Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Quarter Century: All Hallow's Eve

I've always been partial to Autumn as a season: the mild temperatures, the gorgeous scenery, the flexible wardrobe. As a result of that preference, or perhaps as another contributing factor, the back-to-back awesomeness of Halloween and Thanksgiving is by far, in my opinion, the superior holiday season of the year.

Sure, Christmas is quaint, but its squeaky-clean "true meaning" hardly compares to the party potential of dressing up as witches, ghouls and other monsters in a Pagan ritual to scare away demons and ensure a bountiful harvest. Plus, people give you candy, lots of it.

I also come from a family that celebrates the quirky and the offbeat, so the macabre-light of All Hallow's Eve is the perfect excuse for us Woods to fly our freak flags (A full-size model skeleton is a permanent fixture in my childhood home. It wears a necklace of fruit, naturally).

But, as much as I love Halloween I have to admit that I have never been one to put an excessive effort into the design of my costume. Typically speaking I elect to craft some menagerie of common household items into a passable visage.

For example, I remember that for years I was the Grimm Reaper, which consisted of wearing a black cloak and holding a plastic scythe that we already had. By the end of a night of trick-or-treating I would shed the scythe, and then the cloak, leaving just a 10-year-old kid in jeans and a black t-shirt. "I'm a homicidal maniac" I would say, quoting Adam's Family Values. "They look like everybody else."

Speaking of Adam's Family, after I shaved my head in the 6th grade it dawned on me that with my trusty black cloak, I could pull off a decent Uncle Fester. My mom applied the makeup, I borrowed a fake severed hand from the annual decorations and voila!

My mom's ability of face painting is the most effort that I ever put into anything back then. My stunningly awesome Darth Maul costume (again, the black cloak and a foam light saber that I had made to have duels with my cousins) only required that I sit on a stool for about 30 minutes and give my mother a big hug afterwards.

In my Jr. High years I began to think a little differently about Halloween. I couldn't explain it at first, but looking back now I know that I was reaching the paradigm shift where a Halloween costume is not about accurately depicting a character, it's about looking hot. The scales finally fell from my eyes at my 8th grade Halloween Dance, when it became very apparent that, although awesome and time consuming to create, my head-to-toe Duct Tape Man costume gave off a distinct, and strong, odor of adhesive that girls found difficult to dance next to.

As a result of this, I went as Neo from The Matrix for the next two years. Which required only a black trench coat, a skin-tight black t-shirt that showed off my abs (I was in the best shape of my life back then, as sad as that is to say) and a pair of sunglasses.

For the remainder of high school, Halloween was all but monopolized by the school dance, which was girl's choice...moving on.

In college I stuck to my tried and true method of choosing a costume. That is to say, waiting until the last minute and then throwing together some shabby nonsense. My first year, I bought a plastic cape from Dollar Tree and decided that was enough to make me a vampire. The next year, I just asked my mom what costumes she had that would fit me, which resulted in me strutting my stuff in some very tight bell-bottoms and a denim shirt with rainbows on the collarbones.

Heck, I'll say it. I looked hot. Mission accomplished.

But then, finally, I cracked the code. Of all my costumes, through all the years, I have never been more proud of myself than my Junior year of college when I filled the role of the King of Clubs in a four man team. The idea was my friend Trevor's and it was brilliant on two fronts. First, the basic concept was clever and not overdone. Second, it fulfilled the cheerleader effect, which states that an individual always looks cooler when they are part of a group.

That was the apex of my costuming. The next year I reverted to my old M.O., raiding my closet for a makeshift rendition of Professor Plumb. Sure, it was a group costume, but my heart wasn't in it.
That was a great year on the non-costume front, however. Since my friends all studied respectable subjects in college like science, or engineering, we got access to a building on campus after-hours, trucked up a bunch of lovesacs and couches and watched a Horror movie on a projector screen.

That was also the first year I attended a live screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. A night of good memories in its own right, further helped by my friend Cody showing up in both drag and full beard. Off-putting yes, but awesome.

The last two years have been difficult. As a newly graduated intern/entry-level employee, work has come before play, impeding my ability to ensure a bountiful harvest by ridding my village of malicious beings from the dark realm. Not that my All Hallow's in NYC last year was a total bust. I was able to attend the annual parade in the Village (wish I had pictures, frowny face) and I watched two girls get into a full-fisted knock down drag out at a White Castle I stepped into after a screening of PA3.

But if there's one thing Halloween is about, it's about hope and bringing loved ones together. Even while I sit at my desk at work tomorrow night, my heart will be out there on the streets with the hooligans, street youths and other miscreants pulling off their shenanigans. I know that soon, if not next year, I'll be enjoying the faint scent of artificial blood and prosthetic, the stomach ache brought on by a pillowcase full of candy and the inhibition-less chaos of our modern world.
Merry Halloween everyone.

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