I had an extremely American weekend, thrown out into the great beyond of San Francisco, navigating major local customs with a smile in my heart (and for part of it, a hangover in my soul).
It was a pretty good time, all up: no faux pas, no shocking stumbles... just pure cultural assimilation.
Part 1: Halloween is hard. (Yet also, fun!)
When I was a very young boy (maybe five? Six? I forget...) my mother wouldn't let me trick-or-treat. Being a slightly plump, candy-loving kid, this upset me greatly. I can remember the same evening as I was denied this joy a single trick-or-treater came to the door of our house. To sow a tenor in our home as to how Halloween should be regarded, my mum gave this girl a lemon for her trouble.
This singular anecdote is part of a collection of Halloween memories from the first 25 years of my life, which I could count on one hand. An extremely scientific survey of my Facebook feed tells me that some people in New Zealand got dressed up and attended Halloween parties in the weekend. This evening, I'm sure some children will go door-to-door for sweets.
But it's just not the same as America. Costume ideas are riffed upon months out from Halloween here, and stores are taken over by Halloween trinkets for the weeks previous. LP's aunt's house, of which we live in the basement, has an actual mountain of candy in wait for Halloween. At 4pm on Halloween a stream of trick-or-treaters will come through, that as it is foretold, will not relent for several hours.
October 31 in America is a major boon to the sugary snacks and revealing costumes industries of the nation.
Of course Adult Halloween (where older people get drunk in silly costumes) always precedes the real Halloween (celebrated on the Saturday before the 31st of October)
For the slightly unimaginative (i.e. me), the dressing up portion of this event brings with it a lot of pressure.
In Halloween 2010 and 2011 I wore the same suit, accessorised slightly differently. (2010: an afro-wig to pass as Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction (I came out looking a little more like Malcolm Gladwell than I anticipated), 2011: funny pink sunglasses and piano key neck-tie to complete a "kooky 80s guy" look).
A fortnight back, before I'd even had a chance to contemplate what I would wear to this year's event, a friend teased me via text as to how I would be accessorising my suit this year for Halloween. Stubbornly rebelling against how predictable I obviously was I decided not to use the suit.
But then, I thought about buying a dressing gown and a rat mask and going to the party as Splinter but it seemed like so much work buying all of the materials. I thought about buying a Spiderman costume but it was more money than I wanted to spend on a costume and I wasn't comfortable with being a 28-year old man buying a superhero outfit.
So it was 3 p.m. - day of the party, that is - and I was contemplating just shaving in weird facial hair and swallowing my pride and wearing the same suit and making something weird up about who I was.
I decided instead, following a small flash of inspiration, to go as 'the Dude', from the Big Lebowski. I mean, I didn't have a dressing gown, or slippers, but I had trackpants, sunglasses, plain t-shirts, a loose fitting cardigan and the makings of a goatee hanging right there off my face. So I made a lazy pass at it.
At the party (which was amazing. I had a great, great time. There was a cheese plate with prosciutto that was served wrapped around a skull) most people understood without prompting who I was trying to be.
I was going up against the likes of a mermaid and a Medusa with real plastic snakes in her hair. By comparison, I had made a lazy pass at a lazy costume. It was a slightly risky move too. For the people who didn't get the costume, I was just a guy in a bad goatee that wore trackpants, a t-shirt and running shoes to a dress up party that people had obviously tried hard for.
Did you dress up in the weekend? See any good costumes?
You know, I can store up any of the good ideas you mention and stash them away for next year.
Part 2: Jumping on the World Series bandwagon
With slightly heavy, hungover heads, we decamped on Sunday afternoon to a nearby bar to watch Game 4 of the World Series.
Watching baseball in a group is fun in some of the same ways that watching cricket is; we had a few drinks, chatted and half paid attention to the game.
The Giants were 3-0 up over the Detroit Tigers, in a best-of-seven series. They'd made an unlikely run to get into the World Series. To get this far they had to come back from both 0-2 (in a best of five series) and 1-3 (in a best of seven series). People really get behind their local sports teams here. It has been like Rugby World Cup final weekend for the past three weeks about San Francisco.
I'm a total bandwagon jumper. I've only been here a few months and I even briefly thought about openly supporting the Oakland Athletics in baseball, as a protest pick, spurred on by how much I liked the movie Moneyball. But the narrative of the plucky San Franciscans, constantly fighting back from the brink of defeat caught my attention.
And I'm a sucker for public euphoria. The game finished and the bar went mental. The owner handed out glasses of free champagne to everyone, we all locked arms and there was a lot of singing. On the big screen there was an endless montage of overcome, elated athletes. It choked me up a little.
We were exhausted and so quickly skipped out of the bar. In true blue American sports fashion, San Franciscans then went on to express their appreciation for this victory by lighting bonfires in the street and overturning cars. Sports!
LP and I then slept contentedly, knowing that we had dominated the weekend.
God bless America, huh?
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