Legacy

I think every family has that “weird” uncle, right? I am quite certain, that in my family of origin, I am that weird uncle to certain nieces and nephews. In fact, I know I am.

However, if you believe this moniker of “weird” is somehow unflattering or disrespectful, you have no idea about my thoughts on “weird.” If interested, you could read about those thoughts here.

In short, I really like people who are different. How boring this planet would be if we did not have eccentric, strange people inhabiting it.

Enter my Uncle Les. My 87 year-old uncle recently passed away from lung cancer. As the one who presided over the funeral while delivering the eulogy, I had a chance to sit back and really reflect on my strange uncle. Though was he really that strange? You be the judge.

Uncle Les never married. He rarely dated, at least to my knowledge, and I was around for 56 of his 87 years. He never had children, or if he did he performed a stealth-like job keeping it a secret. He lived alone with his two pooches in a modest house in the hills of Burbank.

While recently cleaning out some of his belongings in his home, a neighbor came over and informed us he was very territorial and, allegedly, threatened gun play when someone dared park in front of his house or trespass on his property. I do not think he was a violent guy, you know, he just, like, didn’t appreciate unwanted trespassers I guess.

I have plenty of Uncle Les stories, like the time when I was a kid and my family was driving home one night and we watched as police officers were giving a man a field sobriety test…lo and behold it was my uncle.

But that was a long time ago. Uncle Les stopped boozing sometime in the mid 80’s.

Yet perhaps the strangest thing about him was his relationship with money. In our Hungarian family he was known as an “ocho sheggi,” (please do not hold me accountable for the spelling of this phrase) which is Hungarian for “cheap ass.”

To illustrate, often times for Thanksgiving he would eat at the local Salvation Army to save a few bucks. He was generous enough to will me his car upon his passing, and though Uncle Les had plenty of money in the bank, several properties, and a home worth damn near a million bucks, he left me a 2011 Toyota Yaris with crank windows.

I had no idea they still manufactured cars with crank windows in 2011.

You could say he was a “no frills” kind of guy. He actually enjoyed being extremely cheap, saving every penny he could whenever he could. He would brag about how little he paid for things…if he even paid for it at all and was not picking it out of a local dumpster.

But dammit, I loved the guy…a lot. I really did, particularly as he aged. His relationship with money was endearing in a strange kind of way. We would often take him out to lunch or dinner and I would pick up the tab. As I swooped up the $32.49 check to pay, he had a look in his eye like I just bought him a new Tessla Roadster or 14 carat diamond watch.

And, to be fair, he would treat on occasion as well…even if it was the greasy spoon called Harry’s Family Restaurant in beautiful downtown Burbank, where the omelettes are 4.99 though the cockroaches come for free.

But this is not why I write today. I write because Uncle Les is remnant of a bygone era whose values are sadly dying with it. Born circa 1930, a depression era baby, Uncle Les and his ilk did not run out and by new socks when one wore a hole through one – you stitched it back up and off you went.

You valued hefty savings accounts not expensive cars; a “rainy day” fund over fancy clothes. Uncle Les had enough money to do whatever he wanted to do: buy a bigger house, a nicer car, a vacation property or two, but, no. He had developed a lifestyle that he was content with and lived life on his own “ocho sheggi” terms.

So now I, along with my siblings and cousins, am left with what Uncle Les refused to spend and I feel really weird about it. Really weird.

Perhaps my biggest take away is the old adage, that money cannot buy you happiness. Or that a man worked his entire life and saved damn near every penny for the sole purpose of leaving it for the next generation – a next generation that did not include any children of his own.

Uncle Les lived in an age where character mattered and the legacy a person leaves actually meant something.

As we buried Uncle Les we did not bury his legacy nor our gratitude for his profound generosity. As we lowered him down his legacy rose like a phoenix out of the ashes along with our love and appreciation.

I now realize Uncle Les is in many ways a role model for all of us and I am now challenged like never before to consider what legacy I can leave the next generation when my number comes up.

I guess sometimes (Uncle) Les(s) is more…than you could have ever imagined. Thank you. Your legacy lives on.

People Are Strange, When You’re A Stranger: Why I Love Weird People

“When pregnant people swim, they are a human submarine.”

I love different, strange and weird people. Why? Perhaps I am projecting a bit of myself onto others as I do consider myself a somewhat odd and eccentric type of person. Yet, the thing that I like most about strange and weird people is they are not caught up in the cultural mill of sameness and conformity. In an age where technology can do a lot of our thinking for us -many of us have google mental processors and Reddit, Yahoo, or Huffington Post perceptual filters- it is refreshing to hear of a person who processes, thinks and looks at life differently then the rest of us internet lemmings. In fact, I never really thought about the idea that:

“Beef jerky is like a meat raisin.”

