Saturday, October 31, 2009
Once upon a time, I was a pirate, a cowboy, a knight in shining armor, a werewolf, Spiderman, and even a Gary Carter baseball card. And I didn’t just dress up for Halloween. I really dug costumes. At home, I reenacted the Star Wars Cantina scene playing John William’s album full blast. I liked to pretend I was Walrus Man, never Greedo. Greedo got blown away by Solo. I wasn’t a dummy.
I wore a costume to my first Broadway show, Dracula, starring Raúl Juliá. I was five and I donned a cap to the performance. My parents took me to Sardi’s for a snack before the show. When I made my grand entrance into Sardi’s, plastic-fanged, slick-haired, and cape-clad the captain announced, “The count has arrived.”
The whole restaurant set its eyes on me. I grabbed part of my cape to hide my mouth not because I was scared, but because I was a real ham. Know anybody else with the theater bug so early on in life? I really should have been an actor.
Naturally, whenever Halloween arrived I was excited about playing a new part. I wore two different costumes, one for the daytime and one for nighttime. After school, I went trick-or-treating in The Forest Hills Gardens, my neighborhood. Some of the houses had the spirit, cobwebs strewn through the hedges, a plethora of skeletons dancing in the window, fresh-cut jack-o-lanterns. There was none of this storefront candy-begging although the first threat of tampering was making news.
We tended to go to the same houses each year and at night I went in my building. That’s when I put on a second skin. Mom didn’t always have to make two. Sometimes I appropriated a store-bought-job, other times I recycled from previous years. My costumes took up a good deal of space in my toy chest.
Spiderman was my favorite. I really enjoyed slipping into his character though I regretted not having true web-slinging abilities. What especially resonated with me and sometimes weirded me out was the fact that Peter Parker, Spidey’s Alter Ego, grew up in Forest Hills, my neighborhood. He was a science whiz, had tendencies toward being a loner, and is probably the most sensitive Super Hero. When I skimmed through the comic and studied Stan Lee’s sketches I wanted to tread the same ground.
Even though he was hands down may favorite I didn’t wear his getup every year. I reserved it more for private time. I don’t think I liked the way I saw some people gaping at me when I wore his outfit, especially on those cold Halloweens when my mom made me wear a jacket. It didn’t seem right to cover up Spidey’s second skin. And I didn’t like wearing his outfit in the building because my neighbor’s saw me with my dad and naturally this would betray the Spiderman identity.
So you can see my little conundrum.
I guess maybe I took my play life too seriously, but the strange coincidence of my favorite Super Hero living in my neighborhood brought me my first superstition. And it happened during a critical imprinting phase, my youth. To compensate, to quell this little bugger I ate lots Snickers, Mr. Goodbar, Milk Duds, Goobers, whatever was in my goody bag. I wore different skins, twice each Halloween, and other days until I got it out of my system.