We "did" Halloween for the first time in a while. The weather has been (except for continual sinus attacks as the air to me is often burny and itchy and I can no get no medicine whatsoever that helps), it has been beautiful aesthetically: leaves all turned yellow, red, orange, peach, shades of auburn, cantaloupe-colored parasols along the sidewalks (yes we do have some). The leaves have begun to fall and the autumn flowers (chrysanthemums) are everywhere, with their violet colors added to the riot of color as in this sad but memorable picture by Mary Cassatt:
Mary Cassatt, Lydia in Autumn
As darkness threatened (it did not come until after 7 as until this morning we have been suffering under Daylight Savings Time), we put a candle in our pottery pumpkin. I had put a light on the roof of our ceiling over our stoop and put that on. Much to our delight and our cat’s perplexity (and excitement) children actually did come. Several five year olds in expensive costumes: princesses, space men — with a discreet parent on our path just behind. A few (black) groups who came up from where we have some welfare houses in the valley. And some other (white) groups from up here on the hill.. I had bought earlier in the day chocolate kisses, and kit-kat milk chocolate wafers. I gave them out. Children are so transparent: I had taken my dentures out to eat (this was during supper) and I came to the door, the child looked astonished. Where are your teeth, she asked? I only have a few said I. Are you a witch said the other? I remained very cordial and a third child said "I like her" as I filled the basket.
I noticed again as I had three years running that the young couples around us do not have candles in pumpkins and do not send their children trick-or-treating. Instead they darken their houses, dress their kids to the nines and go to exclusive children’s parties the adults have made up. No wonder I am uncomfortable in this neighborhood. What happened this year is more kids came and we were the only house on this particular block open.
Then around 8 or so, Jim, or the Admiral as I used to call him on my old blog, got all dressed up. He put on his tux with a lovely black silk shirt underneath it, and his glossy black shoes, worn only (in my remembrance) when I had my moments at the Reform Club: we went to a dinner there one night and the next I gave my paper to a gathering of the Trollope Society. Maybe also a couple of New Year’s Eves and a partly or so in NYC at a Club affiliated with the Williams?
I had black pants, black blouse, black waistcoat, scandals and mask. He had a mask too.
We had trouble finding parking but managed and walked down the avenue for 20 minutes. It was fun to see groups of varied size and ages dressed up: some people extravagantly, some a little, and some like us, minimal. Draculas were popular, witch hats naturally. Ghost tours.
We got to the Torpedo factory where there was said to be a masked ball. (The Torpedo Factory gets its name from its origin as a torpedo factory in WW2; in the 1960s, it was in desuetude (as much of Old Towne then) and civic-minded people who know how to raise funds with little help from the City Council, turned it into an art center; now it also hosts commerciallly weddings, dinners and the like. Tonight was for free (but cash bar) but later versions of the same kind of civic-minded people those who also brought us the Fringe Festival in DC this summer and previous ones.
Well it was not quite a masked ball, but nearly. On one side of the great hall was an exhibit and on the other a band played. A tiny space for dancing and hardly anyone daring. The other watching. We went up to the balcony and watched for a while with others. There was a marvelous acrobat who did startling unsafe stuff with long strips of silk from the ceiling. Powerful young women with a lithe body – like circus people.
When the band changed, we did manage to get into the circle of benches and then because we really wanted to, we began to dance. Others joined in gradually. Dancing nowadays is not really done in couples but individuals on the floor mingling back and forth with one another. I danced with a women in purple and a witch hat (whose husband in a jester’s outfit would not get up) who had encouraged me earlier when she heard I say I was shy. The music was this hard beat, not true rock and roll but you move your body rhymically to it, and then you let go and start to make gestures and so on.
Alas, the gig came to an end and there was another group to set up. The group spirit working up is thus deflated and people wander off. We tried to go outside to look at the water at the quai and board walk but it was pouring by that time. (Ah, didn’t I say it drizzled on and off most of the night and sometimes rained hard.) The next band was pure hard noise so we left then. We had had pleasant talk with people — I had had anyway.
Then walking back and seeing less people but still there and in bars and restaurants bands playing and people dancing and voices wafting up. Izzy has not wanted to come, but she had some Scots CDs going, marvelous music which I had gotten last year at the MLA for free and today we will go out to see Juliet Binoche in Paris.
We had put out the candle in the pumpkin before we left, and when we got home, we subsided into books, magazine articles, coffee for me, and the cats crawling around us, wrestlng now that we were home.
Helene Funcke (1869-1957), Landscape with Boat (autumn landscape), and Still Life with Peach