I tell my Mother I want to be Captain America for Halloween. She returns with a Batgirl Costume, the only superhero costume our grocery store had left. I explain to her that Captain America and Batgirl are two different characters and that I am a boy. She tells me again it’s all they had left and suggests I don’t wear the mask, people will think I’m Batman. I tell her Batman has a mask, and does not have the word “Batgirl” written on his chest. She colors over the word “Batgirl” and the masks’ bright orange hair with a black marker. No one will see the hair part of the mask in the dark. Humiliated but desperate, it does not occur to me until too late that porches have lights.
I dress as Snoopy being a World War One Flying Ace. In a lackluster nod toward appearing dog like, I black my nose with shoe polish. It doesn’t matter, as the costume is built around the authentic cloth flying helmet and goggles I purchased at the huge Army Navy store in Provincetown, a tourist community on Cape Cod best known for promiscuous homosexual activity. I have to explain to every adult who’s doorbell I ring that I’m Snoopy being a World War One Flying Ace. I say the words “Sopwith Camel” way too many times for a nine-year-old.
1971; HALLOWEEN PARTY; GIRL
I host a Halloween party a few days before Halloween. For reasons I can no longer recall, I dress as a girl. My look is convincing enough that several of my guests don’t immediately recognize me. David Perkins comes dressed as a hockey player. I razz him about his lack of effort, since he plays hockey and all he did was put on his equipment. “Shut up, girl.” He responds. I am suddenly struck by what a bad costume choice I have made and the fact that neither my older brother nor my parents advised me to choose something else.
1973; HALLOWEEN PARTY; GUY WITH BEARD
My discovery of crepe hair and spirit gum so impresses me I decide a totally realistic looking beard is a good enough Halloween costume. My party includes a bowling trip and a costume contest. I’m certain my costume is the best, but my mother decides that as the host, I’m not eligible to win. She gives the prize, a forty-five single of “The Entertainer” featured in the movie “The Sting” to Jeffrey Leighton, who dressed as a pirate. “Hey” says Jeffrey, waving his store bought, plastic hook hand, “remember your party a couple of years ago where you dressed as a girl?”
A college friend of my Mothers, a devout communist, is living with us during a particularly rough period of her divorce and the return of her soon to be ex-husband to Albania. Her two children, Raoul and Uri are staying with us. I recall returning from Trick-or-treating with them in the dark, bitterly cold New England night, shrieking that they had totally ruined Halloween. I have no recollection of what my costume was, what they wore or what they had done to ruin Halloween. I do recall hating them intensely.
1976; THE BIRD
I have decided this will be my last year trick or treating. I’m getting too old. I want to go out with a bang and put enormous effort into my costume, a Superhero of my own invention called “The Bird.” My mother makes me a bright red half mask; (The kind that leaves the hair visible) designed to my specifications and pictures of Kid Flash I provide her with. I wear a red turtleneck with a black leather vest a hippie cousin gave me for my birthday. I design an insignia, a red circle with a black eagle’s profile, and place it on the right side of my chest. I then proceed to ruin the so far successful look I’ve created by wearing a pair of my mothers evening gloves and her black leather boots, which have heels. None of this is helped by the fact that my hair, which I consider not only my best but only good feature, is thick, wavy, and reaches my shoulders. I have to explain to every adult who’s doorbell I ring that I’m “The Bird”, a Superhero of my own invention. I run into a group of trick or treaters dressed as Hockey players. After a short exchange of ideas, during which one of the older hockey players asks me if I’m supposed to be one of the Hookers frequently seen on “Baretta”, they beat me up.
1978 HALLOWEEN PARTY; DARTH VADER
While I can no longer Trick or Treat and have given up hosting parties, I can still attend other people’s parties. I make my own Darth Vader costume using black jeans, a black turtle neck, black army boots, a black wool army surplus blanket and black leather gloves, not my mother’s this time. I spray paint my skate boarding helmet black. I wear ski goggles and a hospital mask, which I spray paint black. I use black eye shadow makeup to fill in any visible patches of skin. The make up is my mothers and I will later catch hell for using it all up. A few minutes into the party I begin to hallucinate due to concentrated spray paint fumes and soon after black out. Though I recall nothing, I am informed that I verbally assaulted someone dressed as a hockey player, demanding he ‘put his money where his mouth was’ if he was going to question my sexuality, (something I am reliably informed he did not do) and that while the hockey player tried to reason with me, he was eventually forced to smash me in the head with his stick. An Emergency room doctor comments that I was lucky to be wearing a helmet. The mask leaves a black paint line around my mouth that remains visible for days despite scrubbing that leaves the area around my mouth red and raw. This facial color combination results in the nickname “Flintstone” which I will not shake until college.
1994; POPCORN BALLS
My wife and I attempt to make old-fashioned popcorn balls. The recipe calls for melting and super heating sugar to ‘The hardball stage’ It does not mention that owing to the physical properties of sugar, reaching the ‘hardball stage’ takes about five hours. After pouring popped popcorn into the superheated melted sugar during the ‘hardball stage’; you are instructed to form the resulting mixture into balls before it cools. The recipe makes no suggestions as to how one might handle and shape a sticky, glue like mixture hotter than a branding iron. I repeat the words ‘Hardball stage’ over and over during this process, first with childish glee, then to alleviate five hours of soul crushing boredom and finally to take our minds off the pain of numerous burns.
2003; THE MOUTHS OF BABES
Standing on our front porch, my three year old daughter Cordellia shrieks at a group of trick or treaters (one of who is dressed as a Hockey player) “HEY YOU FRIGGIN’ KIDS! COME AND GET SOME OF OUR FRIGGIN’ CANDY!” My heart swells with pride. Halloween is at last redeemed.