Freakshow at Venice Beach Spurs Thoughts of Gratitude

Written By: Gary Fales  |  November 25, 2014

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Last Monday, I took the kids to Venice Beach.  I was always told that Venice Beach wasn’t a good place for kids, but we had a blast so now I’m wondering why all the fuss.

Yes, there were a variety of people but they were harmless.  The shops on the footpath were full of interesting items.  We got some friendship bracelets for a few bucks and 5 rings for $9.99.  We picked up a Venice Beach miniature surf board for $20 and found some handmade clothes from Nepal that look great on the girls.

We walked on the beach and the kids got wet.  There were lots of skateboarders and beach bikes passing us on the boardwalk next to the footpath.  There was all kinds of good food and we picked up a 1/2 pound of candy at a large candy store.  It was clean and the weather was perfect.  We just strolled along enjoying the culture.  There were other children there and lots of interesting condos right on the boardwalk.

Of course we had to stop by the Venice Beach Freakshow as seen on AMC.  It was closed.  I’ve enjoyed watching that show because I, myself, feel some kinship to the “freaks” on the show.  The point of the show is that it’s OK to be a freak.  The family who owns the company is actually quite “normal” but they have this interest in collecting strange and mysterious objects such as a two-headed snake and two-headed lizards.  They have built a family of friends with the people who are part of the exhibits–the “freaks.”

A freak is not a bad thing to them; in fact, it’s something to be proud of because it’s who God made them to be.  And who can argue with what God wants?  The freaks in the show either have strange and unique things about them they were born with, such as the bearded lady or the tallest man in the US, or they can do unusual freakish things like swallow swords or breath fire.

Walking to the Freakshow reminded me that, deep inside, I have always felt like a high-functioning freak.  I keep it together–but underneath it all I feel a little out of place in a world of normal people.  I think it’s because I was born with a cleft lip and crooked nose so I grew up with people staring at me and kids teasing me.  Because adults and my family treated me like anyone else, I never felt different until I started school (it’s tough to learn from the mean kids that you’re a freak).

As my appearance has become more normal through years of plastic surgery, some folks are surprised to hear that there is any defect at all.  That’s fine by me, but inside I learned to see the world in a way that most folks don’t get to see.  And for that, I am grateful.  This perspective has given me the ability to view events, relationships and circumstances from an angle that other people don’t often see or consider.  I’ve learned that my quirky ways are actually characteristics that my wife and kids enjoy.  I’ve learned to adapt to a normal way of life while still keeping the bright-eyed wonder of the small freak-boy.  It is a source of pride for me to have that boy living in me.

I’ve also learned that most people, if they are honest, admit they feel a part of them is freaky.  It’s what makes our world so interesting.  Aren’t we all freaks in our own way?

I’m afraid I’ve been guilty of judging others if what they are violates my sense of what a woman “should” be or what a good father “should” look like.  I think it’s because I tried so hard to be normal and accepted by the “cool” kids that I turned on those that were OK with just being their freakish selves.  It was a way of turning on myself because for years I could not accept who I was.  This, then, led me to embrace rules that punished those that didn’t believe or act the way I thought a person should act.

In the end, though, we should be proud of who we are because that is how God made us to be.  As I’ve accepted freaky Gary, I have better accepted all of God’s children.  We’re all freaks to God and that is the way he intended it to be.  And this Thanksgiving, I can be grateful for that.