This photo appeared in a national meme titled “only in Seattle.” It could have been labeled, “only in my neighborhood,” because the pink flamingo car lives in my neighbor’s driveway, a mere three houses away. Really.
The vehicle started out modestly with pink flamingo upholstery. This was followed by a cute innocuous pink bird dangling from the rearview mirror. While certainly a unique car statement, this was nothing new to me. I grew up in L.A. where there is a cultural understanding that “one’s car is one’s castle.”
Months later however, a pink flamingo was temporarily affixed to the roof of the car. The bird soon became a permanent part of the daily décor and was quickly joined by new flock members.
That was before it escalated.
I haven’t seen a car with this much ornamentation since I traveled to Bali. We live on an Island about 5 miles long, so it is not uncommon to see the pink flamingo car and hear chatter about it in the grocery store. I can’t help but smile when I hear the conversation. Yes, the car’s a little weird but it certainly sparks imaginative conversations and it’s our weird.
I’m also a not-so-secret admirer of the species. I admit to stowing a few plastic pink flamingo lawn ornaments in my garage. My husband “won” them in a contest. We have had fun over the years migrating the birds towards unsuspecting neighbors lawns or setting them in our trees to temporarily nest. Flamingos are pure mid-century Americana.
The plastic birds have been around since 1957 when designer Don Featherstone created them. He won a Nobel Prize for Art in 1996 for his modern masterpiece of lawn kitsch. The Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas was the stamp of luxury in the old rat pack days of Hollywood and interest was reignited with flashback scenes in Brad Pitt’s film, Ocean’s 11. The plastic pink flamingo is even the official bird for the city of Madison, Wisconsin. What could be more validating?
Now that the car is complete, the decorating has commenced in my neighbor’s yard. I haven’t heard any complaints yet. Only in Seattle.
Carol Lewis Gullstad May 20, 2013