Thursday, October 30, 2014

Last-Minute Costume Ideas

Need some costume ideas this Halloween? Are you in a panic to find a cheap, affordable, inexpensive, shoddy, half-assed, borderline offensive costume? Well, you've come to the right place!

1) Stereotypical Frenchie/Insert Nationality You Wish to Insult
Go to your local Forever 21/H&M/Marshalls/whatever cheap clothing store is nearby and buy a striped shirt and beret. Go to a bakery and buy a baguette. Carry the baguette as a prop.

If you are in France, merely recycle clothes from your closet and use the half-eaten bit of baguette that is still lingering from lunchtime.

(Yes, I am being sarcastic.)

Nota bene: this costume is probably not that good of an idea if you are in France, as it would merely look as if you are just walking home from the boulangerie sporting a simple marinière and, for some quirky reason, a beret.

For those of you with a bigger budget who want to poke fun at us Americans, you have two Stereotypical American options: the Country/Cowboy toting a (hopefully) fake gun, or the poorly-dressed "People of Wal-Mart"-esque American clutching for dear life to a greasy McDonald's bag (with Diet Coke) and riding an obesity scooter while holding a 'Murica #1 foam finger. The obesity scooter may be fashioned out of a bike and some painted cardboard boxes. Fat suit may or may not be required.

2) Mummy
Use white toilet paper to fashion a shirt and a pair of trousers for the mummy's bandages.

Warning: While white toilet paper is available, be careful using French toilet paper as it comes in shades of pink, blue, yellow, lavender and orange. These colors may prove inadequate to fabricate a mummy costume.

Be jealous of my pink toilet paper. (It was orange last week.)

On the other hand, you could potentially use the different colored toilet paper to be a gay-friendly Mummy.

3) Fumbling 20-Something Who Has No Idea What to Do with His/Her Life

Wait. That may not be an actual costume. Skip this option.


The clothing choices required are enough to scare anybody: wife-beater, '80s-style sneakers and an awkwardly-perched baseball cap with the not-removed shiny stickers are a must. Don't forget to accessorize with some fake tan, bling and those weird shutter sunglasses that probably only exist to impair your vision while giving your face the oddest tan lines ever.

This costume will prove to be highly-effective among your Hipster friends who know you are ironically donning the SWAG-YOLO Bro look for personal amusement.

5) Hipster

This costume will prove to be highly-effective among your SWAG-YOLO Bro friends who know you are ironically donning the Hipster look for personal amusement.

Get a haphazard variety of clothes from a local Goodwill/Salvation Army. Or, at a push, steal the clothes off a homeless man's/Hipster's back for a more authentic costume. Don't forget to accessorize with dyed hair (preferably an unnatural color), a handlebar mustache and pair of black, nerdy horn-rimmed glasses that you would have never, ever dreamt of wearing twenty years ago for the fear of oncoming ridicule by your peers.

6) Zombie

Stay up the night before getting absolutely blind drunk. Walk around the whole day plastered with a murderous hangover that renders you incapable of processing any cognitive thought and keeps you in a moribund, yet somehow still functioning, state. Accessorize with fake blood and a plastic severed limb.

I feel that I must stress the fake blood and the plastic severed limb part of the costume lest you want to actually kill someone simply for talking to you.

7) Nothing

For those of you who really can't be bothered to dress up at all but would still like to update the social media, upload a childhood photograph of yourself in a costume.

The more embarrassing, the better.

Here's a picture of Bibi (Yours Truly) wearing a pumpkin costume accessorized with a pumpkin treat bucket. This photograph documents the origins of my hatred for hermetically-sealed furniture. Thank God the trend to wrap sofas in plastic went the way of the crimped, high-volume hairdo. (New Jersey, circa late 1989)

Bonne chance with the costume preparation.

Happy Halloween,
Barb the French Bean

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Super Charo, Huecazo, and Esquipi

One of the greatest things about growing up with parents whose first language was different to the one spoken in my homeland is that there will inevitably be some misunderstandings when trying to communicate with each other, often due to pronunciation.

My dear Colombian mother's first language was Spanish, and while she has certainly adopted a working knowledge of basic to intermediate English in the thirty-plus years of living in the good ol' U.S. of A., there have been moments in which a slight change in pronunciation due to her accent have led to some lost in translation gaffes.

The following is a selection of some of the more memorable highlights.

Super Charo

My mother once needed to go to the airport to catch an early flight and no one at the time could provide her with the lengthy drive from our Miami home to Fort Lauderdale International Airport to catch a low-cost flight. To solve her transportation problem, she enlisted the help of a service she referred to as "Super Charo."

