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?

Here is a previous SFMetBlogs post on Halloween in the Castro.

Picture taken by me, at the 2005 Castro Halloween. More pictures here, here, here and here.

6 Comments so far

  1. kathryn (unregistered) on October 27th, 2006 @ 12:36 pm

    I’d like to point out – there is not a Halloween Parade. It’s a gathering, and one that’s gotten way out of control, as you point out the gawkers, violence, and intolerance. It’s also a gathering that we would like to *not* have, as it creates chaos in our neighborhood with the fighting, public intoxication, and litter.

    Each year gets worse and only exemplifies the the city of Sf inability to control the crowd and keep everyone safe. I (and neighborhood assocations) wish there were some alternative and hopefully in the future, something will come up. In the meantime, be safe!

  2. Poormojo (unregistered) on October 27th, 2006 @ 1:36 pm

    I disgaree, Kathryn. I think *not having* it would really suck, as it is a wild and fun night that gets ruined by a few jerks.

    What ideas are there to improve it? Maybe it’s the density that is the problem, should more space be blocked off? Should the stages be set further away from each other so everyone doesn’t bottleneck at Castro st? This is only a few hours on one night of the year, there has got to be a way to preserve it.

    What if the police only let people in costume in?

    I don’t think it’s true that every year gets worse. Weren’t there fewer incidents of violence last year than the previous? If not, why keep the alcohol ban in place if it didn’t do anything?

  3. Robert (unregistered) on October 30th, 2006 @ 9:23 pm

    The Grinch Could Not Steal Christmas From Whoville, the straights will not steal Halloween from Castro. 2006 was the first time I was able to go and I did just to help support the event. I did not see one stabbing, mugging, or anyone unruly. Let’s face it, the straights just can’t handle that we are better than they are. I’ll be back!

  4. Poormojo (unregistered) on October 30th, 2006 @ 9:48 pm

    Hey Robert,

    The Big Halloween Thing happens tomorrow, man. The one on Saturday was the unofficial, far cooler Halloween in the Castro.

  5. Lindsey (unregistered) on November 2nd, 2006 @ 11:14 am

    This year (2006) was the first year I have ever went to Halloween on Castro, and it was the funnest time I’ve ever had in my entire life. I was Raggedy Ann. Unfortunately there was a shooting that happened, but luckily I didn’t even hear about it until the next morning. It sucks that something can be so much fun for some, yet so dangerous for others. Can’t we all just get along? It’s ONE FREAKIN’ NIGHT!

  6. gina (unregistered) on November 2nd, 2006 @ 3:45 pm

    I am looking for anyone who may have a picture of the police mishandling me halloween night in the castro around 11:30. I was wearing a bumble bee costume and I was handcuffed without reason. I saw alot of people walking by taking picture and I would really appriacate the pictures…thank you

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