Corinne suggested I listen to this podcast, which apparently has developed a strong fan base among the rest of the Internet. It's presented as a community radio update for a town straight out of HP Lovecraft, and it is SO GOOD. That having been said, I cannot guarantee that you will like it. It's not for everyone.
I think a lot of my affection for it comes from the fact that, as previously documented, I've lived in a LOT of weird places, none of which seem to know that they're weird. I've been working on the Great Bradenton Essay, in a variety of iterations, for what feels like forever, and I still haven't gotten a handle on it, because here are just a few of the things that make that town unique:
- smells like burning oranges
- sometimes you can't swim in the water because of the red tide
- one time I dug up this weird clay-like substance at the beach and no one knew what it was, but everyone's operating theory (I'm not kidding) was "industrial waste"
- pet manatee
- home of the most evil conquistador
- mall named after most evil conquistador
- formerly host of a festival in honor of the most evil conquistador, a festival that has since been revised to include native groups (this came about because of a protest involving said native groups dumping fish guts on the road during the festival parade one year)
- strong sea turtle component in curriculum
- actual school field trip to the dump
- has a beach called Beercan
- sinkholes appear randomly in the road, your yard, my middle school
- alligators in drainage ditches are a real problem and periodically eat puppies
- young people die all the time (I am not trying to be flip about this. I am, however, trying to write about it, and I haven't yet succeeded. Seven people died from the class I would have graduated from, had I not moved away, and this was not that abnormal.)
- home of at least one Internet millionaire and one semi-famous pop-punk musician; said musician was notable in my life for a) being able to play "Great Balls of Fire" in third grade, b) making my mother's life as a volunteer miserable, c) telling us during an "All About Me" presentation that his sister's name backwards spelled "A Rat," and d) making me be "Stepmommy" in an elaborate, grade-wide and weeks-long game of House. His band, for the record, is named after my middle school, the one with the sinkhole issue.
And now my parents live in a small town in Appalachia with a radio station that is unironically named WETS, and they live in a house next to the most polluted lake in the entire state and have a regular source for buying moonshine. In case you hadn't guessed, it's a weird place too. And I live in the District of Columbia, a city that keeps electing Marion Berry, so.
Again, none of these places plays up the weirdness. In fact, I would venture to say that they don't actually know that a lot of things that happen there aren't...normal; I grew up joking about how Bradenton was crazy, but I definitely didn't get the full picture until I left the state and realized that when I talked about my childhood I got a lot of weird looks. What I'm trying to say is that no one has adopted a tourism slogan that says, "Visit East Tennessee. It's WACKY!"
So that, in a nutshell (a large nutshell), is the main reason that I like Welcome to Night Vale. Despite the fact that the town includes hooded figures, the Sheriff's Secret Police, a glow cloud, and a dog park that you are NOT TO GO NEAR, the presentation as community radio really drives home the fact that this is the town's normal; there's no wink-wink involved. And I think that underscores the fact that there's no such thing as normal, really, not when you get down past the surface of a community. Besides, is there really that much of a difference between a glow cloud and a mysterious scent of burnt oranges that pervades the morning air?