Halloween 2014 has come and gone. This year not a single piece of candy is leftover. How did that happen? It wasn’t the kids in my building — it was the adults. I leave quality holiday candy in a basket hanging from my doorknob starting a few days before Halloween and, usually it’s still there for a few days after. There’s been some turnover in my neighbors and the days of finding “gifts” of other candies in the basket have been replaced by adults grabbing more than one mini Snickers bar or a couple of caramels. It’s an interesting development and another piece of evidence that Halloween is not kid-centric anymore. The grown ups were indulging in candy binges — just like kids!
The Annual Greenwich Village Halloween Parade was enormous! When I braved the crowds and craziness a little before 10pm, the parade was still making slow progress up Sixth Avenue with giant puppet floats, wild costumes and crowds behind miles of metal barriers. My own progress from East 12th Street to West 14th (for a Tango party) was very slow. It wasn’t just the sidewalks crowded with costumed celebrants that slowed my usual pace; it was the detours through police barricades and ‘holding pens’ with wait times before crossing the parade route. The cops were great! The NYPD uniformed officers displayed both patience and calm — no easy trick when you’re surrounded by most of the crowd seemed to be dressed as expressions of their Id — as opposed to their Ego.
My Medusa was more conceptual than obviously grotesque, with only three rubber snakes and many strands of curly ribbon forming a “nest of vipers” in my hair. (The Cat Woman at the Tango party said I looked like a present wrapped with ribbons. Oh, well…) The party also featured a Ninja Clown with an orange nose, Charlie Chaplain, Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera, and three men who managed to become credible women! One, in gold glitter with a baby bump, looked like a pregnant Kardashian sister.
It wasn’t until I made my way home, a few hours later, that the scary aspects of Halloween spooked me. I’m comfortable walking alone in the city. Staying alert and noticing what other people are doing is an urban safety instinct, but Halloween challenges my usual ability to judge danger. Masks “mask” motivations and obscure visual cues. Since Halloween on a Friday night is one big party, most of the people on the street at 1am were walking in pairs or groups — and not alone, like me. Groups wearing demon masks take on the appearance of a “pack” on the prowl and make it difficult to determine if I’m “prey” or simply passing by like a ghost.
I pondered the importance of seeing the faces of strangers and how five happy, young, men walking from one place to another (perhaps from a bar to the subway station or from a friend’s apartment to a college dorm) could easily take on the aura of wild creatures hunting a weaker animal. The large person in a teddy bear suit did NOT look hug-able to me. And the couple, in scary costume,s having a drunken quarrel on a street corner, looked threatening in a way that they wouldn’t normally.
Disguises obscure reality in unpredictable ways and inspire flights of frightening fantasy — Halloween in a nutshell.