Treasure the Eclectic – I do (let’s revisit an old post)

The world would be much less interesting without our eclectic friends. Conformity is overrated and when done in excess makes us too vanilla in our thinking. We need a little Cherry Garcia ice cream to keep things entertaining and innovative. It is not unusual that some of our most brilliant minds and artists have been willing to leave the white lines of life’s highway. As a result, we have benefitted from their eclectic thinking.

In fact, a Higher Education expert says innovation often occurs in the various intersections of different disciplines. These intersections are enablers of creative ideas and discussions. This is one reason, before he died, Steve Jobs designed the new Apple headquarters with small rooms that would allow these accidental intersections to occur as people ventured from the restroom, breakrooms, workout rooms, etc.and bumped into each other. “Whatcha working on?” would lead to a brainstorming session.

This is one reason Malcolm Gladwell’s books (“The Tipping Point,” “Outliers,” “Blink”) stayed on the best seller list so long. Gladwell said he has always looked differently from others and his parents moved some, so he felt like he was always an outsider. So, his writings seem to have an outside looking in perspective on things. In other words, he had not grown up in area, so he did not conform to the local way of doing things. He could question why do you do the things that you do. Gladwell had an eclectic bent.

Yet, I did not want this post to turn too serious, as I preferred to highlight a few eclectic stories, some real, some fiction that I treasure. They exemplify who we are as a world of imperfect humans.

– Several years ago, the Chicago River was leaking into a tunnel as a hole was accidentally punched into the bottom of the river. The story I was told was after much consternation and failure to stop the leak, a boy suggested that old mattresses be used. Guess what, they plugged the hole with a combination of cement and old mattresses.

– My father grew up in a rural town in south Georgia. He was given the chore to look after the hogs which included the naming rights. So, my dad named all the hogs after movie stars. Sophie Tucker, Mae West, etc. Of course, this became a problem later on, as he became too attached to the hogs and farm life is very basic in mission.

– Speaking of naming rights, my family has a habit of driving named cars, some we named, others which were given to us. My wife likes red cars, so she has driven Miss Ruby, Ruby Red Dress and Miss Scarlett. My cars have less fun names in the Purple Dragon (it was burgundy) and the Grey Goose. My daughter had a red car at first, which she called Percy, the name of the Scarlett Pimpernel lead character. Now, her gray car is called Dorian Gray.(note, the car does age, though). One of my best friends used to drive us around in high school in “Old Betsy” a beat up Chevrolet he inherited from his dad.

– One of my favorite Pat Conroy characters is in his novel “The Prince of Tides.” Unfortunately, the movie did not include this character, so you need to read the book to find his story. The grandfather of the main character was very religious and would demonstrate his faith every Easter by dressing up as Jesus and lugging a homemade cross around town. When he got older and the cross became too heavy, his family put the cross on roller skates, so he could complete his annual mission.

– Speaking of fictional characters, one of the most inventive series of characters were on the second Bob Newhart show. And, they never spoke. Into the Inn three brothers would walk and only one would speak. “Hi, I am Larry. This is my brother Darryl and this is my other brother Darryl.” Priceless. Of course, in real life, the boxer George Foreman named all his male children George. I guess he was covering his bets that his name would live

– Speaking of Easter, I would try to attend midnight mass each year with my best friend who is Catholic unlike me. Each midnight mass, the priest would wish to his congregation “Happy Easter” as well, as he knew he would only see a great percentage of them again in 365 days. This Father is still with us as he presided over the funeral of another friend’s mom a couple of months ago.

– The other midnight mass ritual we would do, is afterwards, several of us high school or home from college friends would go caroling into the wee hours. Our other friends would be greeted by a knock on the door at 2 am. They would open the door to see these big guys singing horribly various Christmas carols.

