Saturday, October 31, 2009

Second Skin

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.


  1. It's nice how you share with us your experince when you were child; thank you for helping me to remember mine.

  2. Noah wore his Spidey suit for two years as well as many of the days in between. His is a reversible black on the inside, traditional red/blue on the outside, with a matching reversible face mask to boot. It got so tight on him that I had to force him out of it, once and for all. If you go on youtube, you can type in "Spiderman vs Indian" to see both of my boys in their full glory. Prior to Spidey, he was a very realistic cheetah, also for two years. This year he was a scary old man...