★ THE YEAR of TONY the CLOCK ★
“DON’T HUG ME I’M SCARED”
Waverly’s Costume Rank: ★★★★★
Dad’s Costume Rank: what the?
Every year, our household passes through a twelve-step program in preparation for Halloween. Steps include “Remembrance”, “Brainstorming”, “Negotiation”, “Denial”, “Acceptance”, “Change of Mind”, and “Construction”. This year we had successfully completed most of our steps and had a plan in place when Waverly veered off on her own path. This is to be expected and encouraged but her direction is just so very hard to explain. I point my finger at the Balkanization of media. With so many venues to choose from we no longer have “water cooler shows” and our shared memories are fragmenting. I liked Waverly’s choice, but it was just too hard to even begin to explain to the grandparents. Where to start, here?
I am a Hashtag
Waverly came home one day an announced she wanted to dress as ”Tony the Talking Clock” from an obscure (to me) British webcast/YouTube stream named “Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared.” While completely opaque to me, it is a possession of her generation and has inspired a large cosplay following. Waverly was also excited because a BFF from school would join her as another character from the show. Waverly did a good job of revealing her plans to us. She told me all about how her character was a clock and wore a bow tie—how could I resist a clock and bow tie? I must applaud Waverly for her zeal in creating her costume. There was a time (2004) when the thought of full face makeup would have driven her up a wall, but she was totally into it this year. Thanks to Performance Studios for introducing us to Paradise Makeup AQ, a water-activated face and body paint. So much easier to apply and remove. Perhaps her dabbling with face paint the prior year motivated her to try once more.
The Big Night
Just as costume ideas changed and morphed over the weeks leading up to Halloween, so did Waverly’s Trick or Treating plans. Waverly decided to join her crew from school and venture forth into unchartered territory (for her)—the Richland Avenue neighborhood of Nashville. For non-natives, the Richland area is a tiny Halloween utopia section of Nashville with tree-lined medians and houses from the 1920s, where the whole neighborhood comes together to decorate and celebrate. Outdoor projection systems showing cartoons: they’ve got it. Fire pits and light shows: they have it. Oh yeah, they also have sidewalks! We have heard the stories about Trick or Treating on Richland Avenue and read the newspaper clippings but have never wanted to leave our neighborhood on Halloween night, until now.
Richland was a totally new experience for Waverly. As Natasha says, "Waverly experienced the big fish/small pond versus small fish/big pond conundrum.” On her home turf, Waverly is queen of Halloween. Neighbors prepare just for her annual arrival, not unlike the Great Pumpkin. On Richland Avenue, Waverly was just a minion in the teeming throng of masses. It was so busy at Richland, the sidewalks were strictly divided into two-lanes: one coming and one going. Get your candy and keep moving. Waverly came face to face with the socio-economic realities of Halloween on Richland. She quickly realized she was getting only one piece of candy at each house. I tried to explain to her that rationing was necessary given the sheer volume of Trick or Treaters. I also tried to explain that, as lovingly executed as her costume was, its obscurity did not lend itself to audience (homeowner) appreciation and there was no time to stop and chat about her character. I was reminded of the years 2008 and 2011 when our costumes were large constructions—these never would have worked at Richland as we would have created a huge bottleneck on the sidewalk. Know your audience; know your environment.
Near the end of her loop, her candy bag weighed little more than it did when she started and she began to plot a quick return to the fertile hunting grounds of her home neighborhood. We said our thank-you’s to our hosts and made a bee-line for home at 8:30, making it back at a quarter-to-nine. No time for walking, so we used the car to find a house with lights still on—no easy feat on a rainy, late night. Several of our prime targets were already shut down but we did finally find a section that was open for business. Waverly hopped out of the car and ran as fast as her size-thirteen Converse could carry her. It was a sight to behold in the glare of the car headlights. I have never seen her run so fast or for so far. She put her prior thirteen years of Halloween experience to good use. At one point we heard her humming ”Ride of the Valkyries” as she ran from house to house. Without the aide of a flashlight or umbrella, she quickly traversed multiple houses without missing a "Trick or Treat!" or a “thank you”. It made me think of the Seinfeld episode where Kramer tells the story of taking over a run-away NYC bus and Jerry incredulously exclaims, "You made all the stops?!”
