After having a wonderful gig in Woodstock last weekend, I am now looking forward to Halloween, one of my favorite holidays and another gig that morning Below is my latest memoir piece that I read at the Pine Hollow Open Mike a couple of weeks ago.
I have always loved Halloween. Growing up, it was one of my favorite holidays. Even my parents joined in the fun, helping design and make handmade costumes, coming up with great costumes for themselves as well. Dad had been in theater in college and had some stage makeup he liked to use. Mom read all the women’s magazines with the great costume ideas. I once was myself on television. We took a cardboard box and turned it into a TV with a curtain all around the bottom covering my legs and leaving my face showing on the screen. I loved coming up with an idea and watching my mom figure out how to make it work. But I also loved my parent’s enjoyment of Halloween and all the fun that went along with it.
Mom dressed as a Native American one year, but back then, she was a stereotypical “Injun.” She sat cross-legged on our front lawn, her face painted, a headband with one feather and an arrow going through her head. She waited there completely still, wrapped in a blanket, not moving a muscle as two older boys made the long climb up our very steep two flight set of stone stairs. They stopped at the first landing to catch their breath. One of them said, “Hey look! They have an Indian on their front lawn.” The other one replied, “Let’s go touch it.” Mom lifted up her left hand and grunted, “Ugh! How.” They screamed and ran off while she sat there on the grass, laughing until she could barely breath herself and Dad made her come back in. Then one year, during my freshman year of high school, they came to pick me up from a party with Dad dressed as Superman and Mom as a beatnik with three inch long eyelashes, a long straight black wig and long cigarette holder. That might have been the only time I felt embarrassed by them. It was also, unfortunately, the only party I ever went to in high school. And I still loved Halloween and loved them for being themselves.
As I grew older, I loved Halloween even more. My former husband and I came up with our costume ideas together, often based on puns. One year he was the “Nun of Your Business” wearing a light blue wimple from a nun’s habit that matched his standard business suit. He even shaved that year and looked quite saintly – a rare occurrence. I was a “Japanese Beatle.” I wore a Kimono and had taken a hamster cage, pasted photos of John, Paul, George and Ringo on each side and wore it over my head so that it rested on my shoulders. The cage could turn so that I could be any Beatle at any time. Another year, I put a tennis ball inside of some nylon stockings and sewed those to the outside of the same standard business suit to create "E.T. the extra testicle, a business man with more balls." That year I was a "Nuclear Family," my head a deformed and grotesque family of four. For years we went to Halloween parties annually where everyone had put a lot of thought and effort into their costumes. Then the parties dwindled and the masquerade fun was forgotten for a while, except for the kids. We decorated the house, I helped them make costumes and I always threw them parties and took them Trick or Treating.
A few years ago, I started getting back into the holiday spirit for myself. I started having small Halloween parties, starting with a party for the younger crowd with Halloween themed food, some games and a Haunted House and followed by the adult bash. Then three years ago, I decided to hold a themed Halloween party. The theme was “Come as a favorite musician and sing or play one of their songs”. The first year, only a small number of people came but we did have Stevie Nicks, Johnny Cash, Gillian Welsh and Bob Dylan. As long as I wore my shades, I could totally be Dylan. I felt like Dylan. I even sang a little like him. I could feel myself change character as I put on or took off his dark glasses. I don’t remember what songs I did, but I loved being Bob.
Last year, I was John Lennon. Again I wore special glasses but this time they had pink lenses, so that I saw the world through rose colored glasses. Just like the year before, I could stay in character with the glasses on. When they noticed that I dressed as a man both years, and did it well, I teased my gay friends that I like to dress in drag on Halloween. As John Lennon, I got to jam with John Denver, Dolly Parton, Nancy Sinatra, Leonard Cohen, Cat Stevens, and Sandy Denny. This year, I will not be in drag. I am trying to pick musicians who have had a big influence on my music or on me as a musician. Now it’s time for one of the women. This year there will be no glasses. Blind as I am, I hope I can see well enough to navigate my way around. But maybe it doesn’t matter because honey, this lady can sing the blues.