“Variety isn’t the spice of life. Eccentricity is.” Me circa 2001
To say Fallbrook has a certain flavor, is to suggest it does to the mind what good chili does to the taste buds; it awakens with spices. The overriding spice of Fallbrook is eccentricity. Peculiarity among our local characters helps Fallbrook cultivate its identity – it’s unique flavor.
I often feel like I live in a David Lynch movie, and that beneath the surface of my otherwise ordinary life are 7 or 8 underlying storylines that I know nothing about, yet effect everything I do. I have been here 16 years and I’m still the new guy, waiting for somebody – anybody to teach me the secret handshake and let me know where the human sacrifice/drum circle is each week.
Some characters here are entrenched – significant threads in the fiber of this community. Despite their respective oddities, they are often important if not essential components of Fallbrook’s structure. There’s the evangelical cowboy poet, complete with fancy boots and a 10-gallon hat. There’s the crossdressing feed store merchant. The man who owns 4 restaurants who can always be seen wearing, and probably sleeps with his Fedora on. There’s the preacher in flip flops with the 12” goatee, who can always be seen in a red flannel shirt, and who hosts Drinkin’ With Jesus at the local brewery. There’s Priscilla, a woman in her 70s who ten years ago she gave away her car and now walks everywhere – all day long. She claims to walk up to 5 miles per day just doing errands. And there’s Brett, a local artist of native American ancestry who grew up here. Everyone knows and loves Brett.
I could go on and on about our characters, and didn’t begin to scratch the surface. There are hundreds more standouts – thousands maybe. Fallbrook probably has more long gray pony tails per capita than any town in America. We have men who drive vintage hot rods as their primary vehicle, and peculiar lady socialites who are the driving force behind our community volunteerism. What enhances our many characters though, is that they tend to be good people, good at what they do, and are giving to the community.
There are also what I think of as the surface spices; the non-contributing characters, but who also add flavor to Main Avenue. These folks fascinate me even more than the entrenched characters. I suppose that fascination is rooted in the fact that they probably have less say in their eccentricity, and that mental illness, substance abuse, or checkered pasts might be the driving force behind their oddness.
There’s David, an unkempt homeless man who spends most of his day sitting on a bus bench in front of a local medical office. David claims to be a Vietnam vet, and I don’t doubt that. I bring him a burrito from Taco Bell every so often. Our conversations tend to be short since he never remembers who I am or that the jeans he wears were given to him by me roughly 4 years ago.
There’s the man I refer to as the Mexican Preacher. He too is homeless, but fairly well groomed. He often walks up and down Main Ave. with a gallon of water in his hand, constantly wiping his face as though it’s covered with bugs. He seems oblivious whenever I attempt to say hello, as though he lives in a slightly different state of time than the rest of us. I have seen him in the alley beside my studio reading the bible aloud at 4:00 in the morning and at 3:00 in the afternoon.
There’s the African American girl, perhaps 14 or so, who also can be seen walking around for hours at a time, and at any time of day. Not sure that school is even a part of her life or that she has much of a home. She covers her face and runs whenever she sees my dog.There is the Asian woman who always walks up and down Main in a mini-dress with an umbrella overhead, a large duffle bag over one shoulder and a cumbersome purse over the other shoulder. Apparently she can be seen hustling coffee at the Jack in The Box.
Like the entrenched characters, I could go on and on. There are many more. Some of these surface characters don’t stick around too long, while others have been here longer than I have. Where they come from and where they go is as big a mystery to me as what came before the big bang. Who ae these people…? How did they land in Fallbrook…? What’s next for them…? I sit in wide wonder as I ponder their stories and circumstances. There, but for the Grace…
Then a friend pointed out to me the other day, as we sat in front of the coffee shop discussing some of these personalities, that I too am somewhat of a character.
“It’s not just that you talk to your dog, Roy – or that you try to teach him Spanish, and discuss events in the Middle East with him” she noted,
“It’s that you ask him questions and wait for an answer…”
So I guess all that remains is to determine whether I am a visceral spice or a surface spice in the chili of Fallbrook. Time will tell. Be well… rc