Gertrude Stein’s most famous quote is a sentence she wrote in 1913 for a poem she penned called Sacred Emily. Stein wrote, “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.” This quote is often interpreted to mean that things are what they are. Had Stein written, “A Tazmanian Devil is a Tazmanian Devil is a Tazmanian Devil is a Tazmanian Devil,” instead, it is likely that this observation might have shot straight out the window and into oncoming traffic rather than standing the test of time for nearly a century.
Recently, I was walking up Broadway where I spotted Mike, dressed for work outside a Rickey’s Halloween pop-up store in a man-sized costume that brought to mind a six tall hound, located between West 77th and West 78th Streets. If I were inclined to get a Halloween costume, Rickey’s would be my go-to source. When I do shop there it is for unusual items, such as the cat-butt magnets that scored a big hit with my former sidekick, Jewel, on her birthday.
Bracing myself for Mike’s response I revealed the infinity of my ignorance and asked, “Who are you supposed to be?” Barely able to hide his contempt for such an imbecilic question, he muttered in an annoyed tone, “Taz.”
In fairness to Mike, many decades ago when I went trick or treating, dressed as Fred Flintstone, nothing annoyed me more than some old-timer asking me, “And who are you supposed to be?” I wanted to say, “Fred Fuckin’ Flintstone, you moron!”
My protective father hovered behind me like my very own personal Tazmanian Devil. No sooner would the candy-giver close their door than my dad would channel his inner Ethel Merman/Mama Rose; a Rose Ms. Stein would surely see as unlike any other Rose had she the chance to catch the musical Gypsy. My dad would be coaching me on how to announce, “Trick or treat!” The more he urged me to “shout out” the quieter I’d get, to the point where I’d stand mute, and just tap an anemic knock on a door. This drove my Type A personality father so crazy, he took it upon himself to stand behind me and voluminously bellow, “Trick or treat!” A deep male voice emanating from a pint-sized girl – dressed as Fred Flintstone — thoroughly confused the candy givers, but somehow he and I got through Halloween together that year. After we returned home I was popping the Milk Duds, and he, the Anacin.
I asked Mike if he had a choice of costumes. He mentioned Super Mario and a character I had never heard of called Yoshi. To camouflage my blank expression to the latter half of his response, I rubbed my chin, puffed my Sherlock Holmes pipe thoughtfully, and said, “Interesting.” When I returned home, I immediately did a Google search on Yoshi who happens to be the dinosaur in Super Mario Brothers video games. Small world.
What I remember most about my childhood Fred Flintstone costume was nearly asphyxiating behind the plastic mask that fit over my face with a string of elastic wrapped around my head. Already, by the tender age of six, my nose was B cup bordering on C cup. The pinpoint-size air holes just didn’t cut it with my industrial strength ventilation system. I could not have been sweating harder than if I had been hiking the Sahara at noon as opposed to walking a few evening neighborhood blocks in chilly San Francisco with my dad.
It might seem perverse that my mother chose to dress her whippet-thin daughter as Fred Flintstone for Halloween. Yet, she instinctively knew I would sooner throw myself in front of a moving bus than be seen in a tutu or some princess getup. Therefore dressing me up as anorexic Fred was the perfect solution.