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When We Were Yogurts
By Thomas Bryan Michurski

As a boy, I had never considered a bloated cranium to be a lucky break, but I was thankful for the anonymity. I respected Spoon as she was continuously subjected to the embarrassment of having her face exposed to the public. I watched the crowds nervously through the mesh, hidden by the painted logo on the outside. As a small time local actor, I had always been a contradiction; I wanted fame, yet I ran whenever cornered by people who wanted to give me praise. I preferred it to be written on a piece of paper and shoved under the door.

Acting has always had an embarrassment continuum. There are low embarrassment gigs, the kind you want to tell your friends about, like say, being the Terminator in a summer blockbuster. Playing yogurt man, sadly, was near the other end of the spectrum, along with dressing up, pretending to be a real 13th century English merchant at the renaissance festival, asking people if they want to"try some of the king's nuts."

One day, terror arrived when I was asked to ride in my hometown's Blazin' 4th of July parade -- in the yogurt costume. Standing on the sidelines were my neighbors, and my high school friends. Even a girlfriend or two waved passively to the cup of frozen dairy riding on the trunk of the wine-colored Chrysler Lebaron convertible. I waved my gloved hand like a beauty queen, waxing the air softly, switching hands when I turned to the other side of the street. No one knew it was me, though my subconscious believed that there was a giant sign on the side of the car saying: "Inside this yogurt costume is Bryan. Please throw something at him like those Tootsie Rolls you just received from the panting, overweight girls' dance instructor."

There was much to do as a yogurt. It was like being a minor star on a media junket that no one knew about. We would crash local talk shows hoping for an invitation on air, but were usually ushered outside in the 90-degree heat, holding a dripping pallet of low-fat vanilla yogurt cones.

Once, during a successful entry of a popular radio station, the DJ invited Spoon and I into the studio, during their wacky morning show, and asked me if I wanted to say anything to the listeners. It was one of those few opportunities that God gives us, a chance to say something beautiful and enlighten the masses, a chance most of us fritter away by saying Hi to Aunt Gertie in Akron, or waving stupidly on TV to Mom in Des Moines.

At first I was nervous and disoriented, and froze like the treat I was. I had nearly been driven mad from two weeks of baking in the sun, wearing a three-inch-thick poly-fiber canister, so with a muddled head, I blurted out that I was a yogurt king and that all should bow before me.

A plea for monarchy.

At its best success, I suppose it could have ended with me sitting on a makeshift throne somewhere with a few dozen listeners bowing at my feet. I'd like to think that somewhere, in the suburb of Coon Rapids, a guy who heard me that day still listens to the morning show, awaiting my royal instructions.

The proclamation raised an eyebrow from the PR guy, who let me know that arrogance was not one of the brand traits of a Colombo Frozen Yogurt, and that declarations of supreme power would be best left to the more casual sampling events. Consumers buying taco salad from the insurance company's cafeteria are, evidently, less offended by self-crowned yogurt rulers.

It eventually became time to leave my position as the yogurt. It hadn't yet been recognized as a serious way to make a living, long-term, and I don't think my talents were really compatible with wearing an oversized dessert -- evidence that was supported by my high school guidance counselor, who when suggesting career paths based on my vocational test, would have mentioned it, I'm sure. "Big yogurt" would, by logic, have come between "Anthropologist" and "Cartographer" on the list.

So I retired from the silent world of food pantomime. Spoon and I said our goodbyes. We waved our white-gloved hands at each other in the parking lot of a Hardware Hank, with a tearful "later". Things had changed. I was a few weeks older now and had grown. I wanted to use my talent to make a difference in the lives of others and break through to them on a personal level. I wanted my life's work to be worthy of a proud working class family like mine.

With my new understanding tucked away in my pocket, I went searching. The perfect opportunity arrived just a few short days later -- running around the Met Center Stadium during a Minnesota North Stars hockey game wearing a goalie mask and handing out money to unsuspecting winners in the crowd, like Jason from Friday the 13th hosting the new Let's Make a Deal.

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