Monday, November 1, 2010

The way we were for Halloween


We were there. Kinda.

Jennifer and I drove into Atlanta for Diane and Brian’s Halloween Party. For various reasons they have not been able to throw their big party the last couple of years. This year the annual event was rebooted and had a nice vibe. Traditionally, their Halloween Party has been fun affair. They invite a ton of people. Very eclectic. Mostly non-‘Dillos, though the ‘Dillos were well represented.

We’re talking kids from maybe age 6 or 7 on up to adults, almost everyone in costume or in some sort of special adornment. Brian is in a slow process of doing some major renovation to his house. This year he had ripped out the wall of his former sitting room and made it one big space the fireplace in the den and the entire kitchen in between. It really opens up some space with the new, vaulted ceiling design. It didn’t feel that crowded. He had plentiful, tasty Sweetwater beer in a standard size keg. There were probably around 60 people there by the time things started kicking in about 10 p.m. Brain wore an authentic Arabian keffiyeh and dressed in black. He bought the headdress while on business in Dubai.

Diane, dressed this year as Julia Child. She lived the part. There were literally over two dozen food choices, wines, soft drinks, candies, pumpkin pies, etc. The fancier stuff was all her preparation and, just as importantly (being Julia after all), her presentation. Diane must own over 100 Halloween decorations, most of them big. She adores Halloween and it shows because she presents it in a fun and entertaining way.

There were lots of cool, sophisticated, urbane people there. Many of them bring their children. I had a great discussion with a guy dressed in a clown suit with a blue, moppy afro about how satisfying the Braves season was. He thought Bobby Cox should get manager of the year. He told me how great it was that Brain McCann got the National League the home field advantage in this year’s World Series. How he was rooting for the Giants to beat the Rangers because he wanted Bobby Cox to have been beaten by the 2010 World Champions. It makes a better story. It was as if for 20 minutes I was talking to myself. I totally agreed with this clown.

Clint was a refrigerator magnet. He told me more about how wonderful Ken Wilbur’s writings (many of which I have read so it is a source of mutual interest) are when the body of work is taken as a whole. How Buddhism totally satiates him and how satisfied he is with his spirituality.

Mark and Eileen were the Letters Q and U, respectively, from the game Scrabble. The “costumes” consisted of dressing in all black with matching mock turtlenecks and a square box with places cut out for your head and arms that bore the authentically hand-painted Letters complete with their associated point values, just like the game pieces. Mark was wearing the Q. The conversation went like this. “So Mark, you wanted to be the piece worth more points.” “No the Q is worthless without the U.” Eileen smiled. Everyone awwwed, briefly, over the romantic nature of that.

Lots of jokes, stories, political opinions, discussion of news and the arts. Just a great party with a lot of bright, entertaining people.

I dislike the dress-up aspect of Halloween. I enjoy watching others do it. But, I hate actually thinking about it and doing it myself. I am personally low-key about Halloween. Always have been except for when I was a preteen. But, Jennifer had this idea for the two of us. We would go as rally participants just back in Atlanta from Washington for the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.

I was a Steve Colbert supporter. Jennifer was a Jon Stewart supporter. She was looking for political sanity while I wanted to Keep Fear Alive, how appropriate for Halloween. Everybody at the party “got it” and our modest iron-on t-shirts generated a lot of interesting conversation. (As an aside, both Colbert and Stewart have been dipping heavily into politics recently. Colbert appeared "in character" before a congressional committee just a couple of months ago. Last week Stewart managed to host President Obama on his show.)

The rally itself was something I had watched portions of live online earlier that day. I missed much of it because I was busy mowing the entirety of my yard for what I anticipate will be the last time until late-winter. The parts of the rally I caught were funny and entertaining. Some nice music. Some other music I didn’t care for. Stewart, who Jennifer and I think is a brilliant comedic satirist, and Colbert played off each other well.

I was hoping for the success of the rally as compared to the Glenn Beck rally/Al Sharpton march earlier this year. I was hoping for crowd size of equal or better numbers compared with Beck. Just to show the tea party Americans, and the deadlocked politicians, and the cable news analysts that they are all a bad joke.

By most accounts, Stewart/Colbert crushed the Beck/Sharpton event. Over 200,000 probably attended. I am uncertain that that really means anything, other than possibly people are more fed-up with the way politics is expressed in general in this country than with the anger behind any particular political expression.

The original idea for the Stewart-Colbert rally was inspired by the earlier Beck rally from earlier this summer. Stewart was, although politically polar opposite to, Beck as the rally holder and Colbert played the role, although politically polar opposite to, Sharpton as the march holder. It was classic political satire on a grand scale, on the National Mall itself. Comedians holding a surprisingly vaguely defined political rally talking to America before the mid-term elections.

They combined the names of their movements at the last minute to become the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. That in itself is funny. Colbert intentionally and comically never bothered to get a permit for his march so Stewart took him in under his permit. It was planned from the beginning and a wonderful political joke of the highest intellect.

The highlight of what I actually saw was Father Guido Sarducci giving what Jon Stewart called a “benediction” (uh, that should have been an “invocation” Jon – he’s really clueless about religious protocol) to start the rally. Jon Stewart had a funny welcome that summarized what the rally was all about: “Color and size.” Meaning numbers and demographics legitimizes the gathering in our culture. Very funny. Another highlight was Colbert, dressed as some superhero mostly in white trimmed in blue-banded stars with a red cape trying to make the crowd flee with threats of swarming bees. The two had a funny debate about reason versus fear.

At the end Jon Stewart had a few minutes to get serious and tell everyone why he and Colbert wanted to hold the rally. At one point he said:
“If we amplify everything, we hear nothing."

That’s a nice summary of our political gridlock. Although the day was funny, the reason for the day was not funny at all. I doubt that it will change much though. Our gridlock is the symptom of our political process. Of how voters vote and why they vote that way. The effect of media on everything political and the more money your spend the more your point of view is heard.

Maybe that’s a bit too serious for Halloween. Which is classically ironic. Our t-shirts looked authentic enough at the party for a few of the more-than-slightly inebriated guests to ask if we actually attended and then flew back into Atlanta for the party. It was an absurd possibility given when the rally ended and when the party started. But, that’s OK. They were sincere and the point of the party was hardly to be practically minded.

Jennifer and I both told everybody that we attened to the rally. She posted a “just arrived back” photo of us in our t-shirts just before we left for the party on her Facebook page. Facebook people thought we might have actually attended as well.

Our participation in the rally was a self-contrived mini-myth. Which means we went there in our minds and shared the experience with others who could connect with the nature of the rally in their imagination. Which, after horror itself, is kind of what Halloween is about – the playful imaginary.

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