New York City's famous Halloween Parade began around 1974. In those days, the parade started at Westbeth and finished in Washington Sq. Park. Westbeth is a low to moderate cost living and working complex for artists. It was carved out of buildings which had been the Bell Telephone laboratories. The parade was usually led by Bread & Circus' giant puppets. People used to hang out of their windows to watch. Once on Bleecker St I saw the head of the giant snake being pushed into an open 5th story window. I've always wondered what the occupant of that apartment thougt at that moment...
One very cold Halloween, one of the local clubs had a cocktail waitress bring out free hot rum toddies for adults who needed a warm up.
The parade and the spectators included both kids and adults. Many of the adult costumes were more than delightfully risque. I always wondered that the Moral Majority folks didn't swoop in.
I had a friend, George, who was agoraphobic, and seldom ventured from his West 10th Street apartment. When this guy was 8 years old, he was in a shopping mall with his parents and when the radio station reported the death of Judy Garland, he passed out. So this one year, I had worked on him for a couple of weeks to come out and enjoy the Halloween Parade right where he lived. He finally agreed to do it, and we were to meet at the intersection of Bleecker and 8th Ave - what was the name "Abington Square", I think. Anyway, George didn't show. I found a phone and called him. I finally got him to come outside. He'd been there less than a minute when Rollerina zoomed by. Rollerina was a Village fixture, a 6 foot tall vision in dirty white layers of tutus, wearing a tiara, and carrying a magic wand. She was rumored to be a stockbroker by day. Anyway, Rollerina had painted her face green that night, very wicked witch. As she passed by, she hit George in the ass with her wand and exclaimed, "To the Emerald City, fast as lightening".
He ran all the way home.
I can no longer remember if I was 5 or 6. But somewhere in there I suffered as cruel and mean a childhood fate as any kid should ever have to endure. That I am writing this in the here and now is proof that I overcame and survived, but the memory of it tastes bitter. I was to go to hospital to have my tonsils out - - - on Halloween! If I had had some of my adult(?) mind working then, I'm sure I would have sensed a conspiracy afoot to send the empty vessel that held my broken heart off to the workhouse. There were, of course, no workhouses in small town southern New Jersey in the mid 1950's. But I didn't know that then. I did understand, however, that my life was cursed and doomed.
There was a payoff, although a minor one. I got to go out on Mischief Night. That was for big kids only. All night there would be mysterious knocks upon door frames and windows... there would be all sorts of unknown pleasures derived from wrestling with the demons which would be brought forth by dawn. Upon awakening, it was not at all unusual to see many windows covered in soapy scrapings. And the trees - huge billowing clouds of toilet paper would sway with each breath of wind.
Whatever happened during that night was unknown and extraordinarily alluring. I was to learn that I could costume and trick or treat - at selected locations - - - while chaperoned by my father. Well, the dream had lived for a minute anyway. I went to Chucky Bradway's house next door, then down the street past two more houses to my Great Grandfather's place. Then there was a short drive to Uncle Harry's. Uncle Harry Hunt was either my gradmother's uncle or her great-uncle, the argument never being decided as far as I'm aware. He had this really neat tv. The picture on it was very small. When he wanted to watch something, he'd pull out of some corner a giant lens which, when in place, was held at the perfect height to enlarge the picture. Next to the tv was a pedestal topped by what I now know as an art nouveau styled statue of a nymph, frozen in time while holding a pitcher as if pouring something. She wore a well placed series something or other which just so happened to expose her breasts. I was fascinated. The silken material in which she was draped could have been toilet paper left from previous Mischief Nights. In the middle of my heavy breathing reverie, my father announced that it was time to go.
And that was it.
My trick or treating done, I was hurried off to bed where I fell asleep dreaming of angels who would guard over me while I was in hospital. They were dressed in folds of toilet paper.