There used to be a TV show on when I was a kid, it was called “Make a Wish”. It had an unchanging format that held me in rapture. The show would take one word, like fish, and then literally take it around the world! “I wish I were a fish then I would swim in the ocean that is created by rain, that came from the clouds etc, etc”. Total stream of consciousness stuff. Tom Chapin, Harry Chapin’s brother, appeared at the beginning of the show, asking the question that would open up a whole world of knowledge and fun: “Did you ever wish you were a ___?” If you could name it, you could wish to be it (panda, steam engine, vermicious knid…). The episode would then explore that theme using songs, stock footage, animation, film, and more. It was always fun to see where word associations would lead, and how far afield they’d end from where they had started. The whole thing was pretty illustrative.

”Anything you want to try,
Just come on, fly high
And make a wish!”

I’d like to handle my portrait of pink in the same way. Let the light hue pink river flow…

I hear there are pink dolphins in the ocean. Pinkish wonders. Look they’re swimming on the internet. The properties of pink are pretty romantic if you think about it. A lot of white and just a tiny bit of red make a big color. So fragile to evoke the fabric choice of many grandmas… so bold that the Nazis labeled queers with pink triangles.

I remember scanning the pink grid of my great aunt Ruth’s bathroom tiles. Love that sweet pink grapefruit. Uh ho! Pink underwear. I forgot to sort. Sunburned white people… oh the pain. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum was almost pink. What happened to Russian dressing? I hug my doctor’s nurse because she wears a pink ribbon.

The Pink That Was
In 1978, Gilbert Baker of San Francisco designed a flag with rainbow stripes as a symbol of gay and lesbian pride. Slowly the flag took hold, offering an optimistic alternative to the pink triangle symbol. In 1989, the rainbow flag received nationwide attention after John Stout successfully sued his landlords in West Hollywood, when they prohibited him from displaying the flag from his apartment balcony. Baker designed the flag with eight stripes: pink, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. According to Baker, those colors represented, respectively: sexuality, life, healing, sun, nature, art, harmony, and spirit. Baker dyed and sewed the material for the first flag himself – in the true spirit of Betsy Ross.

Baker approached Paramount Flag Company about mass producing and selling his “gay flag”. Unfortunately, Baker had hand-dyed all the colors, and since the color “hot pink” was not commercially available, mass production of his eight-striped version became impossible. The flag was thus reduced to seven stripes. Sorry pink.

Super Pink
The color of Kermit’s girlfriend. In the movies Priscilla wore a pink wig in the desert. Pink Panther. I think Super Girl has a pink cape. There’s a super hero that is completely pink and that’s Captain Flamingo! Ann animated television series, which chronicles the adventures of the protagonist and main character Milo Powell, a young ordinary Canadian boy (a.k.a. Captain Flamingo) until a kid is in trouble. Any time a kid yells “Uh-oh! Flamingo!”, Milo transforms into winged pink superhero, whose mission is to help little kids who need assistance. Captain Flamingo seldom successfully solves a problem on his first try; in fact, it is not uncommon for his initial attempts to make things worse. He has, in various episodes, gotten trapped in a bubble with a full bladder, gone underwater to battle an eel, and has gotten trapped in a deadly matrix of bouncing superballs… perhaps pink ones.

A very pink shop in Boston. 40% sale! Photo taken by our friend Megan.
A very pink shop in Boston. 40% sale!
Photo taken by our friend Megan.

He’s Turning Pink
The color change of a boiling lobster was explained on a molecular level in 2002. The pigment is called astaxanthin, and is hidden until the lobster is heated. Free astaxanthin appears red, pink or orange because it absorbs blue light. Researchers led by John Helliwell in Warrington, England, working with low-intensity X-rays found that when astaxanthin was held in the embrace of protein molecules in the shell of a live lobster, its color was masked, changing its light-absorption properties and giving the lobster its dark, mottled appearance. But heat makes the protein; called beta-crustacyanin, change shape, so that its subunits relax their bonds with the pigment, allowing the reddish color to appear. Astaxanthin is found in many marine animals, like shrimp and fish, and is also responsible for the pink color of flamingos that feed on crustaceans rich in the pigment. It’s a very active antioxidant. Astaxanthin is not soluble in water, and scientists plan to study the way it bonds to beta-crustacyanin in the hope that it may point to a way to deliver non-water-soluble drugs. Pink is helpful.