Top 5 Halloween costumes over the years (in no particular order):
5. Halloweening in Rome in the Via dei Serpenti, I take an appliance box of some kind, cut and trim it to a tapered point, festoon it with bodacious hieroglyphs, put it on my head, wrap myself in a bedsheet toga, and go as an obelisk. The Italians are confounded and good-natured about the whole thing, but it is not, perhaps, a high point of cultural exchange. We do not entirely grok. The temerarious among them ask if Asterix is coming too. I love them for that.
5. Berlin Mitte in, um, 1992. The Germans are lustily enthusiastic, but they just don’t get it. (This can be said about nearly everything concerning Germans, and it’s often endearing.) Their kultur-compass fixes Halloween somewhere between Walpurgisnacht (April 30th), which is the kind of dark party we just don’t have around here, and a volleyball game. I’m living out of a backpack and don’t have much in the way of extra clothes, so Beate and I bike down to the used place where they sell bulk-dyed stuff by the kilo. We kit me out for a couple of marks in a red shirt, red bib-overall shorts, red cap, red socks, ratty red sneakers. A red kerchief. Paint my face white and sketch in a hammer-and-sickle around my left eye, and I am – wait for it – the Last Ghost of Communism! . . . No, they didn’t think it was very funny down at the Kulturfabrik Halloween Party either.
5. Berlin Mitte in, um, 1993. I’m still living out of the same backpack, so back we bike to the Zweite Hand store for a kilo or two of pale green clothes and presentable blacks this time. I’ve done a Sam Shepard play at the Freunde der Italienischen Oper (long story) English-language theatre in the intervening year, so I have busted-in boots. Add a cowboy hat, sheriff’s star, vest with strategic matching holes in front and back through which we pull red kerchiefs, symbolizing blood. Dig out last year’s facepaint and go ghoulish white again, carry hand-pump air rifle. This time? Second-Fastest Gun in the West! They love me down at the Kulturfabrik. Sorta.
5. Somewhere in New York, somewhere in the 80′s. I’m in love with a blonde bartender who is teaching me the fine points of lime slices and Corona bottles. The things a guy will do for blonde bartenders. She’s working Halloween night, so I decide to do it up. My hair is fairly long at this point; I bleach it blonde. Jeans, rock-stud belt. I borrow a Guns N Roses T-shirt from my friend Monica and pin a graduation mortarboard tassel-hat to my new frizzy mane. I am – oh, wait for it – Axl Rhodes Scholar! Yay! . . . She doesn’t get it. At all.
5. Late high school or so, New York City. Skyscrapers, and evethang. A couple of friends and I are invited to Frann’s Halloween party in Morningside Heights. Frann is at Columbia, and this is all very exciting because we don’t generally get invited to college parties (we will demonstrate over the course of the evening that there is a very good reason for this). We are – how to put it? – inattentive giddy high school kids, more likely to burst into Tom Lehrer songs and lengthy recitations of Robert Klein routines than to, say, settle in for a beer or two. They hadn’t invented ADHD back then, it was just called “exuberance.”
So we forget all about costuming, and at the last minute we decide to tie our ankles together and go as a Charm Bracelet (my idea, yes). We do this before we leave the house to walk the mile up Broadway. About three blocks along we all fall down crossing 101st Street (“Left! Right! No, wait, my left! Whoops!”), and it’s kind of fun, so we do it again every few blocks. We arrive at Frann’s in high color, breathless and fizzy. She buzzes us in, we come to the door. She opens the door, someone pushes someone else, and we topple in, a big giggly flailing heap of tangled balance. Did I mention that I had what would have been a roaring crush on Frann, if I hadn’t been so fizzy and likely to burst into Tom Lehrer songs? That should be no surprise.
But this is really about Frann’s costume. When we extricate, we find her and her roommate in matching gray outfits: gray shoes, gray socks, gray shirts, gray jeans. Gray nail polish, gray makeup, gray scarves in their hair. They are Shadows of Their Former Selves.
4. Honorable Mention goes to the short red crushed velvet dress I wore Junior Year in high school, give or take. It wasn’t much of a costume, but my first-ever real girlfriend, Janine, was my fashion consultant for the thing, and we had so much fun trying it on in the dressing room at Trash and Vaudeville that we actually got thrown out of the store. In the 70′s. What would Lydia Lunch have said?
Coming soon: Halloween 2003.