Thursday, October 31, 2013

Old-Fashioned Halloween

A long time ago in southern Illinois, it was Halloween in a place that was known for tearing up the town, literally, in the celebration of the season. I lived in Carbondale, Illinois. It was generally known while I lived there that the store merchants downtown could not get insurance to replace their storefront plate glass windows because of a tendency for the celebrants to destroy said glass windows each year on this festive occasion.

Yes, my college made the Playboy list of the top party schools in the nation when I lived there. It was something of an embarrassment because I wanted a seriously good education. I was lucky and had been identified by the Dean of Liberal Arts as having had a good grade-school background in grammar, bend it though I might now, and because of that and her own personal pet peeves, I was granted not only a tuition scholarship through to graduation but also a job working in the English Department at SIU-Carbondale.

The only thing that seemed worse than attending the current Party Central of the nation was the fact that a footnote had been published in Playboy’s list stating that the university where I had spent my first two years of college, then known as the University of Missouri – Rolla, was not included in the top ten list because Playboy was considering only amateur partiers. Zeesh.

These designations made my fellow students proud of their ability to bash with the best of them. While I was not a stick-in-the-mud about parties, I never attended the Carbondale Halloween glass-breaking festival. Broken glass just never was my favorite medium. Neither was senseless destruction of other people’s property, even if in the spirit of the season. I know, I know…partypoop.
Art Postcard Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord

Now, generally Carbondale was a pretty good place to live the other 364 days a year or so. Sure, the first day of snowfall, I swore it snowed LSD because people would inevitably drive the wrong way on one-way streets, disoriented by the winter wonderland and seemingly taken by surprise in spite of fairly accurate weather reports. It wasn’t a social agreement to do something counter-cultural the way Halloween glass-breaking was. It was just a mass confusion of senses that resulted in automotive chaos. Things would calm down by the second or third day of snow and people would resume their usual level of driving acumen, which wasn’t always worth the ride anyway. But at least they remembered after a while what “One Way” with an arrow meant and things were a little less treacherous.

Instead of joining the revels downtown, I always chose what my friends and I thought to be a safer Halloween, usually a party at one of our houses. The year I remember best, the party was at Melody and Monica’s house.

My beautiful and adorable friend Melody was a hippie who loved home arts and was in my earth science class. Science was not Melody’s strong subject so I had made it a point to get her through the class and actually understand it. I figured out the trick for the treat: Put the class principles in terms Melody already understood, and she would get the scary science part too. So, since Melody was perfectly comfortable in the kitchen, all of our earth science experiments took place there. I hooked a hose up to the kitchen faucet and told a story about the rain falling in the mountains and running underground (under dishes in the sink) and popping up as an artesian well farther down the mountain. Melody was also good at helping me clean up the kitchens, either hers or mine, after these lessons, but she made a decent grade in the class.

It was a wonderful example of how to bring a message to someone who is initially intimidated by the topic in the first place. Of course, we didn’t actually create a volcano, but discussed the pros and cons of lava cake and the different ways candy will cool, crunchy and crackly or smooth and gooey. It made earth science a tasty lab class for us.

Melody and her drop-dead gorgeous older sister Monica hosted the Halloween party this year and it was a fun success. People came in costume. I came dressed as my black cat, complete with her turquoise collar and bell and stayed in “cat character” the entire time, meowing instead of talking, hissing for no, purring for yes. Well after midnight, both Melody and I got our second wind when most of the crowd had thinned out and we retreated to her room with cups of tea and girl chatter, planning to talk well into the night.

The living room grew quieter and quieter and even Monica and her then boyfriend, an equally drop-dead gorgeous dark blond from Saudi Arabia named Sultan (it meant “lion” he said, and went with his fabulous Fabio-like mane), had retreated to sleep after the happy partiers had left or at least collapsed on the living room couches and chairs.

As we gossiped quietly into the night, we realized we both heard the sound of running water. But it was from the wrong room. Melody’s room had a door to the living room and a door to the bathroom which then led to the kitchen in their rented bungalow. The running water was coming from the living room.

Like children afraid of monsters under the bed, we hesitated, then knew we had to investigate. Melody, more timid than I was, chose to eliminate the positive possibilities of the bathroom and kitchen. I headed straight out to the living room. We entered the living room about the same time in time to see the source of the sound.

A young man, someone neither of us knew, a friend of a friend of a friend, a casualty of the earlier celebrations, stood at the window in a moment of need, a call of nature. Unfortunately, he had hit both couches, the coffee table, the rug and the walls, in fact, everything but the open window he aimed for. He was, in short, terribly drunk and soon to be dead drunk meat.

The 7 of Cups in Tarot can represent self-delusion. Tell yourself that you’re OK when you’re not. Your eyes are bigger than your stomach. You may be unclear about what your next choices should be. Confuse yourself about what you desire. Drink to oblivion, until not only your eyes and your brain are numb, but your heart as well. It’s one thing to dress in a costume; quite another to lose yourself in the character you have created. In the 7 of Cups, you can lose your way. But it doesn’t have to be permanent; the hangover may be painful but there is a way out.

“Out!” we screamed. He looked at us dully, attempting to zip up with partial success. “OUT!!!”

He was starting to get the message but it wasn’t clear to him yet. Monica and Sultan heard the fuss. Sultan was horrified on many different fronts. First, he was awakened from his romantic snooze with the woman he was not going to marry. Second, he was awakened from his own moderate drinking, but drinking nonetheless. Third, and most horrifying, he was presented with the most undignified example of his gender that he could imagine, a man who had made a dreadful, horrible, fool of himself as a guest in someone’s home. While our watery stranger outweighed Sultan, the power of indignation turned Monica’s sleepy sweetie into our Super Hero. Sultan frog-marched the unfortunate to his car and cursed him on his way home, to his wife and children as we found out, comparing notes.

As we set about in the small, dark hours of the morning cleaning up after the Bad Guest, we suddenly realized we had unleashed the outcast on the unsuspecting driving public. We started to imagine, as we scrubbed away to rid the house of the urine of a stranger, that we would see horrible photos of the automobile accident that must surely ensue from the impaired driver.

Dawn broke on November 1. I rode my bicycle home in the sunrise, my hands red and raw from cleaning the living room and then cleaning myself. Apparently, the Bad Guest had made it home or somewhere safely and we all wished a silent prayer for his wife and children, realizing this was not the first nor last episode and hoping they were all well-insured.

Please have a very safe and happy Halloween and may all your treats be treasures.

Best wishes.

1 comment:

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