I love the feeling of Halloween in Atlanta. Of course I do, you say, it's my birthday, and you are right, sir! But I don't think that's why. To me, Halloween always felt like the very end of autumn, the last bit of warm breezes and outdoor cookouts before winter chills set in. Something to savour. That's probably not seasonally accurate at all; I'm sure winter starts much later, or maybe much earlier. I don't know a lot about seasons.
What I do know: Halloween in Atlanta is cool, almost chilly, with pretty fall colours and adorable kids dressed as bunnies knocking on your door. Leaves changing colour. Yellow, auburn, crimson and green ornamental gourds piled on front lawns, fake cobwebs on trees, haunted houses, Fright Fest at Six Flags and Fright Night on the local low-rent television station. And the only time of the year those kids who wish they were vampires are accepted just for being their weird loser selves.
I don't like dressing up; whenever I do get into a silly costume, I just feel uncomfortable the whole time. I think what I really hate is the compulsion to dress up on Halloween; it's my birthday, dammit, I just want to wear pyjamas and a tiara. Surprisingly, that usually doesn't win the "Best Costume" award.
But I do like Jack O'Lanterns. Craig gets really into them; he's made Vampire Lenin and a Donnie Darko scary rabbit.
He even once made a spooky cat Jack O'Lanter, modeled on our very spooky Severine.
And we were traditionalists; we always used the right kind of pumpkin. The big, orange, ridged rind pumpkins. Charlie Brown got lost in the pumpkin patch kind of pumpkins. You know what I'm saying.
They don't even have them here. Don't get me wrong; Australia is a country full of "pumpkin." They love eating pumpkin. But everything they call pumpkin, Americans call squash. Like this: Butternut...pumpkin. Very strange.
Stranger yet: Halloween is in springtime here. And a lot of people don't even know about it. I didn't see a single cobweb, witch's hat, or zombie. It's weird, I know, because zombies are really hot right now. For example, on Saturday, I was asked, "So... is Halloween on the same day every year?," which shows a deep lack of understanding about what exactly Halloween is in the first place, yes? Yes, yes. Oh, yes.
Also: Halloween back home is sort of like two holidays: before 7pm, it's all cute kids and candy.
After 7pm, it's adults dressed up, either sexy or scary, and it's time to drink. Massive parties, vandalism, smashing pumpkins. The zombies rule the streets.
But here, it's not even a big day for kids; no dress-up, no candy. Some adults do dress up at night, but mostly just the goths who always dress in black anyway. Basically, Halloween is only a big deal in a few neighbourhoods in Sydney, where all the goth kids already live.
It's sort of seen as an American import, one more example of American cultural hegemony; people aren't really that interested in giving free candy out to kids they don't know, or going to haunted houses. I think, to a lot of Australians, it feels fake.
But I really don't see how anyone could be against pumpkin-carving. I mean, look at the (dorkeriffic) creativity it unleashes.
For years now, we've been holding Nijaween dinners at restaurants I like. The purposes behind this were many-fold: we were in from the cold on what's usually a chilly night, people could eat whatever they wanted, we didn't have to cook or clean up. And I was always raving about some restaurant or another, so it was a chance to make all my friends eat there, give the place some business, and all my friends would become fans, too. Awesome.
This year, since it's springtime, Craig decided he wanted to throw me the first ever Nijaween Picnic! And it went over so well, I'm demanding a picnic every year I celebrate an upside-down birthday. And he organised everything so well, even the weather; it was a perfect warm day, no rain, and cool in the shade. Boy Wonder, indeed. I'm beginning to think he might be a robot. He even made me a tiara.
Alexandria Park is right behind our apartment, and it's pretty close to the city, so some people rode their bikes. The park has big open spaces and beautiful old trees. A bunch of friends came out to enjoy some good food; some were new friends, like Liz and Jacqui from the camping trip, and some were (relatively) old friends, like Aaron and Portia. I've known them for almost a whole year! We set up under a twisted and gnarled old tree, and the whole day was rather idyllic.
Sarah and Gary brought their beautiful kids, and everyone fell in love with them. Sarah drank her first sip of beer in years. Awesome. She really got into the Nijaween spirit.
I think little ones running around just make a picnic better. Especially when they stick their hands in the pumpkin seeds and knock over the whole jar. Comic genius. But even when they're just excited and happy, acting like little kids at a picnic, they make everyone else feel like running around, too.
Little kids also remind the host to bring out the cake. Craig ran inside and returned with a beautiful raw, vegan, Mexican chocolate cake from Conscious Choice. He had conspired with my workmates and neighbours, keeping the cake hidden from me until the party. We forgot to take a picture of it, because it was beautiful and we wanted to eat it. Quickly. And it was flippin' good.
The crown got passed around a bit. Gary wears it with dignity.
Craig wore it, too, and did that trick were he goes all blurry for a minute.
Aaron seems a little jealous, doesn't he? After all, wearing a crown while blurring yourself: it's not a skill everyone can master.
We had fun and played frisbee late into the afternoon; we were frisbee maniacs, you couldn't stop us. Benedict used to play Ultimate Frisbee; he plays frisbee with a beer in hand. A crappy frisbee couldn't stop us. An increasingly strong and erratic wind couldn't stop us. The trees made shadows that stretched and twined, and we flung the frisbee through shadow branches. It rarely flew where we thought we were throwing it, and we rarely caught it, but we ran and fell and drank and laughed about exactly how crappy the frisbee was.
Then it got pretty dark. And that sort of stopped us.
As the evening cooled down, Craig and Aaron ended up...getting close.
Sure, it was a little awkward for me and Aaron's partner, Portia. Maybe I'm starting to get (a little too) comfortable with Craig's bromances. Maybe Portia's used to it, too. Anyway, the four of us decided to call it a day. That night, I felt lucky to have a springtime birthday, lucky to have a Boy Wonder, lucky to have a picnic party, and more than anything, wildly lucky to call such amazing people friends.
Ah, yes. Well, Monika couldn't make it to the party, but she was still prepared. You see, Monika is the groceries coordinator at Alfalfa House, and she regularly gets samples. Usually, the samples are food, and she shares it out. But on Tuesday, she gave me a birthday gift like no other. Sure, it was a sample, and sure, it didn't cost her anything. But that is not the point.
The point is, she gave me the weirdest birthday present I have likely ever received. A hyG Ionic Toothbrush. From Japan. Even the promotional material for it is crazy. Because Japan is awesome.
I can't wait to use the power of ions on my teeth! I wonder if Ionic Power can help me lose weight, too!!
Lastly: I was on Final Draft again, reading my review of Shakespeare's Wife, by Germaine Greer. It's more or less the same review I've already posted on this blog, but if you want to hear me read it, here you go.
And I can't remember if I ever put this up on the blog-- it's a funny bit I wrote for Ordinary Magazine, an online outfit based here in Sydney. It's all about Cary Elwes.
Ok, folks. Back to work.