The home of the strange

I know that being an adult and missing home is unspeakably lame. Which is why I’m writing about it. If we’re being honest, and I hope that by now we are, lately I’ve been as homesick as a tween at straight camp. It’s a strange experience, feeling transplanted. The midwest is terribly different from east coast and though I love my strange new town, at times I feel as though I’m a mermaid on land.

Strange town.

Just last week a strange woman on the train put her arm around me as she berated the Amish for not getting with the times (her pronunciation “Eh-mish,” weird, I know). I was mostly disturbed by her assumption that I agreed. I also learned last week that it’s unacceptable to call Converse high tops tennis shoes. Correct: sneakers, or if you’re feeling jaunty, kicks.

This week I read the first issue of Strangetown from Oni Press written by Chynna Clugston and Ian Shaughnessy, illustrated by Clugston. The comic was lettered by Bryan Lee O’Malley (Scott Pilgrim!) and his partner Hope Larson. This black and white comic is set in the fictional banana slug capital of the world Grangeton Strangetown, Oregon. Tense panels open on a young Vanora, our heroine of unknown origins, being ejected from the sea after a shipwreck. She is then taken in by a stranger for a decade before heading across the Pacific on her own. Seemingly orphaned Vanora makes her now solitary way to Strangetown.

Her apartment hunting leads her to a boarding house above Cutty Sark, a tea house with fine teas and finer spirits. Above the bar lives Parker Radlett, Roscoe, her bulldog, and a cast of characters that puts my own to shame. Due to a previous tenant’s sudden demise, a covet-worthy room with death stain and a view is there to welcome to Vanora for $75 a month. I know, I can’t wrap my mind around it either. Where do I sign up?

Her new roommates in this strange place include Freddy Astaire (a porn star name for the accident prone), the resident spaz, age 19; Barbara “Babs” Barbarosa, one of Strangetown’s most accomplished drinkers; and Vernon Leach, a reclusive scribbler of depressing romance novels (an up-and-coming market).

The 32-page comic is punctuated with three song titles, which only heighten the tale’s strange cred. Our first, which appears as the young Varona is shipwrecked and not yet rescued, is The Cure’s “Caterpillar.” It’s high time we bring back the Edward Scissorhands hair, you guys. I believe the gays will be willing to lead this revolution. I’ll look into it.

The second embedded tune is The Call’s “The Walls Came Down,” which makes its appearance shortly after Vanora accepts the room. The final song to the Strangetown soundtrack is Wire’s “Used To.” This song fades us out of issue one as the tea house fills with dock workers in need of something a little stronger than Earl Grey. Vanora, recognizing a tired face or two in the crowd, reacts appropriately by flipping her table and cowering in a corner. Annnnnnd, fade to black.

This issue of Strangetown was a gift from a friend of mine who spent a month in stumptown last summer. I have since been unable to locate issue two, though I am dying to track it down just so I can love it. Leads on obtaining a copy will be graciously accepted.

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