Thursday, November 01, 2007

Halloween by the words and pictures

Because my Halloween by the numbers post should give you a good idea of how the day worked here in Hong Kong, I'm going to use this post to narrate through some pictures. But first, a little history.

For many years now, Halloween has been my favorite holiday (the Fourth of July is in second place). Generally, I think that the pressure to have a good time on most holidays ends up undermining that. I hate Christmas (little Jewish rage, I guess), don't mind Hanukkah but find it tainted by its connection to Christmas, fought with my dad on Thanksgiving for about 7 consecutive years when I was a kid...Halloween is my one reliable bet, even more than my birthday. I understand there are people out there who don't like it, which is fine, though in many cases I think they're just being contrarian because so many people like it. One person I met in Hong Kong - a real jet-setter private club member type - overheard me expressing excitement last week and scoffed, "Halloween's for amateurs." But that's sort of what I like about's a highly democratic, inclusive good time. It's areligious, apolitical, appeals to kids and adults in its own way, requires no coolness or connections, and doesn't require you to like alcohol to have a good time (though it helps).

I usually try to arrange costumes that can be developed mostly out of things I already own, but are more creative than "I am dressed as [well-known political figure] because I am wearing a suit." In 2003, I put on a white shirt, black slacks, black shoes, black tie, bicycle helmet, and backpack and - with a matching-dressed friend - went partying as a Mormon. This costume had two unexpected thing about it that rocked: (1) my "Book of Mormon" was a copy of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy with a cover on it, which made it real fun to read from; and (2) drunken USC co-eds just love the idea of corrupting a Mormon. In 2004, I grew out my beard for a month, and right before Halloween, shaved it into mutton-chops to go out as Wolverine. My hair was long enough at the time to style into two points, and I jury-rigged retractable claws by strapping together telescoping radio antennas I bought at Radio Shack. In 2005, I got a little lazy and converted a black shirt with a diving collar, black pants, and a very poorly-cut mask into Wesley from The Princess Bride. My consolation for the half-assed costume was license to quote the movie incessantly as I got increasingly drunk. And in 2006, I pulled out some tacky tuxedo-wear with my slacks, had my female friends leave red lipstick marks all over my face, neck, and chest, and popped open a bottle of cheap champagne to roll as a Wedding Crasher. Again, the joy of props: my swigs from the champagne bottle for pictures were real, and the bottle was empty before long.

This year's Plan A was Aladdin. I bought white wraparound pants in Cambodia, and figured that with a red fez, purple vest, and red sash, I'd be set. But when I arrived at Pottinger Street - a small street in Soho that is converted to a Halloween shopping mecca ever year - I discovered that, because Halloween is celebrated almost exclusively by the expatriate population of Hong Kong, prices were inflated beyond belief. Deterred from pursuing the Aladdin plan by the cost - and more importantly, by my feeling of ab muscle inadequacy for the costume - I looked in the mirror to find my inspiration. Hadn't shaved in 4 days. Looked like hell because of sleep deprivation and illness. A little dirty. Of course!

Kevin Federline.

The costume was easy enough to arrange. The track jacket, track pants, wife beater, and Pumas were all mine (though never before combined in so inspired a fashion). The hat was easy to borrow, and the bling was only mildly offensively expensive. I actually had no clean wife beaters left - today, I reached that point where I either had to do my damn laundry or buy new underwear, and doing laundry only narrowly prevailed - so I pulled a used undershirt out of the hamper. I thought it added an air of authenticity (no pun intended).

You can see me there in all my grimy glory, complete with a cigarette that I was smart enough not to smoke, in light of the state of my lungs. Jordan there subscribed to a similar philosophy of costume construction, and put together a quite successful Clockwork Orange...except he was missing the huge jockstrap/codpiece. Tremendous loss.

Most locals restricted their efforts to a few routine accessories, devil horns being the most popular among them. At least Ryan and Karinne, if they had to do the angel/devil thing, did it as a pair. That makes it more sickeningly sweet and shmoopsy, but less clich├ęd. Even if they often weren't willing to expend the creative energy to come up with full costumes, though, the locals seemed to appreciate our effort. Group after group asked to take pictures with us throughout the night.

Okay, some locals made an effort. And they, too, wanted pictures with us. We have all kinds of pictures with strangers, none of which we ever solicited first.

When the bars are giving away rum and lime by the mouthful to the guys, and already throwing unlimited free champagne to the girls, you know the night is less about profit and more about pandemonium.

This is me doing a little Kevin Federline dance to celebrate our success in flirting with three female police officers long enough to convince them to let us pass under a police barrier and run through a sealed-off shortcut from Soho to Lan Kwai Fong. Why am I celebrating so much?

Because that mass of people, shown on the main drag of LKF (D'Aguilar Street), extends about a half-mile back down the road that curves off in the distance, and we passed through the totally empty alley in the previous picture straight to the spot where this photo was taken, right in the middle of the action. I didn't realize it until I looked at the picture again today, but almost nobody in this photo looks like they're having a good time. They're just shuffling slowly, back and forth, being herded like cattle without stopping to actually celebrate. Kind of tragic. Anyhow, maybe you think that it was only that crowded on the main drag, and that the side streets in the area were less hectic.

Think again. It was a good thing I was already a few antibiotic-assisted beers in at this point, because personal space isn't really a realistic prospect in this environment. The beers helped the shoulder checking go down smoother.

The young'uns were troopers here...this picture was taken at about 2 am. Although the little girl seemed totally uninterested in actually being there, and I suspect she was actually a pawn of her older sister, who seemed to be shopping her around for novelty value. Pretty uncool.

Winner for best costume, as far as I'm concerned, is Sam here, sporting the black bob wig, white blouse, and simulated adrenaline needle of Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction. The cigarette, the smudge under the nose...all nice touches.

Like Halloween in the U.S., clothes seem to become increasingly optional as the night goes on. There used to be a furry shirt associated with that monkey costume. This photo, by the way, was taking at Insomnia, a club I have not and will not forgive for their behavior the last time I was there, and only entered on the condition that I would not give them a penny. This time, I wasn't able to get into the back room with the cover band at all without a drink in hand. Remembering that they had previously accused one of our company of picking up an empty beer bottle to avoid being forced to buy a drink, I decided that, if they were going to levy such an accusation, they should be right (even if at the wrong time). So as soon as the bouncer looked away, I recovered an empty Carlsberg from a table and waltzed straight through without so much as looking at him. Sometimes a little pettiness feels so very good.

For better or worse, by the time I was on fight stoppage duty (all 5'7" and 130 pounds of me), the camera was largely retired. The evening continued through one more club with vodka bottle service and about three white people in the whole joint (meaning about three costumes in the whole joint). After two rounds of fight control, I rewarded myself with delicious French toast and honey and a cab ride home.

Even with the drama toward which the night turned, a good time was had by all, including me. Some things are more powerful than my hatred of Lan Kwai Fong, like my love of Halloween. Maybe next year I'll finally follow through on my costume plan of cat ears, angel wings, a devil tail, and a t-shirt that says "every freaking girl at this party."

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