The end result? Her personal Halloween best in terms of sheer volume. Thirteen+ pounds of candy.* She even came up with a new slogan, “If your arms don’t hurt, you aren’t doing it right.” Now I should explain the asterisk. The seeds of her thirteen pounds were planted years ago. As previously recounted, Waverly was always infuriated by houses that left out a bowl of candy on the front porch and failed to greet her at the door. More than candy, she just wanted costume recognition. She also quickly came to the conclusion that other kids were absconding with the whole bowl of goodies as the bowls were often empty, no matter how early she arrived. Earlier in the week, Waverly was crafting a plan to make a circuit in our neighborhood before joining up with her friends at Richland. This plan involved getting to the bowls early and exacting her revenge for earlier years. I do not condone this scheme and it did not work out that we could visit her neighbors before heading out for her group escapades. But closing in on 9:00pm and with the streets appearing desolate of any further treaters, I did not argue with her greed. I was just amazed that the unattended bowls (three to be exact) were still full and available. To our neighbors at home, we apologize for Waverly’s absence this year. As fun as Richland and Trick or Treating with friends was, a part of her felt she had abandoned you. Perhaps she will make up for it next year.
To Waverly’s credit, her age-peers recognized her character and applauded her costume.
With Waverly’s costume tumult under our belts, it was time to turn attention to our own Halloween needs. René Magritte’s surrealist self-portrait painting The Son of Man has long been on our Halloween idea list, but this year, it was swiftly climbing the list.
The original plan was to make a Magritte ensemble for Waverly as our hope was that she would wear it for her school’s annual Halloween assembly contest. If anyone would appreciate a Magritte, we knew it would be her school. When Waverly shifted gears, we decided to appropriate her costume for ourselves and the handful of Halloween parties we are invited to as adults. Having made a mélange of “giant” props for an education play in 2014 including an apple, an apple slightly larger than a real one would not be a problem for Natasha. She made two, or technically one and a half. I wanted a full apple that I could hang from a bowler hat and Natasha wanted a hand-held version so she could easily talk to people at parties. A Sky umbrella from Tibor Kalman and Emanuela Frattini Magnusson added the perfect mobile backdrop for our performance. For you purists, the necktie on the painting is red, but hey, bow ties! I also thought pink went well with the green apple. When we showed the papier-mâché apples off to my mother, she was heard to utter, “You’ve surpassed me!“ The torch has been handed to a new generation.
Walking around with Waverly at Richland, I was beginning to admire Natasha’s hand-held apple configuration. Having walked around in the dark on wet sidewalks after the rain, with an apple in my face, I now have a new appreciation for those suffering from macular degeneration. The one nice aspect of my configuration is that I could bend the wire suspending my apple to the left or right of my head, depending on which side of the sidewalk I was traveling, thus affording passersby with a better viewing experience.
One of the highlights of my evening was a little girl who came up to me and asked if I was in fact Magritte. Her excitement was palpable and she finally asked me if I “went to USN?” I said yes as I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I was only a member by proxy—a parent. She had apparently seen me in costume at Waverly’s Halloween town meeting the Friday before. She went on and on about how she loved the Surrealists and Magritte and then I learned she was a fifth-grader! It dawns on me as I write this that I may have been talking to the ”Money Bee” from that assembly—my favorite costume from that event! It all comes around, full circle.
With Halloween 2015 a mere artifact in the rearview mirror and several pounds of Waverly’s candy stash still languishing on the dinning room table, I attended the meeting of the Dads’ Alliance on the Tuesday following. I thought briefly about playing hooky, but our scheduled speaker was too good to miss. Boy, am I glad I went in. The mystery of the fifth-grade surrealist art appreciator has been solved. After the meeting, a fellow dad came up to me and asked if I was dressed as Magritte on Halloween night. After my admission to that fact he showed me a photo shot with his iPhone taken of me with the mystery girl, his daughter. Fantastic! Give that man some Dads' Alliance swag. Zoe, you made my Halloween evening with your well-spoken love of Magritte and the surrealist painters. Which artistic meme may we fashion especially for you next year?
A Good Year for Clocks
As stated earlier, Waverly used our love of clocks as a selling point for her costume idea. If you know us, you know we love our clocks, specially our mod-century modern time pieces. There are almost fifty clocks in our house and a hearty laugh is always uttered whenever a guest asks us what time it is. A week before or so before Halloween she constructed Tony’s paper clock badge for her outfit and learned to expertly wield a circle cutter. Later, she was confronted with a Chinese language homework problem: make a paper clock with Chinese numerals. The task was supposed to be simple, but I think Waverly was not only obsessing on her costume but also her home clock environment. She worked all day on a Sunday without parental involvement—we had no idea what she was even doing—and produced an awesome, George Nelson-esque paper clock that would look right at home on any of our walls. If ”Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared” provided the impetus, all the better.
All in all, it was a very good Halloween for Waverly. It was a Halloween of space and time distortions. The next day was Daylight Savings when clocks were set back and an asteroid passed close to Earth the day before. Waverly ran with all her might this year to keep turning back the Halloween clock.
Thanks to Ellie (Sketchbook) for joining Waverly in her costume adventure this year. Waverly’s Halloween Middle School years are now past. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next year. Till then, Happy Halloween!
That gum I like is coming back in style. I hope.