#halloween

Continuing the tradition of posting on Facebook, essay-length status updates, this one was in honor of my first Halloween party as a single man in his forties…

Happy Halloween!

A year ago, yesterday, I left 1016 Powell for the last time, photographing the front door before hurrying to 839 Post Street through the gathering dusk, passing virtually no one, in a silent, dark city.

Yesterday, I accepted a ride home from my neighbor, who had been at a mutual friend’s play in Oakland, and along with a third buddy, we drove across the bridge and towards brightly lit towers and down into streets filled with revelers.

We’ve come a long way.

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. For me, it opens the Holiday Season- Halloween, My Brithday, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, Twelfth Night. Each night or day distinct in feel and significance for me, each its own collection of bittersweet pleasures, the sum of which always leaves me rather morose in January. As a friend noted in January of 2019 (little did we know!) “You aren’t much for starting over,” and he’s right. My favorite days are The Harvest and The Feasting. I can enjoy The Sleep of Winter for a time afterwards, but I always want to be up and about long before it ends. And while I love Breakfast and the rejuvenation of Spring, it’s always the end of Summer I start to feel the most like I have some handle on my life, rather than being at the whimsey of the Universe, and that’s as much to do with being more of a processor than an adventurer, as it does with anything mystical, to be sure. That said, I understand why so many people associate Death with this time of year. It’s hard not see it in darkening skies, the slanting sunlight, the wilting vegetation and chilly rains. But for me, the Autumn doesn’t feel like time to die so much as time to go in doors, and once there, with the fire going and the cocoa heating up, take stock and be grateful and dream of the future.

The transitory nature of things and loving them as deeply and powerfully as you can while you have them is the central theme of all my work as a writer, poet, director, theater artist. I have a hard time letting go, and one of the only things that gets me through it is the belief that things will come around again. Never the same way of course. We’re always older, we’re always different, we’re always missing someone or something new. But in the repetition of cycles we achieve a connection both to that which is gone and that which is yet to come and all things, including what we think is gone forever and what we think will never come. Yes, maybe we have said goodbye to some things or people not just for now, but for our lifetime. And yes, maybe some futures we aspire too will never arrive for us as we are in this world. But all things are on the same road, swimming the same sea, under the same sky. We are part of The Story. We can never not have been part of The Story. On nights like Halloween, and Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve, I feel very strongly that sense of being part of a continuum. And in particular the lighting of the Jack ‘O Lantern always feels, deeply, like an invitation being sent to a list of names that I’ve only partly contributed to, and on which my own name will one day be written.

We have so far, yet, to go.

It’s interesting to note that none of what I consider to be my major cultural and spiritual influences really believe in Heaven or Hell, and that’s because none of them really consider Death to be the end. The Celts saw it is an interruption, a period of Dreaming before you would be recalled to the aid of the world, or a Hunting Party you joined if sleeping off your Mortal Hangover didn’t appeal. The Greeks had their segregated by honor afterlife, for sure, but most people just went to a kind of waiting room until someone needed their advice or their lot number got picked for reincarnation. Jews have Sheol but pretty much everyone gets in so it’s like… meh. Who cares? And Americans don’t believe in God or magic or Heaven or Hell, do they? I mean, we’re not supposed to. Which is part of why we latched onto Halloween and it’s a much bigger deal here than it is in most other countries. In many ways, it’s the perfect holiday to render secular and for everyone. Remember how that used to be an American ideal?

As a kid growing up, the whole month of October was always magic for me. In my east coast childhood it meant walking to school under brilliant autumn leaves, sitting in the park with my mother reading books from the library about the Loch Ness Monster and vampires, carving pumpkins with my father after he got home from the city, and trick or treating with my brother and sister. During my southwest adolescence it meant clear, orange skies at sunset, parties at friends’ houses, furtive teenage drinking and kissing, and faces painted like skulls the next morning. In my northwest college days it meant heavy rain, eye-liner, black clothes and staying up late listening to music, tarot card readings, and sex. Here in the True West, where I have lived the longest, it has meant a number of things, from cloaked Castro escapades and bar crawls, to movie marathons and snuggles. Twenty years, today, of San Francisco Halloweens, the only consistency the terra cotta pumpkin my mother bought at a farmer’s market in New Jersey when I was three, and made me take along that September I drove out of Tucson to come here. To come Home.

And a week from tonight, I shall be 43.

I don’t believe in Heaven, but if I did, it would be 6 PM on Halloween, and I am nearly 12 and I am getting ready for Trick or Treating. It is the year I am going as the Phantom of the Opera, and I have a mask, and a hat, and my dress clothes on, and most important, I have a cloak. Not a cape. A cape is something princes wear in parades. A cloak is for traveling. A cloak is for protection. A cloak is for the casting of spells. Last year, when I was nearly 11, I wore a cape because I was Dracula but this year I am the Phantom of the Opera and I have been given till 9 PM tonight, which is new. It’s an hour later than last year. Who knows what can happen? So this year, I am wearing a cloak. But the night hasn’t arrived yet. It is 6 PM and my sister is still getting ready and my brother has already left for the evening and my father has returned early from the city, and is lingering over dinner, while my mother is taking a picture, and outside the twilight is gathering, the leaves are falling, ghosts abound, and my friends are waiting. But not just my friends from my 12 year old Halloween- my last east coast Halloween, it turned out. This is, after all, Heaven, and so everyone I ever met and known and loved, even for a brief moment, is out there, waiting, along with everyone I ever will meet, and know, and love, even for a brief moment. It is, in short, the best Halloween ever, set to start the best Holiday Season ever. The one where all trespasses are forgiven, all longings are quenched, all communications are pure, and the night is always just begnning. And everyone is there, waiting for me to open the door and run out into the street and find them.

Happy Halloween.