One Mean Halloween

One Mean Halloween

Halloween is the best of all the holidays. Think about it. Christmas is all about being nice to people for a week so you can fuck them over for the rest of the year. Thanksgiving is overeating bland food with a bunch of people who make you feel uncomfortable. Easter is some silly holiday about rabbits where everything but delis and Chinese Restaurants shut down. New Year’s is about drunk driving, Memorial Day and Labor Day are about heavy traffic and overpopulation of anywhere fun, and Valentine’s Day is a reminder to the unloving that it’s time to pretend for a day. 4th of July is OK as long as you have fireworks, but Halloween is the king of all holidays. It has everything: free candy, scary costumes, cruel pranks, celebration of eternal evil. With the exception of Christmas, Halloween is the most widely celebrated holiday in America, and for good reason – it’s a fucking blast.

When I was a kid, I was so into Halloween that if my parents had been in a better financial situation, I probably would have been enrolled in years of therapy. I used to have nightmares that I missed Halloween, overslept or forgot or had a soccer game or some other nonsense. The dreams would start in September and plague me until about mid-November. I’d wake up and run over to the calendar and make sure the Xed out days weren’t up to the 31st yet. The time in-between Halloweens was time to plan my costume, which was always the topic of any conversation in the month of October. Halloween even overshadowed my October birthday, which I cursed for not being on Halloween itself.

I loved the rituals of Halloween too. Choosing a Christmas tree couldn’t budge me from TV in a million years, but choosing a pumpkin was something I savored. I started bothering my parents to pick one up mid-August, undaunted by the fact that rot would visit my jack-o-lantern long before Halloween would. “So what?” I reasoned, “We’ll get another pumpkin closer to Halloween.” My parents humored me for a couple years, fending the queries of curiously concerned neighbors unable to understand why exactly there were lit and carved pumpkins in the windows of our house even before the end of summer. After realizing that it wasn’t just a cute phase I was going through and that I was indeed fucked in the head, my parents convinced me to keep all Halloween activities constricted to month of October, although I was allowed to keep a brass jointed skeleton in my room all year round. The power of compromise.

While not quite the insane Halloween fan I used to be, I still dress up every year. Last year I duct taped grapefruit skins to my elbows and knees, turned my orange Cleveland Browns shirt inside out, put a duct tape “C” on my chest and went out as Vitamin C. The year before last I put on a blue hooded sweatshirt, penciled in a mustache, got some mirrored cop sunglasses, resealed a package from my Grandma, and went out as the Unibomber. Other costumes have included Jerry Garcia’s bloated corpse, Lee Harvey Oswald, a bondage accident victim, a striped sheet with two crooked eyeholes cut out, and my most elaborate costume ever, a tactical air strike.

One Halloween stands out pretty well in my memory. It was the time of all those murders down in Florida, so I dressed up as a dead German tourist. I got some plaid shorts and pulled them up to my neck. I got some dark socks and some sandals, a beige button down shirt, dead person makeup, a camera, a fanny pack, some maps of Orlando, and a jar of sauerkraut. At the time I was living near a college town, so a million parties were going on, costumed freaks spilling out into the street from every 3rd or 4th house on the block. My costume was such a hit, I got invited into every party I passed, and didn’t reach the party I was supposed to meet my roommates at until 2am. By the time I got there, they had already gone home. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem, but seeing how the house I was living in at the time was 23 miles away, they were my ride back there, and I only had a dollar in my pocket, it became a problem.

Now usually, I could swindle my way into either hooking up with some girl to get a bed to crash on, or, the inferior alternative, find some punks with open floorspace they didn’t mind sharing. Finding a girl to sleep with proved pretty difficult considering the late hour, and the fact that I was dressed as dead Eurotrash and had been eating sauerkraut out of the jar with my hand the entire night. Add in the 14 or 15 gin and tonics which had reduced my verbal skills to something under Chimpanzee level, and I was hard pressed to even find anyone to even let me pass out on their front porch. I had friends in the town somewhere, but phone numbers escaped me, the streets all looked the same. So I did what any respectable drunk would do, I walked home. 23 miles. Down the highway. At 3 in the morning. In the rain. Brilliant.

The first 5 or so miles were fine. Actually, they were better than fine, they were exhilarating. I felt pretty proud of myself. Mark Driver. Unstoppable. Put a wall in my way, I’ll climb it. Sic a dog on me, I’ll kill it and eat it. Drop me off miles from my house, and like some mottled old carrier pigeon, I’ll find my way back. Freezing rain, puddles, tractor trailers rocketing inches away from my body drenching me in wind driven mist. Fuck you world, I win. I win and I’m going home.

About 10 miles into the walk my song changed. My feet started going numb, as did my legs and hands. This was Indiana, in October, we’re talking 40 degrees, darkness, wind, drizzle, and misery. I was still in plaid shorts and short sleeves. I dumped the maps about 3 parties into the night. I lost my camera. I smashed the jar of sauerkraut on the pavement outside of the house where I finished eating it. I had sandals on, I looked down at my feet, they were turning purple. Worst of all, I was beginning to sober up, and a hangover was beginning to kick in. My victory march was fast becoming a death march. There weren’t even any passing cars to thumb a ride from, not that any sane person would’ve picked me up.

I knew that if I walked far enough, I’d hit the gas station that marked the halfway point between our farmhouse and the town. Coffee, warmth, a phone to call and see if anyone was still up. I finally saw the sign on the horizon. I still had to walk about a half hour to get there, but with a goal in sight, my spirits picked up. The sun was starting to rise in the east. A few birds too stupid to leave for the winter yet starting chirping. I must’ve been a pretty startling sight, smudged corpse paint on my face, wrapped in wrinkled and torn clothing, shambling down the shoulder of a desolate highway. A creature from deep in the woods, called out to celebrate the spirit of evil, caught far from his crypt by the rising dawn, slowly disintegrating in the daylight. Or maybe just a irresponsible jackass paying the price for flaking out on his friends.

Of course no one answered when I called from the gas station. I left a few rambling messages, “Cold, walking up Highway 37. I’ll probably be walking for a few more hours. If someone gets this, come look for me. I might already be dead.” I asked a few people stopping for gas if they could give me a ride, but no one really felt like talking to me. I got a medium cup of burnt coffee with my dollar and started walking again. It was about 6:30am. I didn’t get back to my farm until 9 or 10 in the morning. I don’t even really remember the second half of the walk. My feet were bleeding, my knees were swollen, my arms were numb, my brain was absolutely ruined. I collapsed on the couch and didn’t even try to fight off the fierce tongues of my two German shepherds who seemed to be obsessed with the taste of my face makeup. Maybe it was beef based. I rolled onto my stomach and fell asleep with my face in the cushions. My dogs strategically located the most painful parts of my feet and took turns trying to sleep on them.

But I’m still here. Like most struggles in life, either they kill you or they don’t. They either horribly maim you for life, or they don’t. Either you learn something from them or you don’t. For me, it was yet another chapter in my long boring book of self reliance, my stubborn inability to admit defeat, to somehow push myself too far, pay for it, and still make it to dinner. Comfort is nice, but it makes you weak if you spend all your time seeking it. Not that I suggest walking 23 miles in sandals, but I do suggest you get dressed up and go have some fucking fun for Halloween. This year I’m debating between dressing up as El Nino (I’ll hype my badass costume and then not show up) and a baby deer with lyme disease (I just gotta find some Mr. Yuck stickers). This cynical piece of shit will be going out and breaking shit on Halloween, and so should you, dammit; the TV will still be there when you get back.