October 27, 2011 —
I was Spider Man when I was growing up. My costume was made by my mother, who took a red and blue sweatshirt, cut them up and stitched them together. A few years later, I was Batman, the costume stretchy and elaborate, with a cape, cowl and belt. I was the Rocketeer, with a helmet made out of a Friday the 13th hockey mask, a bit of cardboard and an empty milk jug. I was Sherlock Holmes with an over-sized magnifying glass and two cheap hats stitched on top of each other and spray painted brown. I was Two-Face with sunglasses that had different colored lenses and a suit—half one color and half the other—that was huge on me.
I was Robin Hood numerous times. People sometimes thought I was Peter Pan, and I remember being a little offended, thinking, Peter Pan is so lame. I was once a pirate, with a hook of a hand and I think, maybe, a clown.
My costumes were always homemade, never store bought and usually very good. Making them was a family affair.
I went trick-or-treating on the flats in Narrowsburg with my friends every year. We went from house to house, ringing the doorbell and waiting patiently with our bags held in front of us. Wide grins on our faces. “Trick or Treat!” we yelled.
Handful after handful of candy was tossed into our bags. They started as simple plastic shopping bags, but after a year of a broken bag and lost candy, I started carrying around an orange plastic jack-o-lantern with a handle. That was later decided not to compliment my Sherlock Holmes costume (Holmes wouldn’t be caught dead with a plastic jack-o-lantern), so I switched to a simple white pillowcase.
At the end of the night, I would sit cross-legged, my costume now in pieces around me, and pour out the night’s winnings into a huge pile. It felt like childhood currency as I ran my hands through the “Fun Size” Snickers bars and “Party Size” Three Musketeers, Mary Jane’s, Bazooka Gum and M&M’s, trading a few for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, my then, and still, favorite. I would eat and eat and eat.
After that initial binge, the candy dwindled slowly over the next few months. Eventually, there would be nothing left inside the plastic jack-o-lantern besides stale gum and sticky wrappers.
I can’t remember the last time I went trick or treating or what I was dressed as, but it was probably my freshman year of high school. I vaguely remember getting into a fight with my girlfriend at the time.
I never threw an egg or toilet papered a house, which, to be honest, I sort of regret. It feels a little bit like I’ve skipped a stage in my relationship with Halloween and it is, unfortunately, too late to go back.
I didn’t dress up for the first few years living in New York. But the first year I did, I was Marty McFly from “Back to the Future,” with a jean jacket and red vest bought at a thrift store near my house.
Last year, I was Andy Warhol with a white wig, black turtleneck and leather jacket. I ran into an Edie Sedgwick on the street in the West Village and we took a photo together.
She never told me her name and I didn’t ask, but it’s a great picture.
[Author’s note: This column originally ran for Halloween 2009 and is one of my favorites. In the two years since I was “War and Peace,” which was similar to my two-face costume but was more like soldier/professor, and the “Blue Angry Bird,” where I was part of a group of friends and seemed like a funny idea at the time. This year has yet to be determined.]