– I have written before about my wife’s Aunt Mary. She died at the age of 99, living all but five weeks in her own home. Aunt Mary never replaced her false teeth once they were burned up in a fire, so the last twenty years of her life, she gummed her food after tearing it up with her hands. She did not want to bother with new ones. She also was candid with her economy of words, while her younger sister, my wife’s mother, was effusive and did not let the facts get in the way of a good story. After my mother-in-law went on about how good-looking a young man was, Aunt Mary said “all I can say is he was a poor pasture to lead your cows into.”

My wife and I treasured Aunt Mary. I treasure the eclectic. In the southern United States, we often use the word eccentric to mean someone a little different from others. A little “southern eccentricity” can be a good thing. I told my wife, I want to be that eccentric old man, as it would be too boring to be a conformist. At a bare minimum, I want to remain ecelectic. Please feel free to share your eclectic stories. I would love to read them.


14 thoughts on “Treasure the Eclectic – I do (let’s revisit an old post)

    • Thanks Joy. My wife’s family has a similar story. No one would eat the bacon and ham after the named hog was slaughtered. My father-in-law said he had to eat the whole hog himself.

      As for Aunt Mary, she used to wear a blue bonnet while she tilled her fields with her mule. When they got her a tractor, she would not take it out of first gear. One day, my father-in-law heard this noise – bam, silence, bam, silence, bam… He went outside and saw Aunt Mary on the tractor slamming into the barn because she could not stop it. It would repel from barn, then slam into it again. As he got closer, he heard the following which made him pee in his pants from laughter – “bam, whoa dammit, bam., haw dammit, bam, whoa” as if she is talking to a mule. He was able to turn the tractor off for her.


      • Was your FIL sick of hog meat by the time he finished eating the whole hog! šŸ˜„

        Hahaha!!šŸ˜‚ I can just imagine that scene with your Aunt Mary.

      • Joy, he was indeed. Everyone loved Aunt Mary. In a sea of effusive siblings, she would laugh quietly, but with her whole body laughing as her shoulders went up and down. Keith

      • PS – after the fire burned down their house, my wife as a child would sleep in Aunt Mary’s bed. She would invade Aunt Mary’s space to the extent Aunt Mary would fall out of the bed, get up and climb in my wife’s side where there was now more space. Keith

    • VJ, indeed. One of my favorite lines from the Rush song “Subdivisions” which is a rap on conformity is the line about the conformists – “conform or be cast out.” Keith

  1. Note to Readers: Sometimes you need the eclectic to entertain. My kids loved listening to the prolific, but usually funny, singer/ songwriter Roger Miller. While he did have normative hit songs like “King of the Road,” he had a number of fun songs that our kids loved. “You can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd” is a good example.

  2. I have no doubt you will be electic Keith as you already are.
    Naming hogs and cars, with the the same yearly mass visit and cast of characters to sing at xmas def qualifies you.
    Wow, Aunt Mary lived quite a life and I applaud her!!!

    • Thanks Cindy. I get tickled when my kids’ new friends get surprised that this old looking guy agrees with many of the things they do or does not fit their mold of an old fart. One of my daughter’s friends was so stunned with my passion to fight climate change she shouted “Dude!” across the restaurant table when we first met. On the flip side, I also get told things by more conservative thinkers they probably should not tell me, as it gives me a chance to offer some tactful pushback. Keith

      • Dude… you are the man and if you have your kids saying that you are def doing a lot right!!!! That’s awesome! What do those staunch conservatives know anyway. Happy Sunday!šŸ’–šŸ’–šŸ’–šŸ’–

      • Cindy, thanks. I guess they know what is told to them which, we have sadly learned, is not often truthful. Keith

  3. What a fun, eclectic post! To pick just one … I am thrilled that you and your wife name you cars! I thought I was the only person in the world who did that! I’ve had Sadie Mae, Sofia, Socrates, and my current ride is named Greta (after Ms. Thunberg). I also named my vacuum cleaner Big Bad Bertha, for when Bertha comes out, the kitties go scrambling for a safe haven!

    • Too fun. I like your old names, plus your newest one. Of course, the vacuum cleaner name takes the cake. I can hear you pronounce “OK, kitties, I am getting out Big Bad Bertha!” Keith

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