It's just this little chromium switch, here... (derspatchel) wrote,
It's just this little chromium switch, here...

on costumery and Doing

I'm a thinkin person. I'm not a doin person. I often use imagination when others would use hands. I've dabbled in hand work before, though, and I've drawn and published my own comic book by hand, sure, but most of the time, when my hands are busy working on a project, they're busy typing. It often feels like I just don't have the ... vision, perhaps? to realize something physically on my own. When I "do stuff", the results are often ephemeral, such as a live stage performance, or merely archived electronically, such as web goof-offery or photographs or writing for various projects. Rarely, if ever, do I get the chance to "go down to the workshop" and make something physical for myself. Perhaps that's for the best. Me and power tools have never really been the best of friends; acquaintances, really. (Though this one time I totally built a Crow T. Robot look-alike puppet made out of kitchen utensils, and his beak actually worked if you pulled the invisible fishing line just right, so that was a bonus.)

This is why I was so darn pleased with myself for actually coming up with a Halloween costume this year. All too often when it comes to costumes, I'm a Last Minute kind of guy. T-Shirt Ninja is always a popular hit, but that's mostly improvisation. Wearing a bathrobe and carrying a towel and scrawling "DON'T PANIC!" on an inside-out book jacket is also clever, but also borne from last-minute inspiration (and, if not in certain circles, you run the risk of being confused for Hugh Hefner sans Playmates. And if you're going for a Hugh Hefner costume, you kinda need Playmates, and I don't know where I could find seven shallow, airbrushed blondes without reading through the back of the Dig or the Phoenix.)

My tried and true costume piece, the one I could always count on in a pinch, was the most brilliant thing I ever found in a yard sale: an arrow-thru-the-head gag, only instead of an arrow, it was a spatula instead. (See: Exhibit A and Exhibit B.) But I lost that costume piece during the Great Halloween Debauchery of 2002, the details of which are not fit to relate in mixed company, and I miss it dearly.

I admit coming up with last-minute ideas can be a source of pride, but only if the inspiration and improvisation works. Rarely have I actually sat down, planned out, and executed a costume plan. I think the last time I did was in 2000, when I went to Knoebels' Phall Phun Phest as Moxie Man, caped-and-masked crusader who, armed with two jerry-rigged holsters, one holding a liter of Moxie and one holding a Dixie Cup dispenser, doled out portions of the uniquely New England soft drink to an unsuspecting populace. Judging from the reactions, I'm not sure if Moxie Man was a hero or villain, but I had lots of fun cutting out a giant "M" mask and attaching it to a pair of cheap-ass sunglasses, though I should've cut bigger eyeholes because the resulting pictures made Moxie Man look like he had Downs Syndrome and that wasn't quite the effect I was going for.

This year I had three excellent costume ideas, two of which I won't mention on the off-chance that I'll do them at a later date AND YOU CAN'T STEAL THEM NO NOT FROM MY CLEVER BRAIN. The third was good old Barth, the highly unsanitary burger chef from You Can't Do That on Television. Loved the show as a kid, and was always fascinted by Les Lye, who portrayed all the adult male characters on the show, from Barth to Ross the stage manager to Snake-Eyes the bus driver to the firing squad general ("Reaaady... aiiiim...") to Senator Lance Prevert, the corpulent, corrupt father. The way he could draw out vowels, almost drunkenly, in his rich bass voice ("Vaa-aah-aaalerie, do-hon't encourrrrage him") was just awesome.

So. Barth it was. And then eclecticavatar announced she was throwing a Halloween party over the weekend, so I decided to actually take action on this costume during the month of October. I made an inventory of stuff I'd need -- tacky 80s shirt, chef's toque with name, disgusting apron, makeup and eye darkening stuff -- and picked things up piecemeal. Clem and I visited the Garment District one fine afternoon, and I found a cheap chef toque and the loudest plaid-like shirt I could find. I'm giving Clem mad props (mad, I tell you, mad!) for being such a great inspiration, as she does this kinda costumery thing all the time. I was given Ed's printing press apron from You Can't Take It With You, pre-soiled with printer's ink and never to be used again, and I spent an enjoyable 20 minutes or so staining the apron with food products as well. This was probably the most hazardous part of the costume, for I went for some risky condiments, including a dijon mustard that may have lived in the fridge for longer than I've lived in the house. I needed color, I needed something more than just ketchup red, for just red would've implied, you know, blood. Any combination of these ingredients could've resulted in a smellier apron than I'd have liked, so the apron was thoroughly Febrezed before I set out for Friday's Halloween party.

Final touches included the neckbeard five-o'clock shadow and eye darkening, a dishrag to periodically sneeze into, and a blacked-out front tooth. This produced one of the most incredibly hideous smiles ever, and it pleased me, until at the party I forgot I was wearing the tooth-blackening wax, and it kinda fell out and disappeared while I was taking a bite of delicious apple pie. I do not think I consumed the wax along with the pie, though, so that's fortunate.

But the results? Well, by way of urban_faerie_, I think I didn't do so bad. The best compliment I got was bismuthobsidian coming up to me and saying "I HATE YOU! You SCARED me as a child!" Because, honestly, in any other context, you don't wanna hear that. But when you're dressed as a beloved piece of 80s pop culture...

I realize there are tons of people out there who Do with their hands, and who are now just perplexed at how strange it must be for someone to be so excited to have this mundane insight of "Hey! You can THINK something up and then you can DO it!" They must be even more perplexed because this involves a topic as silly and easily-accomplished as a Halloween costume that, when you think about it, didn't involve any time working with a lathe or blowtorch or anything else that'd require the use of safety goggles. But that's just how we roll. Sometimes, you just forget you can Do. Sure, the costume's just as ephemeral as everything else I do: the apron will probably be made into rags, the chef's toque put away and forgotten, and the shirt will go into the back of the closet and maybe considered the next time I need a tacky abomination of big collars, but it's the whole process that counts for me. I'm quite proud with what I done did.

Oh, and the party was absolutely lovely and eclecticavatar was a wonderful and charming hostess and I had a very enjoyable time, thank you very much.
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