Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Curse

I have never been particularly attracted to my birthday, perhaps as a result of being at boarding school on the fatal day during my formative years. Perhaps because i have only the vaguest sense of the passage of time. Yet here I am, 53 and still stuck with the attachment of Halloween to the date of my birth.There is a perverse element in my nature, inasmuch as everybody else seems to enjoy celebrating the holiday of All Saints Eve, but for me this mixture of harvest festival and children's kindergarten hour with adults regressing all around me and encouraging me to disguise myself for the day. Last year we were told we could wear "tasteful" Halloween outfits at work. I showed up in a Hawaiian shirt, shorts and Crocs claiming I was disguised as an "off duty police dispatcher." I work in an office where our modest uniform of polo shirt with a police badge and dress pants and dress shoes is viewed as an unmitigated burden, and my (lack of) creativity was viewed with some envy by colleagues who are always looking for a way out of wearing the uniform. I tell people it took me 35 years to find myself so don't expect me to take the time to disguise what I found at this late date.When I was a child Halloween was not a holiday at all in Italy and was limited to children in England. Apparently it is a holiday based on a Celtic celebration of summer's end or some such, Samhain (pro: sow-an) required masks to be worn to frighten off credulous spirits. The term Halloween, or more properly Hallowe'en came into use in the 16th century referring to the day before All Saints Day which falls on November First. "Hallow" means sainted, and "eve" refers to the day before. The orange and black colors refer to the darkness of winter and the glow of fireplaces.Originally Celts carved pumpkins as candle holders to ward off those credulous evil spirits, though gradually America, land of the giant marrow created the tradition of carving pumpkins. For some reason I can't quite figure Halloween is always associated with night creatures and general spiritual unpleasantness.
Key west is a town filled with people who will put on a disguise at the merest excuse and of course my birthday is the day when a lot of this nonsense culminates, especially as Fantasy fest generally falls on or around this fatal day. For Cheyenne the crowds are bothersome and she is attracted to the smells of garbage which make her awkward to walk. She attracts too much attention too, which makes photography a chore in a crowd. She got a bowl of ice cold water from Lobo's Grill and she liked that just fine, the orange and brown colors notwithstanding.When we lived -briefly- in Fort Myers my wife and I were astonished by the hot headed hatred towards the holiday by some of the churches in the area. They railed against Halloween as though it was some sort of satanic holiday designed to lead children off the rails of morality and godliness. I find that attitude absurd, in the same way that equating Harry Potter novels to satanism is the height of foolishness. I am simply indifferent to my birthday's particular meaning. And in the United States, where adults love their Halloween I hate admitting to the fact that I was born at ten minutes to midnight on the Greenwich meridian (near enough) and that all makes me a marked man. "Ooh, you were born on Halloween?" they say archly.And I am one who is not given to supernatural speculation so inevitably the fact that I was born on Halloween leads to disappointment as I have no horns sticking out of my head, no superpowers and I lack the playfulness, after a half century of being labeled, to enjoy the joke. It's a pity really someone with a better attitude didn't get the burden of being born on this day in my place. They might have done better with it.As it is, my birthday comes and goes and I feel the weight of the years a little at a time. Like most people I don't feel anything more than eighteen on the inside, however I seem to have been pretty lucky in my collection of genes as I continue to enjoy robust good health. My buddy Giovanni the cardiologist tells me in the 6th decade the weight of the years will press down much harder so we should have our fun while we can. He smokes, I exercise in an effort to age as well as I can. Pain sucks.I wonder what will happen when we die. Giovanni says he has heard from many heart patients who have "seen the light" in near death situations, a phenomenon more widely spoken of than previously. Whether it is a last burst of electrical energy or a pathway to another world who knows. I spend little time speculating on the unknowable. Meanwhile I look forward to a cake next week promised by Chuck and even though I am working this weekend, the fact that it is my birthday is a matter of some indifference. My wife kindly goes along with my eccentricity, but she was born January 15th so what does she know about Hallowe'en?As curses go, being born on October 31st isn't so terribly bad, it's just awkward like having a blemish on your identity that needs to be explained every time someone comes in contact with it. One day, perhaps when I grow just a little older and wiser, I will learn to deal with my birth day more gracefully. For now I shall resign myself to being grumpy about it.