We Were Yogurts
Thomas Bryan Michurski
white tights from the yogurt costume were riding up again. I backed
up against the wall to conceal my action, but was unable to reach
my rear end. I was hoping to do it without anyone seeing me, but
someone was bound to notice when I pulled my white gloved hands
into the enormous foam barrel with the swirl on top, to pull the
tights out of my butt.
men in my family never dressed like giant yogurts, they didn't even
like dressing up as Santa. They were blue-collar working stiffs
with calloused hands and bushy moustaches. My great-granddad worked
on the railroad, my grandfather in the brickyard, and my father
was a beat cop for the city of Minneapolis for 20 years. Together,
a stoic collection of hearty Minnesota Pollocks who managed to go
to work every day of their lives without wearing tights.
the newest generation of our proud immigrant family, me, could be
found publicly dressed in a low-fat frozen desert costume at the
Sun Ray Shopping Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, a well-designed
strip mall off the freeway at the edge of the city. The people who
shopped there had seen a bear handing out coupons for cellular service,
a clown making balloon animals, and a gopher handing out baseballs.
Even a dog with a pervert's overcoat came around once in a while
to take a bite out of crime. But in the late summer of 1987 it was
the rare sighting of a frozen treat with skinny legs, wearing white
tights and red Chuck Taylors that had them staring. Many of them,
having just left the dollar store with their bag of scented votive
candles, preferred to stand in my blind spot and give me the finger.
One patron, who was either a tragic thirteen or a freakish thirty,
bravely crossed the three-foot "weirdo" radius that you
normally give a guy in a costume, to pound on me, peek up through
the bottom and call me "shit head".
character costumes bring out the primal emotions in us. Like giant
puppets they please us, yet we want to hurt them. It's as if they
trigger the memories of our early childhood, when we believed that
animated characters were real, which made us happy, until we saw
them at the theme park, lumbering around blindly between the dippin'
dot vendor and the guy selling plastic swords. We would wait in
line with our parents, the two people whom we trusted more than
any other, while they presented us to the enormous Goofy. His size,
multiplied 20 times beyond what we were used to on TV, made him
unrecognizable to our undeveloped brain. Stunned and cowering in
the shadow of the grotesque cartoon doppelganger, we'd begin shrieking,
until our parents led us away, laughing. It was a baptism of fear,
and though most of us have moved on from it and learned to control
our anger toward the monstrous Bam Bam and the misshapen foam Snagglepuss
that once frightened us, there are some of us who won't let it go.
not shit, young man, its Colombo frozen yogurt, try some,"
the sweating Public Relations guy said distantly to the man-boy,
who ignored him and continued to hammer his fists on the outside
of my barrel, the sound reverberating inside my head. I thanked
the air for unintentional kindness of the costumer, who, had she
been more ambitious with a paintbrush, might have painted the swirl
on top chocolate brown, making it look like the biggest cup of whipped
poo in the world.
great hero has a sidekick, the outward manifestation of his or her
inner purity. The Lone Ranger had his Tonto, Sherlock Holmes his
Watson; El Kabong had his Baba Looey. I had Spoon, a young woman
who stood near me, wearing a large piece of undecorated white foam,
crudely carved into the shape of a 5-foot plastic sorbet spoon.
It was her duty to help guide me through the shopping mall, and
prevent me from stepping on tiny consumers. I'd like to believe
that I had earned the important role of the yogurt; I was, I felt,
well qualified after performing in a few high school theatre productions.
The local newspaper had praised my performance of the Lion in The
Wizard of Oz, calling it, "Okay," and adding that
I had, "Just the right amount of bravado." After consulting
Merriam-Webster for the definition of the word bravado, I was satisfied
that my acting chops, having been acknowledged by a printed publication,
made me the natural choice for the lead in Colombo Yogurt's life
play of the street. Truthfully, the reason I was inside the yogurt
barrel was my head was too wide to fit comfortably through the hole
cut for the face in the spoon costume.
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