The first time I ever attended a freak show was at the New York State Fair in the late 1970s (or maybe it was a circus), when you could call people who were missing limbs “freaks” and no one would think twice about it. After seeing the sword swallower, the fire breather, and more memorably the guy whose hands had grown right out of his shoulder sockets instead of at the end of arms (he demonstrated for us how he managed to shave with this physical handicap) I swore that that was the end of freak shows for me.

Of course, I didn’t realize I’d one day visit Los Angeles, a city that is, in many respects, the biggest freak show on earth. And the closer you get to the beach, the freakier the show gets. So there I was in LA County at Venice Beach with Howard and his friends Mike and Karen, when Karen says to Mike, “Which direction should we head, that way or freak show?”

“Freak show!” declared Mike without hesitation.

So we headed in the freak show direction, and I was not disappointed, as every stripe of weird (and/or stoned) human being was freakily displayed along our route. Interestingly, however, the citizens I was walking among, while freaky, were not what my new friends were referring to; instead, there was an actual five dollar freak show along the route, with a huckster outside enticing us to enter, and none other than Larry “The Wolf Boy” Gomez ushering us in.

Once inside, my five dollars was taken by an actual bearded lady, who grumpily pointed me in the direction of the stage, where several people performed some of the same not-so-freaky but pretty gross stuff on stage that I had seen back in the day.

So I have once again sworn off freak shows. Which, I suppose, means I need to shut off my internet connection. Farewell, freaky world!