Wednesday, October 31, 2012

All Hallows

It's not surprising Key West worships the holiday of Halloween, with it's mask and costumes and the mere pretense of danger and risk. One can dress up and abandon the daily dreary self and become a "wench" with sexuality to spare, whether or not one actually has that randy gene in one's make up, or a witch with the promise of evil thoughts and deeds to animate the socially proper weeks ahead. That this day precedes the Christian holiday celebrating the Saints, the favored interlocutors with God, has absolutely no bearing at all on the need to get dressed up and look absurd. Offices, banks and even my dispatch center permit or encourage employees to wear whatever employees want and one isn't supposed to bat an eyelid if the bank teller looks like this:

Personally I don't think Kermit's key lime stuff is enhanced by the statuary but it would be churlish to reject the modern concept of Halloween simply on the grounds it's childish. Growing up in Europe the notion that Saturnalia could be indulged by adults seemed preposterous. The Roman Festival of Saturn was created at a time when the empire had slaves and Saturn was the god of abundance and a mythical era equivalent to our Garden of Eden. The holiday saw roles reversed throughout Roman society with owners waiting on slaves and street parties and so forth. It was celebrated around the winter Solstice and came to be adapted apparently as Christmas. However the Pagan Samhain -summer's end - festival became supposedly Halloween, the night before All Saints Day. And this somehow devolved into a kind of modern Saturnalia where adults take on the role of children and prance around looking silly.

I take this stuff too personally I guess. It annoys me that I was born on Halloween and it becomes one of those socially awkward occasions when people ask me what am I going to go as, as though I were going anywhere dressed as anyone other than myself. Happily this year Keith needed Wednesday night off and I made the supreme sacrifice and agreed to work my birthday so he will owe me big time at some future date. So I will go to work in street clothes heavily disguised as a Key West Tourist. That I may be required to answer 911 calls alongside witches and goblins is just one of the trials of the day for me.

In Key West, a town with run of the mill radio stations heard anywhere in the US, a town where Caribbean music, old fashioned ska or soca or modern reggae which trips up on the doorstep of rap (unfortunately) is almost never heard unless it is socially acceptable Marley "revolutionary anthems" of decades ago, this is the town that throws winter decorations on a tropical tree and calls it good. The need to disguise oneself spills over into the need to disguise one's life as well. The fact that we live far south of the cold north that lent us these wintry traditions seems to encourage people to go over the top in celebrating the Nordic Pagan holiday.

Me? I celebrate living well away from the Nordic climate that gave us Christmas trees and snowflakes and burning Yule tide logs and all the other Victorian nonsense of a season of frigid cold and gorgeous hymns made crappy by modern "interpretation" and electronic organs. The worst of Halloween is that it unleashes another frenzied season of compulsive shopping, and even though shoppers across the Keys lament the absence of choice in stores in these islands, the need to spend money on gifts neither asked for nor sought makes itself felt. It used to be we held off marketing Christmas until Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday for which I am off work this year and plan to keep it that way. Now my birthday marks the end of summer and the beginning of frenzy and were it possible I would have it some other way. The good news is I can manage to avoid it all and so can you, if you choose. I'm 55 today and the world around me makes less sense than ever, and I wonder what my late mother was thinking to herself as midnight approached all those decades ago and I failed to appear. Had she held on another ten minutes I'd have been born November 1st, a delightfully inconspicuous day, but Fate decreed otherwise and here I am, a grumpy child of Halloween, still kicking and moaning pointlessly against my fated day, living the dream in a town that just happens to think Halloween is the most precious dress-up day in the calendar. Tell me the gods don't have a sense of humor.