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Reflecting on Halloween

Escaping your normal role and routine, and eating loads of candy, is what Halloween is all about.

Scaredy-cats, old witches, ghosts, ghouls and goblins are part of it too. But playing dress up steals the show, in my inexpert opinion.

Transforming into somebody or something else for a day can make you feel good and alive in a new way, or maybe sexy, or even make you feel a little foolish.

This year, I felt all three.

My coworker Renee Prusi told me about how she dressed up as a sleepwalker to a past Halloween work party, so I stole the idea and threw on my pajama pants, a T-shirt and bathrobe on Thursday and made my way to the office.

I felt good and alive because the cold wind whipped right through my bathrobe.

I felt foolish because I’m a grown man walking around the city in a robe — that should be reserved for men and women of the cloth and lunatics, neither of which is an accurate descriptor for me.

And I felt sexy, well, because few things are sexier than men’s sleepwear.

Some people like role playing every once in a while, like in the bedroom when their marriages need a little pick-me-up. Others are more like actors. They live a lie every day by playing a role others expect to see, like politicians or customer service extraordinaires. Those people must love Halloween. They can finally be themselves and stop smiling all the time.

In the Halloweens of yesteryear, I’ve been all sorts of things.

I don’t remember this, but when I was a toddler, my parents dressed me up as a little devil. I wore a red onesie with a tail and carried the devil’s pitchfork, my face painted red with devil horns perched atop my head. There were aplenty photos of me crying that year.

I might have to fact check this with the elders, but I think another Halloween, my brother or sister and I might have had chickenpox and we couldn’t go trick-or-treating. I sat in an oatmeal bath instead. The other sibling, whoever wasn’t sick, probably gathered candy for us. That, or my parents bought some and brought it home as if they had tricked or treated their way through the neighborhoods on our behalves. My costume that year could be classified as a viral sensation.

Sometime around middle school, I glued rubber to my face. It was a skeleton mask that I painted and decorated myself. I wore hunter’s orange and carried around a toy rifle. It hurt like hell peeling that thing off.

Once I hit college, I became more creative with costumes and used a lot more cardboard and duct tape in my designs.

There was one year when I used empty beer boxes. I cut them and taped them into a suit of armor, like a gladiator. I had a helmet, shield and a sword made from a broomstick.

It was cold that Halloween, and I should have worn more clothes underneath my armor, because by the end of a night at the bars, my brother and others had ripped my suit to shreds. They didn’t even offer to find me a ride home. I walked from downtown Marquette to my rental house along Pine Street in little more than my underwear. Peeling the remainder of the duct tape off my bare skin hurt like hell that year too. Some things never change.

One Halloween, I went as the Tin Man from “The Wizard of Oz.” I again used cardboard to make the suit, which I covered in aluminum foil. I painted my face gray, and affixed a rubber band to a funnel so the Tin Man’s hat wouldn’t fall off the top of my head.

When we went out bar hopping that night, I got $100 in cold hard cash for winning a costume competition. I remember standing up on stage above the crowd. They were all cheering for me — at least I think they were. I was inebriated, so in reality, they might have stopped cheering long ago. But I kept dancing like a robot nonetheless.

Another time, when I was invited to a Roaring ’20s house party on Halloween, I made the cockpit and wings of the Spirit of St. Louis out of cardboard and duct tape. I could pull the whole assemblage over my head and shoulders so that I was in the cockpit and walk around like I was flying. In a flight jacket and cap, I became Charles Lindbergh. I won that costume competition, too, and probably danced like a robot.

Then there was a Halloween when I met my wife, Sarah, and another one years later when I proposed.

There was also one when I did a couple’s costume with her. She’s an amateur painter, so she painted a nice mountain scene with a crystal-clear rippling river, happy trees, and beautiful blue skies and fluffy white clouds on canvas. Then we cut a hole in it. She stuck her face into the hole, and once her head was in there, she painted the scene again on her face.

My part was easy. I wore a big puffy Afro wig, a button-down shirt and blue jeans. I was Bob Ross and she was my painting. It was a fine work of art.

But Halloween is over now, and we can all look forward to the next couple months as the holiday season turns to expanding our waistlines and good old-fashioned American consumerism.

Some people will keep playing roles, I expect. It’s the giving season, they’ll say, and they’ll turn into the kind people they want the world to see them as. They’ll make donations and they’ll do charitable acts to help their fellow man and other things they don’t think about for the rest of the year. And our world will be a better place, at least for a while. Some things never change.

I wonder if it hurts like hell when those people peel the masks off their faces too?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ryan Jarvi is city editor at The Mining Journal. He lives in Marquette with his wife, Sarah, and their dog, Tino. Contact him at rjarvi@miningjournal.net.