Few memories evoke as much giddy joy for me as Halloween. For myself and the collection of miscreants, juvenile delinquents, and future felons that comprised my peer group, Halloween meant that we owed our community some smashed pumpkins, obscene renderings, trees full of toilet† paper and of course the odd flaming bag of dog shit on the front stoop. Halloween untethered us. It was the day we more resembled the beasts we were to become. Halloween was the day we handed some of the horse-shit back to the adults. Halloween was ACDC, a monster sugar buzz, stolen liquor -- in my case my father’s fifth of Jim Beam -- and getting some payback.
Me, I opted for a more artistic approach. Whenever people decided not to be home for trick-and-treat we made them pay -- we smashed their pumpkins -- loaded their trees with toilet paper -- and on their front door I would leave an original drawing -- usually a giant cock and the words “Rat-Tat-Tat” exploding from the end. One time this nearly got my ass kicked. We assumed the people weren’t home because nobody came to the door. So I went to work -- I’d seen some Japanese erotic woodcuts and decided to render a Samurai-type schlong on the glass door -- I drew it with a wax candle, knowing they’d have to scrape that shit off with a razor -- it didn’t just wash off like soap. Right when I finished the light went on inside and I kind of froze, as the door suddenly opened. The guy was a big, oily motherfucker with mutton-chop sideburns and a Greaser haircut, and for a moment we locked eyes. Then he stepped back and looked at what I had drawn in all of its glory -- it took him a second to realize what it was -- a giant cock -- a big, fleshy, veiny motherfucker attached to an ample nut-sack. I heard him yell, "Jesus Christ. . . it’s a cock!" For some reason I started laughing my ass off as I turned to run and in an instant he was out the door and right on my ass -- this guy must have been an old track man because for two blocks he almost had me a couple of times, and he didn’t give up for four blocks -- my friends made it worse by yelling back at him "Fuck You Elvis" and "next time -- give up the candy -- you cheap prick" it just pissed the guy off more and made him run his ass faster. I finally lost this prick and was completely out of breath from running and laughing -- my pal Jimmy laughed so hard he wet his pants.
As we grew older we realized that the experience of Halloween could be greatly enhanced with a couple of dozen grade A large eggs and some mescaline. At my high school we had a hard-on assistant principal and every Halloween we’d plaster his car with more eggs than a Denny’s breakfast special. One of my friends Krazy-Glued a Double-Dong to his front-door, with the words “For you, and the horse you rode in on, Motherfucker” written underneath the blessed gift. A Polaroid of this -- our crowning Halloween achievement -- still sexists somewhere. The assistant principal knew it was us. We called him Doughboy or Rubber Ed -- he’d have us all called to his office and try to lean on us and get us to give it up. He’d tell us he had a witness. . . an old bullshit cop-ploy we were hip to. My friend Eddie would say, "Go get your witness, letís have breakfast -- lets get some EGGS," and we would fall out laughing. Doughboy would fume -- he spit when he talked -- and threaten to expel all of us -- we’d tell him to go ahead -- and he’d instead suspend us for three days -- in other words, we’d get a three-day vacation for egging this pud’s car.There’s a downtown fairy singing out Proud Mary
as she cruises Christopher Street
And some Southern Queen is acting loud and mean
where the docks and the Badlands meet
This Halloween is something to be sure
Especially to be here without you.
-- Lou Reed, Halloween Parade
As I grew older, Halloween became even more important to me. The first time I saw the Halloween Parade in New York was a revelation. A celebration of being whoever you needed to be in the world -- a bacchanal full of love, imagination and freedom.
The Lou Reed song about this may be my favorite song in the world -- being raised Catholic I was fully expected to believe in ghosts -- holy and otherwise. Lou’s sad, elegiac tribute to those free spirits no longer with us resonates with me in a way religion or any other of the claptrap I was raised to believe never did. For me it is the only holy song I love.
Coming from Chicago, the Halloween Parade was something alien and wonderful -- we didn’t have this back home -- we were still -- and still are in many ways -- a provincial, prudish place -- where celebrations of one’s sexuality -- of any kind -- or freedom was frowned upon. It’s gotten better. The brave folks who started the Gay Pride Parade here broke down a great many barriers -- many of the sexual outlaws are now part of the system -- including a gay alderman -- on all of this stuff New York was way ahead of the curve.
For me though, Halloween is still about letting that beast that lives in your heart off of its leash. finding your inner-outlaw and tossing him the keys for 24 hours or so. I’m talking to you -- in the cube -- let it loose -- come dance with the beast.
TONY FITZPATRICK is an artist from Chicago. For his blog, click here.