the ghosts of halloween: past, present and future

Today is Halloween, yay. In what will be a few posts about my evolving relationship with autumn, today I will explain that of me and Halloween:

When I was a kid, Halloween never became for me what Seinfeld once referred to as "every child's dream to get candy." Don't get me wrong; I loved candy and I had dreams...but growing up in Germany on American bases, I didn't feel this universal/cultural push to dress up over the whole thing.
I mean, I did dress up and I was glad that in the end I got a big pumpkin head full of the stuff for doing it, but I really didn't get excited about it like I did for Christmas or, say, Veterans Day.

Living back in the States where Halloween hit the grocery shelves in August, I tried to wonder what I was going to "be," but could never, for the life of me, come up with what I considered a good costume. I didn't really think any superheroes--from the more-traditional Superman to the then-popular TMNT (Heroes in a Halfshell)--were that worthy, nor the likes of princesses or witches (which, in my opinion, were the same thing anyway.) And I was sick of being an "army man," and so was my dad.
Thankfully I had motivated friends and was able to annex myself to their themes--cowgirls and such.

High-school cross country provided a relief for what had then become an actual Halloween aversion/phobia, no irony intended. We'd usually have an important race the following day and that gave me an excuse to stay at home, eat pasta, and watch Absolutely Fabulous reruns on Comedy Central. Either that or I could usually make some "clever" play on my uniform: Zombie Cross-Country Runner, Fat Cross-Country Runner, etc.
My senior year, however, I felt I owed it to the class of 1999 to put some effort into my presence at our Annual Spooky Ball and decided on a bumble bee because I could try to be cute while also looking like I gave a crap. What happened, though, is that my then-boyfriend and I broke up a week before and I just ended up looking like the girl from the Blind Melon music video while Andrew danced with his new love, Schuyler Reese.
She was a synchronized swimmer.

I warmed up to Halloween in college, which can initially be credited to the addition of beer. I also had matured artistically, and came up with some good ideas, one of which actually won me a $50 beer tab, completing the metaphysical cycle which had brought me to such creative heights in the first place. What was this inventive idea, you might -or might not- ask? A tree.
I came in second only to a swarm of Hooters Girls.

Since then I've had some peaks and valleys in my All-Hallows landscape; Margot Tenenbaum and Brownie #3 of Girl Scout Troop 826, to name a few. Last year I was off the Halloween hook since I was runnnnnning a marathon the next day. But all in all, I've come to embrace this silly day as an opportunity rather than avoid it as a big pain in the ass.

This year's plans, you might -or might not- ask? Well, it was a toss up between joining my roommates as Snakes on a Plane or my girlfriend as St. Pauli girl (her) and Sam Adams (me). Given my evolved appreciation for Halloween (as well as its intoxicant-inspired origins), I went with the beer-themed choice...which proved seredipitously successful when I came across a gallon-sized pewter beer mug while shopping for the rest of my costume at the thrift store. Granted, without this prominent prop I kinda look like Beethoven, but still...

It is on this note that I leave all (three) of you readers with Happy Halloween wishes and the following now-cliche, yet always-brilliant, quintessential American Halloween passage:

"Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door.
Only this, and nothing more."

Or is it?


happy tuesday!

I just can't seem to get enough of this clip:


weekend edition: Li Wu

Yes, it's Tuesday and, yes, the weekend's update is now two days old, but still. I'm going to go ahead and tell you about it...or at least the cool part.

For a few months I've been chatting occasionally with Li, the evening janitor at KQED. She's a 55-year-old Chinese immigrant from Guangdong Province who speaks very little English but who is always so friendly when she comes around that, despite the language barrier challenge, at a certain point I couldn't help but get to know her. (I should state here for the 'record' that I'm not usually someone who shies away from getting to know someone -and I've never once seen her as any different than my other co-workers just because she's a janitor- but the nature of her job is "in-and-out," and that's made it difficult to have any lengthy exchange.)

I wanted to know what her home is like, how frequently she gets to go back, how she is finding the U.S., whether or not she has a lot of family here, and, most importantly, if maybe one day I could have the privilege of joining her on her weekend trip to San Francisco's Chinatown so I could finally know what all that weird dried stuff in those bins is and how the heck you use them for cooking.

So we made a plan: October 14th. Every week since early September we'd remind one another that we had a 'date' for Saturday, October 14th. Plans began finalizing with the exchange of phone numbers (and when I broke her phone trying to enter my number and then had to try to explain that I didn't actually 'break' it; that you just have to take out the battery); the rudimentary map to my house that I drew since she offered me a ride; the Sharpy-ing of our big day into my day planner.

The date approached quicky and in the meantime I had rounded up some peeps to join me. After about ten phone calls that morning, Li found her way to our place and we got in her car and right as I was about to introduce everyone, I laughed out loud at the linguistic ridiculousness that was about to transpire:

"Li, this is Leah. Leah, this is Li."
"Li, this is Leigh. Leigh, this is Li."
"Li, this is Jeffrey. Jeffrey, this is Li."

Li: "O-K. ...Lee-ah. ...Lee. (points to herself)...Lee. ...Em-ah-lee. ...Jeff-lee."

Once we all were able to stop laughing at the irony of Jefflee, we made our way through the city to Chinatown.

She was an awesome guide and took into some stores I probably wouldn't have even known to visit. She told us all about the dried sea cucumbers and black fungus...and why we should eat them. And how.
She told me not to buy that wok because, at $12.99, it was way overpriced.
She took us to an amazing restaurant and ordered us our own personal buffet of Dim Sum.
She expanded our horizons.

I've been to Chinatown many times, but it wasn't until this time that I had actually been to Chinatown. Thank you, Li.