On Saturday, Portland, I was reminded of how much I dislike this time of year. That day, I received a Facebook invitation from fellow music journalist Cary Clarke to see his prog rock band, At Dusk, play a show. The message looked like this:
Rererato Halloween Party
"At Dusk + Please Step Out of the Vehicle + Bodhi + Dr. Something & The Poppin' Fresh Love Engines"
Wednesday, October 31 at 7:00pm
[Picture is copyrighted material used by permission from American Apparel.
I was all set to attend the At Dusk show until I read the last line of the invitation: “Wednesday, October 31.” Portland, you will probably call me a killjoy for writing this, but Oct. 31 is the one day of the year when I don't socialize. That night, I'd rather sit at home than see live music, drink alcohol or hang out with my friends.
The truth is, Portland, I don't do Halloween.
This statement must seem like an anathema to you, because Halloween is a big deal in this city. There are haunted houses—ones where people have to pay to be scared. There are Halloween-themed concerts, like the At Dusk show. There was even a group of twentysomethings decked out in costumes walking around downtown on Friday night, five days before Halloween. There was almost no one at Putter's, a neighborhood bar on SE Woodstock Blvd., where I was drinking on Saturday night. The bartender informed me that such slow business is typical the weekend before Halloween, when Portlanders are at parties. When the bar did start to fill up around at half past midnight, most of patrons were in costume.
Maybe it was all that drinking at Putter's, but I thought I'd give Halloween another chance this year. At first I thought I'd go simple, maybe just paint some fake blood on myself, draw dark circles around my eyes and tell people I was a zombie. Honestly, Portland, I've never been creative with Halloween costumes: The last time I dressed up was six years ago, when I wore a white sheet and told people I was a ghost.
So I tried to get inventive by taking the zombie thing one step further. The best idea I could come up with was to wear my tightest black pants, an old ripped white t-shirt with my favorite Clash pin tacked over my heart, and a pair of long-ago retired blue Chuck Taylors. I'd throw on 20 bracelets and slap on too much eyeliner; then I'd paint myself with fake blood and bruises. The finishing touch: A sign hanging around my neck that read “1977.” When people asked what I was dressed as, I'd say, “I'm the death of punk rock.”
A terrible idea, Portland, I know, which is why I'll shy away from Halloween again this year. But I don't like Oct. 31 for two other reasons: First, it's the anniversary of the day I got braces at age 13, rendering me unable to eat candy for virtually all of the eighth grade; and second, I am admittedly offended that nearly every Halloween costume for women has replaced the element of horror with “whore.”
But frankly, Portland, my distaste for Halloween is tied to my distaste for dressing up. I realized when I was inventing my “Punk is Dead” attire that I had basically re-created the same outfit I wore for several years, back when I fancied myself punk rock. Everyday in high school I dressed myself to the nines: The most ridiculous fashion statement I made was wearing very tight pants with no belt loops but insisting on hanging two studded belts around my hips anyway.
I'm tired of costumes all together, whether it's getting dressed in the morning or once a year for Halloween. I gave my last pair of plaid pants to Goodwill some four years ago, right around the same time I decided to stop dying my hair jet black and putting band patches on the messenger bag I'd purchased from an army surplus store. But I get the feeling, Portland, that you don't feel the same way. Everyday you are dressed up with no holiday in sight. I see hipsters in unconscionably tight pants and ripped up Chuck Taylors that can't possibly keep out the rain. I pass by crust punks panhandling in camouflage pants and studded belts, their Napalm Death t-shirts strategically ripped and smelly. I've even spotted hippies with perfectly-sized and -maintained dreadlocks, so neat and clean that they must have been styled by a trained professional, not grown for several years as a symbol of protest.
I'm sure, Portland, that some of you wear faded Dead Moons t-shirts because you really love the band, and I'd like to think that I maintained my punk rock costume for so many years because I felt more comfortable dressing that way or because I was making some statement by wearing my musical tastes like a suit of armor. But sometimes I know I got all decked out just to be accepted within a sub-culture, even when I was tired of the uniform.
And I suspect, Portland, that someday you will tire of dressing up, too. So here's my crazy idea for Halloween: Go as yourself. Don't worry if you've slicked the perfect Bumble and bumble wax in your fashion mullet. Try wearing some underwear with those used and ripped Dolce & Gabbana jeans. You might just like how it feels.
Picture taken from the American Apparel Costume Builder. I think it's supposed to be Shaggy from the Scooby-Doo cartoons.
American Apparel costume builder
At Dusk at MySpace