Her utterance evoked a mental image of the eccentric Spanish singer dressed in a Superman outfit.

Super Charo: the most flamboyant superhero of all

For days, I was left perplexed thinking what the heck "Super Charo" could possibly be. I began to seriously entertain the possibility whether or not a red-caped Charo would arrive to our doorstep belting show tunes.

(C'mon, sing it now! Ervry meng/Han ervry hoomang/Want the same thing)

On the morning of her flight, as my mother busied herself with last-minute verification that she had everything necessary for the trip, my grandmother exclaimed that the transport service had arrived. I eagerly rushed to the window to satisfy my curiosity over what "Super Charo" could be.

Lo and behold, I saw this pull up to the driveway:

Link to image

Cuchi-cuchi, indeed.

Huecazo (Large hole)

The Spanish word for "hole" is hueco. A huecazo denotes an impressively-sized hole, one large enough to swallow an entire village or, in the following case, a car tire.

Driving across the parking lot of a nearby supermarket, I spotted a large hole in the road. I felt it was important to make its presence known to my mother so she could avoid it.

"Mom, look out, there's a huecazo."


I thought it was odd to see her so enthusiastic about a hole and decided to shrug it off.

"It's right over there."

"Where? I don't see it."

"The huecazo is right there! You are about to drive past it. Watch out!"

"But I don't see the huecazo anywhere!"

"Don't worry, you just drove by it."

"Hold on, let me drive around again because I want to get some burgers!"

Huh? What? Burgers? What was she talking about?

"What do you mean 'burgers?' Do you want to go to McDonald's?"

"No! Not McDonald's! Didn't you say there's a huecazo around here? I can't believe they've brought them to Florida! I really miss their mini-burgers."

That's when it clicked.

Prior to moving to Florida, we originally lived in New Jersey, home of the famous White Castle burger chain (and their sliders made infamous by the film Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle).

Coincidentally, there will be no French Bean Goes to White Castle. I'm not high enough to make the journey from France to the nearest White Castle location (which is apparently in New York). 

Apparently, the way I said "large hole" was similar to the way she pronounced "white castle" with her heavy accent, something around the lines of "why-kasso."

(Note: "huecazo" is not pronounced like "why-kasso.")

"No, Mom, not WHITE CASTLE, huecazo, as in a large hole?"

"Oh. So...there's no White Castle?"

"I'm afraid not."

"Dang it. I was hoping to eat some White Castle burgers..."

Huecazo has become a bit of an inside joke between us and to this day whenever Mom mentions having spotted a large hole, I ask her where the burgers are.

Esquipi (Eh-skee-pee)

In late 2009, I moved across the Atlantic Ocean to live in Dijon, France. Being the first time since I had left the proverbial nest, it was crucial for my mother and me to maintain contact. Moreover, in my absence, I worried over how my mother would cope with a general lack of knowledge over all things computer-related.

So imagine my surprise when she proposed a solution and announced:

"You should get Esquipi! You can use it on the computer!"

Esquipi? I thought. What the heck is that?

"Mom, what's Esquipi?"

"You don't know what Esquipi is?"

"Uh, no?"

"How can you not know what Esquipi is? EVERYBODY knows about it! Even I know what Esquipi is!"

In a rare moment of her one-upping my technological savvy, rather than letting her berate me further due to my ignorance of this damned Esquipi, I asked her to elucidate on what this unknown technology entailed.

"Well, essentially, So-and-So said--You remember So-and-So, right?"

"No, I don't."

"Yes, you know who So-and-So is! How can you not remember them?"

"Mom, I don't--"

 "Anyway, So-and-So told me that Esquipi is this thing that you find on the Internet (I don't know how that's done), that lets you call other people by telephone and have conversations with them. You can even see them on the camera."

Her explanation caused the wheels in my head to turn. Back in 2009, this thing that she had described was still a bit of a novelty, but I had certainly heard about it. Putting the pieces together, I had to ask one more question to be absolutely certain on what she was talking about.

"Mom," I started cautiously, "how do you spell 'Esquipi?'"

"Hold on, hold on, I have to find the paper where So-and-So wrote it down for me."

The phone clattered on a hard surface. I waited for her to retrieve the information. The silence from the phone ended with some rustling and her voice returned.

"Okay, I got."

"Great. So how is it spelled?"


My palm crashed against my forehead, leaving a red, five-fingered silhouette.

"Mom, that's pronounced SKYPE!"


"NO, Skype!"


"No, SKY-PUH!"

"Ah, well, you understood me."

Speaking can be a real hoot sometimes.

Barb the French Bean