Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ghosts of Halloweens Past

I wore a flimsy rubber Igor mask and jumped up and down in a makeshift cage. I was probably nine.

On most nights my father was Frankenstein's monster. He would lay prone on a stretcher while a mad scientist tried to give him life, then restrain him. Dad would snap the restraints and groan and roar and lurch at the onlookers, who screamed and ran out of the room while my dad wrestled with the mad scientist. That's how I remember Halloween.

That was the first of many Kiwanis Club haunted houses we were a part of creating. My dad moved on to chainsaw duty while my my friends and I would eventually set our own scenes in a haunted woods.

If I go back further, Halloween was about the kick-ass costumes my mom would make my sister and me, trick-or-treating around Oxford, and the coveted silver dollar we won every year in the best costume contest at the town fire department. I was an exact replica of a Jawa from Star Wars, with lighted eyes behind a black cloth mask; the next year I was one of the Sand People with a perfectly-shaped paper mache head; then the ultimate cool costume, bounty hunter Boba Fett, with a modified motorcycle helmet and jet pack; and finally I ditched Star Wars for rock and roll and rocked Ace Frehley, guitarist for KISS, with silver cape, boots and spot on make up.

If I fast-forward through the Rolodex of Halloweens past, KISS resurfaces on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, N.C., during my college years at N.C. State, with a KISS-obsessed friend who channels Gene Simmons, carrying airplane bottles of Everclear grain alcohol and a lighter and blows flames in the air upon request. Chicks dig dudes who breathe fire.

KISS even made a come back last year as the artwork on the cake for a day-before-Halloween celebration forever known as Joelloween, where costumes included Nacho Libre, Billy Mays and Patrick Swayze and "Baby" from Dirty Dancing. There is ample reasons why my wife cites Halloween as on par with Christmas as being the holiday she most looks forward to, seasonally speaking.

As a (semi) grown up, Halloween also means marathon season and the scores of costumed runners in the Baltimore Marathon (and certainly Marine Corps, though I've never run it). Try being spent and staggering at mile 21 of 26.2 and having Batgirl speed past you on an uphill. I can see how she makes it as a superhero.

And trail running and haunted houses came together a few years ago when two of us ran the Tuckahoe State Park 10-mile loop, starting in the pitch black of 5am October, running by headlamp and coming across dead bodies and aliens, unaware that the Adkins Arboretum haunted hayride was still set up. That may get the silver dollar for oddest, most surreal Halloween memory.

While Chaucer and Eliot have immortalized April, for reasons October might covet, October is a month I champion. For its cool temperatures, for its fall colors, for its creativity, for its costumes and for the memories created and those still to come. For KISS and Star Wars and running and Joelloween and family and friends.


catherine said...

Coffee goes down better with a dash of Valliant stream of conscious...

Michael Valliant said...

Thanks, Kate! That's a supreme compliment coming from you :)