It was a free costume.
It had come in through my work, in the mail and having been sent back down with the books and other minutiae, I had, with baited breath, asked my boss if I could take it home.
Previous Halloweens had been spent somewhere in a cesspool between despair and guilt at my lack of ability and/or interest in costuming. Like crossing the street against a light, not wearing a costume on Halloween was a childhood tradtion I could grow out of, except that when I transgressed, I would always feel the pang of guilt or remorse echoing back from childhood as if to let me know that I had just made it more distant.
Half-assed attempts had been made.
Last year, I had gone as Seth Rogen, a transformation that was both easy and awkward to affect as I just looked like myself, putting on a slight swagger and a throaty voice that might cause the people who would ordinarily (read: drunkenly) mistake me for him, to mistake me even more.
Still, people seemed to always have some expectation that I should be in costume as I walked down the street and could see through my half-assery, especially when they had something intense like an axe through their head.
More than that, it was also a tradition of making one’s self vulnerable by putting on a Halloween costume: it was making a decision about your appearance that you could be judged upon, something I had tried to strenuously reject for most of my life, but in so rejecting, had made such a decision anyway.
It was also like a club, I could recount, recalling parties where Charlie Chaplin had stolen looks from Annie Hall, while I stood in the corner trying to figure out how guilty I should be about taking Jello shots while still maintaining some vestiges of masculinity.
Eventually, a guy or a lady would come up to me and ask me what I was, as I would look bitterly upon costumed couples and I would give them the turgid reply I had put on in years past:
“What? I’m Nick Feitel.”
And then, a pause:
“Isn’t that scary enough for you?”
They would walk away disappointed.
But no more.
I was Waldo this year.
In case you haven’t found me yet.
Really though, I was outdone.
My friend Zach Weintraub, who I had been busy browbeating about submitting to festivals, had come as a unique/missable movie reference that I couldn’t get but all my friends somehow did: as Drew Barrymore from the opening sequence of Scream.
When we met up to go see a pre-Halloween House of the Devil, somehow Chadd was able to get the reference with only a couple hits while I was perpetually perplexed. When it was finally explained to me that it was a reference to Scream, I felt like I had to give a response that would raise my film school hackles against the otherwise intimation of indifference and ignorance, firing back:
“Well, didn’t Wes Craven direct Music of the Heart?”
(In fact, I had only found this out upon vainly looking at my own iMDB page to see Jay O. Sanders movie history when describing who he was to someone at work. On set he was talking a little about working with Oliver Stone. I wish now I could have asked him what working with Wes Craven on a melodrama/romance was like.)
The next quotable quote I gave during the movie was pointed at Ro-Recently-Recovering-His-Beardo, a Zach/Drew accompanier.
Rob, who has recently proven that I’m a douchebag for not making movies by casting my very own banana-phile girlfriend Eva in his new movie Puppy Whistle, had mentioned his idea for “mumble-gore” as a genre he had to invent, somewhere between talking about different clone/reanimation Jean Claude Van Damme movies, namely Replicant and The Ultimate Soldier.
“Sorry, Rob.” I told him, as Greta Gerwig, of mumbling fame, showed up in House of the Devil playing the virginal protagonist’s girl-friend.
The movie was good, a faithful 80s horror pastiche that essentially functioned as a rehash of Rosemary’s Baby, with some nice twists, including an appropriately weird Tom Noonan.
A urinal discussion on Gerwig’s part in the film proved interesting, as neither one of us had ever seen her working in anything but the self-referential style and genre of “mumblecore”, in which actors improvise and often play shades of themselves.
“Well, I thought that she was still acting in a mumblecore movie.” I told Rob over streams. “A different movie than everyone else.”
“I thought she was great. She was a good 80s ‘best-friend’.” Rob fired back. “I just think a mumblecore actress and an 80s best friend have some overlap in common.”
“Couldn’t agree more.” I replied as we petered out.
I can’t remember if I washed my hands.
The end of the pre-Halloween night found us almost all in costume on my friend Nina Roussarie’s roof surrounded by Georgians of the non Stalin-ite variety.
At this point I had received a few “I found you” and “Got it” and facetious “Where are you”s as I wandered from movie to rooftop, but again my costume was dwarfed by the hatchet-job Rob had done with his costume.
Converting a “governator” mask, Rob had constructed with loincloths, plastic swords, some gaffer’s tape and his own abundance of chest hair, a Conan the Barbarian costume, which he complimented with line readings from the film.
While I admit to not liking pictures on this blog, a place of writing, I wish I had this one.
Or I suppose you just had to be there.
The real trick of it was that he was shirtless on the Upper East Side rooftop as he danced around Eva and Zach, who seemed daunted as well by Rob’s sheer commitment to the bit.
There were a plethora of costumes and alcohol that night and I wasn’t sure if I would actually stand out, but at least for one night, no one would think I was Seth Rogen.
“Look!” Eva pointed at a girl dressed as a blond Velma from Scooby-Doo. “It’s someone dressed up as ME.”
“Jinkies.” I said as we made out between Heineken Light cans on the rooftop, which my friends thought were disgusting, but I found alright.