Yesterday an HE reader named Michael2021, who strikes me as a possible antagonist, suspiciously asked “X-factor (white) guy“…what exactly is this supposed to mean?”

HE reply: I’m white because of my ancestral heritage. As much as I’d like to do something about that (as it would win me points with the fanatics), I can’t. But the X-factor thing…

X-factor people are leftie (or, in the current atmosphere of woke political terror and dread, formerly leftie) iconoclasts who tend to sidestep the usual usual in terms of attitudes and behaviors. Semi-original, in some cases quirky or vaguely oddball types (but not too oddball…think Bill Murray-type weirdos) or against-the-grain thinkers, and in many cases serious creatives.

No age requirements, although there seem to be more over-40 X-factors than under-40s. (Go figure.) X-factor fellows never wear flip-flops and generally despise man-toes as a rule. Luca Guadagnino, Cate Blanchett, Phillip Noyce, Tilda Swinton and Willem Dafoe are X-factor; conspicuously wealthy types like Lizzo, Reese Witherspoon, Kanye, Jennifer Aniston, Will Smith and Kim Kardashian are almost certainly not.

We’re otherwise talking folks who prefer Hotel Paisano in Marfa over Houston’s DoubleTree. Or, if you will, Point Pleasant over Atlantic City, Villas Altas Mismaloya or the Thompson Zihuatanejo over Puerto Vallarta or Acapulco, Prague over Geneva, Caye Caulker over Ambergris Caye. Or a narrow, old-school hotel in Old Town Hanoi over a tourist-friendly Sofitel. And Lauterbrunnen any time of the year.

People who usually prefer to drive classic mid-century Mustangs rather than big fat SUVs with built-in wifi. Or who prefer to wear Italian suede lace-ups or even saddle shoes rather than Gucci loafers or white Converse or Nike footwear. Or who wear cowboy hats instead of Kangol berets and head warmers in the winter. Those who generally march to the beat of a subdued and slightly different drummer. Or (one more travel analogy!) those who tend to avoid the San Marco district when visiting Venice, and tend to stick to Dorsoduro.