I can’t make costumes stick. This is why, each Halloween, I pretty much give up trying to come up with something creative and usually go as Kim Morris. Or, sometimes, Kim Morris in a Cowboy Hat. One year I wore all black, including a black cowboy hat, and I went as The Bad Guy. I’m pretty sure someone else suggested it. I suspect my aversion to costumes is a residual effect from the Halloweens of My Youth.
When I was growing up and Halloween rolled around, I was a fortune teller. Not just one year, many years in a row. The fortune teller costume was the ideal costume—long prairie skirt that I used to play Dress Up in, covering a pair of dirt-smudged jeans; a scarf tied around my waist with fringe that swayed and dangled whenever I moved; a pile of necklaces around my neck because somehow I figured necklaces gave me power to see into people’s futures; EARRINGS! A MATCHING PAIR! VERY GROWN UP! and another scarf, tied around my head, with more swanky fringe that gave me the air of someone who had been born in another century and knew All the Secrets of the World. My mom liked this costume because it took exactly four seconds to produce. Once I was the fortune teller, I would grab my candy bag, sprint out the door, and meet the kids from the neighborhood in the middle of the street.
First, we’d hit up the Hughes’s. The year I was seven, the Hugheses gave out secret spy masks. I mean, SECRET SPY MASKS! Upon receiving this gift, we thanked Mrs. Hughes, who was awesome because she never told my parents when I knocked over the plant on her front porch that one time during a football game, which was a stellar performance on my behalf because I totally pulled the ball OUT OF THE AIR and ran for a touchdown and no I was not out, don’t listen to anyone else on that one.
Anyway, SPY MASKS! Well, the only way to leave a front porch after having received a spy mask for Halloween is to dive roll over the front hedges. On Dorchester Drive, when I was seven, dive rolling was always the preferred method of extraction from a compromised position.
By the time I got to the Kodak house, the earrings were gone. And most of the prairie skirt was shredded and what wasn’t, I tied around my waist because it was making my getaways a bit of a hassle.
The Kodak house. Someone inside that house worked for Kodak, in some department that allowed access to and distribution of the coolest shit ever. One year, toy cameras. Another year, kaleidoscopes. The year I was seven, they gave out periscopes. PERISCOPES.
As I generally moved with the stealth of a tiger, positioning the periscope on my person was of the utmost importance. I devised a complex apparatus with my head scarf whereby through a series of intricately-knotted knots, I could secure my periscope on my back. This worked perfectly, though now my fortune teller costume was practically unrecognizable and it was unlikely I was going to be taken seriously later when, in all likelihood, I’d be summoned by the Queen to tell her her fortune.
At the Riley’s house, we got chocolate disks wrapped in gold foil. Gold coins were highly valued in our neighborhood-kid milieu. Obviously, this meant I had to untie the scarf from my waist and tie it around my face. Chocolate gold disks wrapped in gold foil demanded the delicate touch of a Wild West Outlaw. I was very careful leaving the Riley’s front porch—I imagined it as the saloon and beyond it, on the other side of the swinging doors, there would be my horse tied to the post and behind my horse, the sheriff and his deputy, waiting to have a talk with me about that bank robbery snafu.
Well, I was no dumb Wild West Outlaw, I’ll tell you, so my exit consisted of a few (admittedly secret-spy-esque) dive rolls, then a sprint to the curb, where I quickly untied my horse and took off down the street. What the Rileys saw before they closed their door was me dive bombing their front lawn, scraping my face with grass stains, then running to the street, jumping on an invisible horse, and galloping away with a high-pitched, “Yahoo!”
On my way home, I ran into Mr. Lesnewicz, who, judging by his facial expression, was astounded and in awe of my fortune teller turned secret spy turned Wild West Outlaw costume. I let him speak first, as that is the traditional way of greeting a masterminding-costume-producery kid. What he said was, “What the hell are you?”
One thing about Mr. Lesnewicz: he was not a big fan of the neighborhood kids. Apparently, he didn’t think our takeover of the yards during the International Ghost in the Graveyard Championships was justified.
“What does it look like I am?” I boomed.
And then he walked away.
At this point, let’s recap the outfit: hair a nest of fuzz and curls with various forms of plant life stuck into it; a secret spy mask firmly clamped across my eyes; a scarf tied around the lower half of my face in a perfect ode to Jesse James; one lonely necklace desperately clinging to my neck; a t-shirt with grass stains and a dirty palm-print smacked on it; a prairie skirt shoved into the waist of my jeans; jeans smudged with more grass stains and more dirt. Most importantly, the periscope was still tied securely to my back, even though it was a bit dented after my last dive roll, which I took to be a clear indication that if I wanted to be a secret ops agent traversing a desert region, I could do so.
So, this is where I’m at now: how can I pick just one Halloween costume? What if I want to be a spaceship and I end up at a party where the king wants a divorce but the church won’t grant it? And then what happens if I get hungry, so I go to the Golden Nugget and order a hamburger and then I notice the baby blue 1966 Thunderbird convertible in the parking lot, which I would eye longingly while I mapped out an escape route to Mexico that would include empty desert roads and Brad Pitt? I don’t think a Henry VIII costume would be practical in that situation.
This costume-choosing thing is truly The Conundrum of Life, which is perhaps what I could be this Halloween, but I’m not quite sure what the physical manifestation of a conundrum is. Maybe there would be a magic wand involved?