Hi, My Name is Pickles, and IYQ.

April 8, 2007

NOTE: This column is basically a story I wrote in November for The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, where I am more-or-less gainfully employed. I am developing this blog and wanted to put something out with photos, just to see how well it works. Thanks for your patience! Terry

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The big black and white badge on my chest said “IYQ.” See, the idea is, people, usually kids, see the badge and read it, in the form of a question.

“IYQ?”

To which I reply “I like you, too!”

Clown humor is not subtle, but then, NOTHING about clowns is subtle. I look in the mirror. White-polka-dotted blue one-piece suit with collar in a rainbow explosion of posies. Curly blue wig. Orange and white hat. Bulbous red nose. Gigantic blue and white shoes. A sartorial earthquake.

Pickles the Clown

From one of the pom-pom buttons on the suit hangs a toy hamburger that laughs maniacally when you squeeze its bun. I only giggle when you squeeze mine.

Yep. It’s a clown. Pickles The Clown, to be precise. Looking back at me from the mirror.

Me.

The things I do for this job. On the other hand, I get to dress up as a clown and call it work. Life is good.

Sandi Smith, aka “Dot the Clown,” was going to call me Whopper, as a pun on my last name and my size; I am over 6 feet tall and weigh more than 300 pounds. But before I arrived at the Mid-Atlantic Clown Association at the New Cumberland Holiday Inn, Patriot-News photographer John Whitehead had convinced Sandi that she should call me Pickles, since I just finished six years working in the newspaper’s Dillsburg bureau.

Well, that’s the story I got. Maybe they were just gherkin my chain.

So, Hi, My Name is Pickles, and IYQ.

This is all Dot’s fault. When I first e-mailed her to tell her I wanted to cover the clown convention, she said something like “sure, come down, we’ll turn you into a clown.” Some of my editors thought that sounded redundant, but I agreed.

Besides, the convention started the day after then General Election, and I figured that, by then, I would need a change of pace.

Clowns are even funnier than politicians, are more fun to look at, and don’t take themselves so seriously.

Well, that’s not exactly right. Clowns, REAL clowns, are very serious about not being taken seriously. Some people don’t like clowns, but they must fill a need; clowns have been with us in one form or another since at least 1800 B.C.

The funny thing is, getting rigged out as Pickles was sort of like a Jekyll and Hyde thing, only in a good way. When the makeup and the silly clothes went on, whatever loose grip I had on my inner clown let go entirely.

As Pickles, I left the room where my wereclown transformation took place, worried that I was going to feel self-conscious. No need. For one thing, it is hard to feel out of place when you are just another clown in the crowd. Nearly 200 clowns attended the event, and most of them were rigged and running full bore. It was a little overwhelming.

For another thing, people kept walking up to me and asking if they could have their picture taken with me. The last time that happened, I had fallen asleep on the sand and tourists were snapping shots of what they thought was a beached whale.

I definitely felt…different. As folks snapped away, another clown, Trumpet told me to keep my hands up. “Always above the waist, always gesture. Look alive.” I did, and things cascaded from there. I couldn’t help myself. I caught myself walking with my giant shoes pointing left and right, which gave me a sort of penguin waddle, if you can imagine a polka-dot waddle. If you can, you’re spending too much time on Second Street.

Anyway, there I was, waddling around, hamming it up with Jimbo and Peachy Keene and Buster, Trumpet and Dot and Polka and thinking that this was a whole lot more fun than a staff meeting, and the clowns are funnier. I could get used to this.

Peachy Keene stood in the hallway, talking to several civilians. Peachy stands 6’6” on a short day, as this was. Normally when he has the ceiling space, he wears stilts that jack him up to 9 feet tall. He stands out. Not to mention up. He looked anything but scary, and had this trick of looking stern – I mean “clown stern,” which is not stern at all – and making his big red nose bob up and down like a manic apple. None of the children in the hallway fled in terror. It cracked me up every time I saw it.

Kids are sometimes put off by clowns. The photographer who worked the convention with me Saturday brought his little girl, Katie, along. She’s a wee thing, about three feet tall, and normally, as John says, a regular “jibber-jabber.”

She was very quiet at the convention. Katie watched as Sandi turned me from a reporter into a clown: greasepaint, blue wig, the whole shebang. After all that, she looked at me as though I was some odd insect. I have to say, though, that she looked at me the same way before the change, so maybe it’s me.

Sandi suggested that she could turn Katie into a clown and her clown name could be Jibber-Jabber. That idea didn’t fly, either.

Of course, who could blame her? How’d YOU like to be three feet tall and stuck in a room with a bunch of gigantic people who dressed funny and acted even funnier? Like dodging your way through confetti-colored dinosaurs.

But, I have to say, the hotel corridors had a good number of kids, and a lot of them seemed to be having fun. Not as much as their parents, mind you. I don’t know when I’ve seen so many silly grins or so many point-and-shoot cameras at one place. Members of the public taking photos of clowns, or having friends or even clowns to take pictures of them standing next to a clown. Clowns taking pictures of clowns.

There were so many clowns that normal people looked out of place and a little dull.

I think my favorite moment might have been when a woman who had read about the convention in the paper came up to me and asked if she could get her photo taken with Pickles.

“Um, I’m not really a clown, ma’am,” I said.

She looked at me. See the description above. Add a pair of gigantic baby-blue and white clown shoes.

“Yeah, right. You’re funny,” she said.

She got her picture.

“Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.

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10 Responses to “Hi, My Name is Pickles, and IYQ.”

  1. Uncle Davy said

    Hey Terry, this is actually a serious note. At the very top of your banneer (that’s the top photo)it looks like the very bottom of some letters, as if the rest were cut off. I’m pretty sure it says “BURGER” Then below that is the red flag with “to go” and then it repeats Burger To Go in normal type. This could be a burp or it could be my browser — Camino, running on a Mac. Also, you’ll want to back your type off from your photos. Right now they kiss your photo — that is, the type runs right up against the photo. Don’t know what kind of measurement system your blog uses, but you may want to try backing it off 6 points or a tenth of an inch. I don’t know what that is in pixels.
    IY’d your story. I never read it before though I have seen the photo. Did you ever ponder why both of your clown names “Pickles” and “Whopper” seem to have a Freudian significance?
    –dc

    • madeline said

      ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

      beat that ha! 🙂

  2. Jessica Schally said

    Hi Terry,

    Love the new blog…I will definitely add it to my favorites! IYQ too! 🙂

    Hugs for this Monday morning,

    Jessica

  3. Barbara Benton said

    Banner looks OK on my browser, which is Safari and runs on Mac. Type and clown pic do kiss, though.

    I LOVE this clown story. I also like the one about your appearance at a pre-school (as I remember) in a bear suit. Can’t think of anything Freudian about that, but I’m sure others could!

    Barbara

  4. Brian said

    Clown convention? Isn’t that what we have when we invite all the former Hanover staff over?

  5. Anonymous said

    CONGRATULATIONS YOU HAVE BEEN RANDOMLY SELECTED TO LOOK LIKE RONALD MCDONALD

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