The odd, the disturbed, the displaced. They flit and flutter and plod outside society, interacting vaguely with the rest of us; seeing the unseen, hearing voices and trying to make sense of the unknowable. They are caught up in their own worlds. They are everywhere. And, just like us, they have their stories.

There’s Skinny Santa, the old guy with the very long wavy grey hair and beard who walks around the outside of a small tract close to where I live at least twice a day in any weather, gracefully swinging a long, twisted wood walking staff in front of him, up up up, then barely bouncing it off the sidewalk before it travels skyward again. He is clean and tends to wear crisp clean blue jeans and a blue denim shirt buttoned over a non-descript tee shirt and pretty much watches the sidewalk in front of him intently, as if half-expecting it to open up… but he’ll be ready when it does, by gum! If you drive too slowly past him, he will sometimes lift his head sideways to glare at you through thick black horn-rimmed glasses and telepathically remind you to mind your own damn business. I have seen him briefly talking with some people in the neighborhood, but usually he travels his allotted course, rhythmically swinging his walking stick, alone and undisturbed, thank you very much.

Then there’s Exercise Girl, a terribly thin woman of indeterminate age and sanity level who occasionally comes out to work out in public places. She selects a busy corner or bus stop and will jog in place, waving her arms about, sometimes stooping to do deep knee bends or stretches. Her apparel changes from season to season. In the winter, she tends to bundle up in several multi-colored/patterned layers and will have huge bright colored ear muffs vying for head space with oddly placed multiple ponytails. Sometimes she chooses to wear an outrageously multicolored knit cap perched completely upright on her head, like she stuffed the it so it wouldn’t flop over, its pompom splayed out like a yarn burst of fireworks above her head. In the summer, she tends to tight capri-style leggings and a dingy white short tank, exposing ribs and an almost frighteningly skinny frame. On these days, she wears her personality almost completely on her head, with antennae headbands (sometimes more than one at a time) of all kinds bouncing to her every movement. Pumpkins, fuzz balls, shamrocks, feathers, mirrored balls… all sorts of festive material catches the sunlight. Brightly colored wrists bands festoon her wrists and punctuate her flailing arms. Occasionally she will talk to herself – pep talks, I imagine – and will bounce and giggle and shout and generally enjoy the day.

Crosswalk man is a little unnerving. The first time I saw this very ordinary looking fellow in a dark multi-pocketed jacket and heavy dark pants and boots, he was crossing a very busy street and suddenly stopped to gesture wildly and yell obscenities. I thought there was a problem and looked around for whoever was causing this alarming reaction. Now, after seeing him many times I know that he just stops in the middle of the crosswalk and yells and waves his arms at no one in particular and eventually makes it to the other side. I guess he is mad at the world and stop lights give him a somewhat captive audience.

Slurpee boy is a rather large young man who walks with a bit of an uneven gait, listing to one side and shuffling his feet a little. I have never seen him without a super-enormous-how-can-anyone-drink-all-of-that sized Slurpee. Slurpee boy tends to have very loud and passionate conversations with himself as he walks along. He is conservatively dressed and fairly well groomed and on more than one occasion I have seen him fling his arms out wide to make a point to his invisible walking partner and slop red Slurpee slush, lid and red striped straw included, into the desert. This does not slow him down one instant, and he continues talking and yelling and flinging his arms about, all the while hanging on to the now empty enormous plastic cup.

Evangelical Man has a boom box and megaphone strapped around his neck. He paces at certain semi-busy corners and shouts messages to all the passing cars. The sound system garbles his voice, so I have no idea what he is saying, but he seems to really believe in it, sometimes raising his free arm to the Heavens in apparent supplication, or shaking it at the traffic in evangelical fervor. Sometimes he simply broadcasts music and just walks up and down a predetermined path, head down and barely acknowledging traffic. I wonder if he sometimes has a hard time facing the world on those days and yet still bravely tends to his post, hiding behind the music and his lowered head.

There are all kinds of fringe people out there. They occupy the same space as we do, but are not always on the same plane of reality. I sometimes wonder what happened, if there was an event or accident that triggered the slightly odd behavior, or if illness or age crept up on them. They live their lives no less completely than we do, surviving day to day and wearing their routines like a mask…

…just like we do.

Just Musing,