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Halloween One Year On

More than any other day, Halloween reminds me that I’m no longer in San Francisco. For the most part, adults don’t dress up here, certainly most don’t dress up and then go to work that way. And even more certainly, there is no spot in town where two-hundred thousand people gather in public for a Halloween party the way they used to in the Castro.

“Used to” being the operative words here, as yesterday I read about San Francisco’s canceled Halloween party and about how the police barricades on Market and Castro streets—coupled with businesses closing their doors early—served to keep the party from getting started this year.

This saddens me. I have fond memories of San Francisco at Halloween. Matt and I used to meet friends who lived just off Church St., a few blocks from the action, at their annual party, and then we’d sit on the porch and watch the parade of humanity go by. Some costumes were exemplars of the art—I can recall watching grown men go dressed as Renaissance courtesans in voluminous gowns, huge wigs, and four-inch heels. And some costumes were merely witty, like the woman who wore a plain t-shirt and a pair of pants with hundreds of packages of smarties attached to them. (Little Miss Smarty Pants, get it?) My friends Susan and Jim always have great costumes; my favorite photos of Jim feature Jim dressed up as a gladiator, Jim as Colonel Sanders, Jim as Bjork at the Oscars, and Jim as Kim Jung Il (a brilliant costume few people understood).

I didn’t always enjoy the big Castro party. The last year I went, I ended up in a crowd so thick that I literally crossed a street without my feet touching the ground more than a few times. I hate crowds like that, and I was truly afraid of being trampled and hurt. But I somehow felt better knowing that I lived in a city where grown ups could dress up in all manner of crazy costumes, go out in public, find a huge party, and have all be well the next day.

Then last year the party devolved into a mob at the end, there was a shooting, and now this year it was canceled. I can’t help but think this is another example of a few bad eggs ruining it for everyone else. And I also can’t help but think that this means SF has lost a bit more of its magic. Even if I’m no longer there, I still want the place to be a kooky ideal I can associate with and dream about.

Instead, I guess I now have to make the most of the local Halloween, a family affair that involves going over to Steve and Stacy’s house for a party and sitting on their porch while the parade goes up and down Cherokee. While the big kids all went trick-or-treating—and special props are due little Sam for her Clark Kent outfit—Simon sat on the porch in his little monkey costume happily playing with boxes of milk duds while a parade of pirates, super-heroes, princesses, witches, and barely-dressed-up teenagers went by.

My family was pretty annoyed at this latter contingent of too-old trick-or-treaters, while I was mostly annoyed at their lack of creativity in costuming. Say what you will, if you are going to trick or treat on Halloween and you are 16 or over, you better take your clue from Castro queens of yore and at least dress up to the hilt! If you do, I at least will deem your efforts worthy of a few pieces of candy.

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