Dec 16, 2010

Unhappy Clown

I came across this photograph in a collection that my 93-year-old grandfather recently dusted off for us. In this 1968 image I have been dressed up for Halloween, and it is clear that I was unhappy about the choice of costume.

Or unhappy about something.

I was a rather difficult child for my parents to raise, as my interests were quirky. I loved collecting rocks and conducting quasi-scientific experiments, activities for which I found few fellow participants in the blue collar Detroit neighborhoods in which I grew up. I suspect that this particular Halloween I wanted to get dressed up as an astronaut or something equally geeky, and that the costume my mom lovingly designed was utterly deplorable to me.

I think I was well into my teen years before I started learning the value of interpersonal relationships, as well as the need to make at least something of an effort to fit in. Some folks go through their early years being outcasts on the basis of social rejection, but for the first 12 or 13 years of my life I had little use for other people, and I almost willingly chose isolation over engaging in activities that did not appeal to me.

This was less of a built-in rebelliousness and more of a stubborn willfulness to follow my internal agendas. I still have some of this streak, but I think I am better at going along with the group in social settings than I used to be, and my wife knows how to subtly encourage me toward social interaction whenever I gravitate toward my metaphorical island of isolation.

But I'll be damned if I will ever wear a clown costume again. Sorry, Ma.


microdot said...

Frankly, Mike, I would have been still dealing with the traumatic scars even today.
I have to admire your personal fortitude, but perhaps be a bit wary of the covert sadistic streak you seem to be harboring in your insistence of inflicting this photo upon an unsuspecting public.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, pretty horrific, but clowns are alarming in the best of circumstances. Take a look at those Night Gallery type paintings that Red Skeleton did...enough to scar and scare any little kid.

Mad Jack said...

I can just imagine little HistoryMike in Detroit.

LHM: Dad, there's this experiment I'd like to do for, uh, science in school, see...
HMD: Huh.
LHM: So I'm going to be needing a few things.
HMD: Huh?
LHM: A few pounds of potassium nitrate, sulfur and high quality charcoal.
HMD: ?
LHM: And I'll need to use the dryer for a while - don't worry, it's perfectly safe! And I've already got the pipe, but if you could help me thread the ends...

historymike said...

Jack, you don't know how close to the truth that statement was. When I was 12 I read somewhere the basic ingredients for gunpowder, and I set out to procure them.

I purchased sulphur and graphite (a carbon allotrope) at KB Toy and Hobby, which offered these items as refills for those ubiquitous chemistry kits they used to market for kids.

Potassium nitrate was a bit more difficult. I walked into a Rexall drugstore and asked the pharmacist for saltpetre. He looked at me skeptically and asked me what in the hell I needed with saltpetre.

"It's for my grandmother - it's a diuretic," I lied, having the cover story already concocted and ready to fire back.

The pharmacist stared at me, and I doubt that he believed me. Yet he sold me the saltpetre, either because he couldn't find a legitimate reason not to do so, or because he figured any kid smart enough to know a medicinal use for this was probably too much trouble to deal with.

So off I went to try and create my own explosives.

Luckily for me and the world, I never knew the exact ratios. I started out 1:1:1, which as I recall mostly just smoldered. Then I tried doubling one of the ingredients, and when I doubled the saltpetre I managed to get more of a flash. I kept adding more, with greater flash each time, but eventually the small supplies I had procured ran out.

I also lacked the knowledge of certain other necessities for successful munitions, like wetting, grinding, and packing.

Then I had a stroke of brilliance: it would be a lot cheaper (not to mention quicker) to simply unroll a few dozen firecrackers and collect the powder (technically they used flash powder, but to a budding 12-year-old pyrotechnist, what's the diff). Rapidly every toy vehicle and model car I owned fell victim to this wave of terror.

Engineer of Knowledge said...

Hello Mike,
Love the photo!! I have photos of my youngest when she was 5 and plans were made for quite a while to make her a pirate for Halloween. I even had a niece (who is an English teacher) on her summer vacation to Disney World in Florida to pick up a Pirate hat with her name monogrammed into it. (Captain Morgan) To complete this costume, a hook, eye patch, shoes with buckles were purchased.

But as fate would have it, on Halloween Night getting ready to go out Trick-er-Treating……SHE DID NOT WANT TO BE A PIRATE ANY MORE. The photos are priceless with that disgusted look of not wanting to be very tolerant!!!!! Not even her older sister, who she idolized, just barely got her into the hat and hook just long enough to get these photos…..but she was not going to like it.

So in closing, the photo is GREAT and I have one too.

LTLOP said...

hLet's see: You are from Detroit and dressed as a clown, Insane Clown posse is from Detroit and there does seem to be some makeup similarities. Hmmmmm, are you really the driving artistice force behind this group?

Mad Jack said...

Rotten little kid...

In my case my father already knew about black powder and a few other surprising things. He'd aced college chemistry along the way to an engineering degree. While he did manage to keep me from blowing up the house with me in it, he didn't prevent me from heating a mysterious substance which inundated the kitchen with the delicate aroma of rotten eggs. The smell lingered for days...