Halloween in the Castro
Halloween is almost here, and that means it’s almost time for the Castro Halloween Parade. I love the Castro on Halloween, but I can only work up the courage to go every other year as it is crazy, exhausting and not a little depressing. The craziness come from the 8 million people that try and cram themselves into about six square blocks of city in one big rush–they just don’t fit, at least not without some lube. When entering the Castro on Halloween you need to take it slow. Ease in. Don’t rush or you’ll just hurt yourself and the Castro. Maybe instead of busting people for bringing alcohol into the area, the Police should just squirt lube on everyone entering. It would certainly give the parade a different feel.
To be honest, I go for the costumes. I love costumes and masks and make-up. The shifting identities, the mutable self. Growing up, my mother would take the entire month of October off to prepare for the holiday. She had turned our entire basement into row after row of hat boxes and clothing racks and bins of makeup, accessories and costume jewelry. Friends and relatives would stop by our house throughout the month to go through her stores and figure out what they would be. A cousin may come in with the idea that he wanted to be an Astronaut, but then he’d spy a Court Jester costume that was perfectly his size and he would leave with it. This happened to everyone: being around so much unreality would spin your compass needle until you were no longer sure of anything. Relatives would emerge from the basement, eyes glazed and head shaking clutching a lobster costume or a pirate’s cutlass. Being in the Castro for me is much the same. I stare at every costume and try to remember them all. How they were made, what they are supposed to be. Any particularly clever ideas or executions have me clutching for my camera. It exhausts me as I get paralyzed by the input. There is just too to drool over and admire. One year I saw a guy unfold glowing metal wings from his back and flap them. I seriously heard something in the admiration section of my brain go pop. I woke up days later somewhere near Lake Merced covered in greasepaint and red fur with no memory of how I got there. The whiskey probably didn’t help.
But at the same time it’s profoundly depressing. Why does it only happen once a year? Why do so many people show up without costumes and just gawk? Why is there so much violence and intolerance and asshattery? On this one night when we are all pretending to be something else, something better or braver or smarter or funnier, can’t we also pretend to get along?