I waited outside the Castro Theater for her to show up. She was supposed to be dressed as a pumpkin but the street was packed with pumpkins, tomatoes, Dr. Seuss characters, and thousands of other humanoid monstrosities. Three surgeons operated on a patient lying on a gurney, head and feet alive and a pool of guts and bones and blood forming a kind of soup in the middle which the doctors toyed with, cut apart and stirred around as the waking patient tried his best to observe. Yum.
I was to meet Anne at 11 p.m. for a mushy Halloween evening and I looked forward to holding her hand as we toured the insanity compressed into the streets for blocks around and getting big gross sexy tongue kisses whenever I thought of sex, which was every ten seconds, since there were thousands of women there wearing incredibly revealing, gorgeous, detailed outfits and I was still preoccupied with the novelty of having a steady girlfriend.
I'd pushed through the crowd to get there a few minutes before eleven.
This was last Halloween. It'd be easy to say that now 1994 has brought yet another pagan holiday one more step along the path into eerie meaninglessness, and yet I really can't say if our modern versions of ancient holidays aren't somehow as meaningful and appropriate for our times as the original holidays were when they began. Mexicans celebrate the "Day Of The Dead" by cleaning the house and leaving out gifts in preparation for a visit by their deceased relatives, while American kids dress up as axe murderers and zombies and collect sweet treats from dangerous neighbor folk in dim, poorly maintained houses with strange fleets of cars and motorcycles parked out front. Both traditions encourage the ritualistic examination of our relationships with death, but our modern customs additionally allow us to celebrate the thin veneer of superficial identity that stretches over the great emptiness of our lives.
I stood on the street, waiting for this woman I'd been dating and sadly recognizing that I should have dressed as Indiana Jones or James Dean or a Viking Stripper or anything that could in some blind-drunk way be considered sexy. All Halloween costumes, I suddenly realized, inevitably reflect the wearer's true social position. The friendly, cooperative surgical team attracted a large crowd, while several priests sat alone on the curb. I was dressed as the Grinch who stole Christmas, my face painted a friendly green, hands clutching my black sack of pilfered goodies and my teddy-bear dog Max, complete with wooden antler cruelly lashed to his head. People would offer me good wishes as "Santa!" I'd respond that I was the Grinch who stole toys from all the little Whos down in Whoville, and they'd sigh, frown and continue on their way.
By this time I'd eaten lots of candy and it was late and I was getting tired and whiny, searching in front of the theater for my current girlfriend, my current squeeze, my current focus for debate as to whether my standards are too low or too high. I mean, she's a plenty nice person, but this relationship wasn't exactly a fireworks factory for either of us. And punks don't burn forever.
I watched the crowd and waited and jumped on and off the curb and suddenly I was standing in front of Lisa, who I'd been obsessed with five years before. Lisa was dressed, as her leather jacket proclaimed, as a "Cycle Slut From Hell". I've always loved the stockings with visible garters from under the black shorts.
After a friendly hug she said she'd help me and pointed out a passing pumpkin. Wrong one.
Then it all hit me. This was one of those moments, the kind from which whole films are made, in which my eyes and ears were showing me not only what lay before me in the street, but also where I was in life. Thousands of costumed freaks paraded together and tripped over each other and wandered lost and smiling with immense crowds of their own kind. And from this crowd, I searched for a barely recognizeable pumpkin out of tens of thousands. A pumpkin I could call my own.
People who dress as pumpkins baffle me. I was shaking in a hormone frenzy from the lingerie and the makeup and the naked skin, amazed by how beautiful and mysterious and hilarious some of the outfits were. But pumpkins...people get married to people who dress like pumpkins. People want to get married to people who dress like Cycle Sluts from Hell. And every guy has a friend (or brother, cousin, sombody) who winds up with one of the luscious women in the white dress and white makeup and white veil and who knows what she's supposed to be but everyone there wants her desperately and your fucking cousin or brother or whoever it is that we'll refer to herein as "your own personal Satan" gets her. Same thing with the women who wear the brown-leotard-whiskers-nose-tail uniform that seems to scream out "I am the female incarnation of lust and popularity and you can't have me." Are they supposed to be mice? Cats? A vaguely humanoid amalgamation of the entire food chain?
So I watched the crowd and fantasized and got cynical. Come on, pumpkin. I'm waitin' for my pumpkin. Can hardly wait to find my pumpkin. Has anyone seen my pumpkin? I'm waiting out in the street late at night when I could be at home having sex with my pumpkin. Hope my pumpkin shows up. Are you my pumpkin? I'd hate to go home with the wrong pumpkin.
More costumes going by. What is it with Renaissance Faire outfits? Don't these Ren Faire Geeks own more than one fucking costume? Don't they know we saw them in it last year? They look good, but - too unimaginative. Kinda like the women who wear a teddy and a cape to every Halloween party. Not really creative, but it does work aesthetically. These women usually get their auto work done free. The kind of woman your friend or brother or cousin slept with once.
The annoying thing about those "Personal Satan" types is that they're usually so friendly. They've found success in life from being positive and supportive and caring, and they assure me that "You can have this happiness too. Just grab hold of life - reach out and take it!" They give a big supportive smile.
I know this is thoughtful, hopeful, helpful advice, and so I can't explain why it makes me want to get a tattoo that says "Carpe Diem? Fuck You!!"
We met up eventually (she hadn't left home) and we did the big embarassing-theatrical-breakup-at-a-party thing the next night. Big surprise, it had seemed so rock-solid.
Every year, same thing. Goofy costumes, big crowds of people I don't know, scary distorted faces pressed together to make fun of death and cope with its inevitability by desperately clinging to any mass of strangers that slow down long enough to continue drinking. Romance, Halloween, sex, love...every year it means something different, and every year I wonder if I'm doing it right, if I've found the right crowd. And just once, I want to wear a costume I don't have to explain.
1996 Martin Azevedo
ej@templeofdominoes dot com
Photo by Pat Mazzera