related to the people who make up my family. And I grew up in Tazewell County, Virginia. And I have been blessed to travel globally. So, yes, by now, edging up to my fifty-second birthday, I have seen and witnessed firsthand more bizarre images and instances than I can honestly recount. So, I will go with one that Sharon Shadrick and I observed on our way from Tennessee up to Logan County, West Virginia, several weeks ago on our way up to the Weekend Writing Retreat at Chief Logan State Park. 

We had been driving about an hour or so when we stopped in Wytheville, Virginia, for lunch at my favorite Chinese place, Peking Restaurant. After that, we got on I-77 from I-81, and started up the mountainous road towards Beckley, WV, to meet up with Sharon Waters. There are two tunnels along this route. While I would love to tell you that this weird sighting was in conjunction with the second tunnel, which starts just before the West Virginia State Line, it was, in truth, at the first tunnel, just a few minutes out of Wytheville, Virginia. As we were making our way up the mountain, I looked from the driver’s side of Bruce, my Hyundai Santa Fe SUV, and asked Sharon after staring for a moment, “Is that a kayak strapped to the top of that stretch limo?” To be perfectly honest, friends, I’ve never witnessed anything strapped to the top of a stretch limo, but certainly never a piece of sports recreational equipment. The limo was so long, the kayak looked like it was designed for a small child, not even taking up half of the length of the roof. We wished we had been able to snap a photo so we could have submitted it to Connie for a future Writing Group Prompt, but we were so dumbfounded by the sheer magnitude of weirdness, that we just kept staring until we had passed it and gone into the tunnel, leaving it in our wake. 

Another weird thing worth mentioning was the day I got home from the Mercer Mall during the Summer between high school and college and parked my car in its spot on our God-Forsaken Hill. I started up the little path to our front porch, proudly carrying my new purchase of a pair of church shoes, when I heard the odd sound of gravel crunching beneath car wheels. I spun around in time to see – in slow motion, of course – my little Ford Escort hatchback careening down the hill and hit smack dab right into the front fender of my Mom’s 1975 powder blue Ford Maverick. Try going in and explaining that to your parents at the age of 18. The next day, my stepfather and I hammered out the dent in the front fender, though, and the Maverick was good as new. My little Escort had a gnarly front bumper the remaining years I had it, dents and cracks all across the busted-up front bumper.

A third weird thing that I witnessed that I’ll throw in, happened when I was living in Roanoke, Virginia, in the mid-to-late-90’s. On weekends, we used to go Downtown every Friday and Saturday night to Mill Mountain Coffee, in the Town on the Square. Parking was always a pain, and often we had to park several blocks to walk to Mill Mountain Coffee. (This was at the height of coffee houses in America, small venues with great coffee drinks, flavored steamed milks, and fancy-dancy teas, all with someone playing semi-interesting tunes on acoustic guitar for the late-night crowds, the smell of freshly roasted coffee beans permeating the entire space.) This also happened to be during a phase of vampiric fascination by adults in the Roanoke Valley, mostly aged twenty up into their early thirties. They dressed in luminescent clothing, to make themselves seem even more eerie than their ultra-pale skin gave way to when you met them on the street. They often sidled up beside you and whispered greetings, invitations to join them in their nighttime frolics, etc. And many of them actually had their teeth sharpened to crazy points like the mythological vampires so prominent in pop culture. Most wore black dusters and spiked hair, a la the vampires in The Lost Boys. There were news articles in the papers every week, about how some of them even went so far as to share in blood-sharing activities. While I’ve always been fascinated with vampires, I must admit, the people who thought themselves to be vampiric always gave me the creeps. Still, the writer in me was curious, although I never meandered alone with them – mostly because I hung around with very common-sense-grounded non-writers who just thought the whole thing was disturbing. Downtown Roanoke on the weekends, though, was always great for people-watching. Lots of great weirdness abounded on those otherwise friendly streets. Yes, indeed, “People ARE Strange.”