Thus, whenever I may refer to one as weird or strange, make no mistake about it -that is a positive euphemistic gesture on my behalf…I cherish those who think differently. I am not suggesting I have a thing for, say, crazy homeless derelicts, rather for functioning and sane individuals who are not like me, or the rest of humanity for that matter.  They just process thoughts differently. They march to the beat of their own weird-ass metronome. You might say they pedal to the speed of a different bike. Speaking of which:

Bikes are acoustic motorcycles.

Perhaps the quality I appreciate most in strange people is that embracing quality of self-acceptance. Some are different and strange while being uncomfortable in that different and strange skin. The strange people I prefer are those who are strange and they not only know it, they accept it as part of their very being. They do not run and hide; they take that weirdness and call it their own. They can even be eating a simple bowl of rice and see the world differently:

Rice is great when you’re hungry and you want to eat 2000 of something.”

So I introduce you to my weird friend and strange former student, Jill-Lima Bean-Vikki, who from now on I will lovingly refer to as JLBV. JLBV is unlike any student in my professorial tenure. She is one of the sanest and smartest, yet different, students I have ever had. I have had plenty of dangerous “crazies,” of which JLBV is not a member. Insane former students of mine have taken a knife to the artwork at a college art show (as one painting dared to reveal a naked breast), while another threatened to shoot up the school campus and was later arrested for having an apartment full of ammunition. Yes, this armed student was in my class and he did not appreciate the grade I gave him on all his overtly, fundamentalist religious speeches. The point is this: I know weird and I know crazy. JLBV, somewhat like myself, is just weird. A good weird. A very, very good weird. She has paid the devil his due…or has she?

If you don’t pay your exorcist then you get repossessed.”

Jill-Lima Bean-Vikki has 3 names because in the first class she took with me everyone in class agreed she looked like a Jill…so she gladly went with it. In a second class she took with me I had students give me the name they preferred to be called…she chose Lima Bean. Finally, I guess Vikki is her parental given moniker, her Christian name you might say. All this being said, if you were to try to find her on facebook, it would be under the name Thrill-Seeker. Ah the many faces of JLBV! Regardless of what you call her, she cannot even go grocery shopping without thinking of something weird…really weird:

When you go food shopping you are just buying supplies for this week’s poops.”

I guess I never really thought of it that way before.

If you have not guessed it so far, these italicized quotes are “JLBV-isms” coming straight from the mind of her strange self.  Not surprisingly, JLBV works in the circus among other freaks just like her. She is a delightful, chill to-the-max, mellow young lady who is pleasant as all hell to be around.  You cannot NOT like her, as there is nothing about her to dislike…unless, of course, you dislike weird…and those who can play fun games with words:

French pancakes give me the crepes.

I have always found this “A” student to be a different type of delight. Then, in an Interpersonal Communication course one day last year, she revealed to the entire class, in one of the most interesting and informative speeches I have ever heard, that she is asexual… meaning that she has no sexual desires for either males nor females. In other words, if she were at a restaurant serving sexuality, when it came her turn to order she would tell the server, “I’m good.” She also knows how to ask the right questions:

Do you think babies get cold? Or are they womb temperature?

There are a lot of misunderstandings and myths surrounding the orientation of asexuality that this article and accompanying comic clear up.  Yet JLBV is the first one who will clear things up for you as she is open and honest about her orientation. Personally, I believe asexuality to be a really sweet orientation in terms of simplifying one’s life—as sexual attraction can be the knife-in-the-heart, really fuck-your-life-up activity that carries great reward at often times a very steep price. Frankly, her asexuality is neither here nor there in terms of what makes her unique and special, it is just another cog in her wheel of being different as she constantly questions what is and what is not socially acceptable:

Apple sauce is just baby food that is socially acceptable for everyone to eat.

So, with my tribute to the one and only JLBV, it may seem she is in some sort of trouble or has a life ending illness or some shit. Nope—at least none that I am aware of. She is good. Healthy, happy, hardy and hip…she is doing just fine.  Much better than some chemicals, because:

“When chemicals die, they barium.”

So why do I write of her? I think we all can learn things from interesting people. From JLBV, we can learn the importance of being our unique self, embracing our unique self and offering our unique self as a gift to the world. To 858690_10202219558478576_3050842345386289969_oaccept self is the greatest gift we can give to our self…this is not to suggest we do not all have some sort of character deficiencies we need to work on and fine tune, though the very essence of self needs to be embraced, loved and nurtured. JLBV is a great example of this.

OUR CULTURE NEEDS WEIRD!! We are turning into Social Media robots…save us JLBV!! Perhaps my final JLBV-ism sums up good advice for the rest of us:

I’ve been putting a lot of thought into it… I just don’t think being an adult is gonna work for me.”

Sage advice my friend. And my advice to you? Stay weird…we love it and need it.

We need new and original thought forms. So perhaps it is ironic that I summarize this blog with a particularly poignant quote from another brilliant mind:

“To thy own self be true.”