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[whitespace] Gustine Castle

Castle's in the Clouds

A brief foray into one woman's imagination

By Traci Hukill

GUSTINE CASTLE is on an orange kick that's lasted 23 years. On the occasion of our first meeting, I am driving past a typical driveway in a cement-gray neighborhood when a bolt of color catches my eye. It is Castle herself coming out to greet me, dressed for action entirely in orange (hair too) and sporting a tall floppy purple hat with orange spots on it. When she introduces her three brightly painted (primarily in fluorescent orange) cars, she talks for them in squeaky voices.

"I'm Kazoo the Can-Do Croaker," she rasps on behalf of a converted van made to resemble a giant orange frog. "I know I'm cute--warts and all!"

Castle is a woman who does things her own way. She buys old limousines and turns them into giant caterpillars, frogs and toucans with the help of expanding foam, duck feathers and fluorescent spray paint, then rents them out for kids' parties. Her impeccable apartment doubles as a tiny amusement park of the imagination: tiny wooden figurines en tableau decorate the purple, pink and green kitchen. A small stage featuring keyboard and recording system dominates the cramped but tidy living room. The place even has clouds and a sort of Jack's beanstalk--a piece of billowing parachute affixed to the ceiling and adorned with the wandering vine of an artificial cantaloupe plant endowed with great significance.

Actually, that would be "canaloupe" plant. Castle never, never says the word "can't," even when it's a syllable that rightfully belongs in a word. There's a simple explanation for this using Castle's own argot: She's a Type C Can-Do Personality doing the Canaloupe Can-Can to rid herself and others of Nasty Negative Neuron "T"s so she can bust out of Fat City Jail and earn her "C Degree."

Translation: Castle employs positive thinking techniques to quash negative thoughts and feel good about herself in spite of social dictates that all women be tall and skinny. As a result, she feels empowered to think creatively and do her own thing.

The whole madcap adventure began in 1976, when 24-year-old Castle was working on developing a positive attitude.

"I was painting my house," she explains, "and the color was called 'cantaloupe.' And I had this realization: I don't want to paint my house cantaloupe! I want to paint my house canaloupe!"

In time Castle created an entire philosophy (and vocabulary and life) based on the Can-Do philosophy. Along with husband Exeter and daughter Tahoe, she moved into a "canaloupe"-colored Victorian in San Martin, where she developed a musical seminar on cassette and in a booklet intended to help children develop positive self-images and learn how to do the Canaloupe Can-Can. (She has since moved out of the Dreamsicle-hued dwelling.) She decorated a trailer to look like a castle and made it the Canaloupe Clubhouse. She launched a TV program on Cupertino's public access station (full title: "Gustine Castle and All You Other Melon-Headed Can-Do Type C Personalities Out There"). And she started driving a caterpillar. Make that a "canapillar."

It was the vision of the many-legged, fluorescent orange-and-pink Calliope (a 1977 Checker limousine) driving down the road that prompted me to call Castle in the first place. Calliope has fringed mudflaps for eyelashes, a big smile on her grill and a pair of waving antennae. Licensed by the Public Utilities Commission to carry up to seven kids, she's the perfect vehicle for kids' parties--and adult parties too, as long as there's no alcohol involved. Almost every square inch of her interior is covered in synthetic orange fur. There are 25 stuffed monkeys inside, all named Linda. ("When I was little I named all my dolls Linda," confides Castle, whose given name is also Linda.) On birthday rides, the guest of honor sits in the lap of Big Linda the gorilla, being sure to wear the seatbelt that reaches around Big Linda's furry middle.

It's all quite pleasantly surreal, from the tropical-themed interior of Marimba the Lincoln Continental You-Can Toucan complete with pink duck feathers and rainbow beak to the orange accents of Canaloupe Canyon, also known as Gustine's living room. And when Castle's daughter, Tahoe, who belts out a few numbers on her mother's album with the gusto of a seasoned blues performer, wanders up dressed entirely in purple, I just can't be surprised. I try, but I just can't.

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From the October 14-20, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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