Count me among the unimaginative, the uninspired, the unenthused, the Halloween-hating.
This year, as most previous, I'd left my costume (or at least the conceptualization of it) until the day before. For a moment, I thought I could get away with wearing my threadbare hoodie under my stained, fraying, armpit-ripped trench coat and fingerless knitted gloves. I'd go as homeless. Then I realized that, in the age of Twitter -- and I would no-doubt post a self-portrait -- my colleagues back in Santa Fe would be quick to point out that this was how I dressed every day when I covered the legislature. Facing my first house party, my social debut, in San Diego, where I'd moved only two weeks ago to take a job as San Diego CityBeat's staff writer, I realized that I had to, had to, come up with something a little less slapdash, something with a bit of wit and a respectable amount of effort.
In lazy Halloweens past, I disguised myself as a Republican, using the "Proud of Texas" ball cap from Rick Perry's 2006 gubernatorial reelection bid I had leftover from a piece in which I reviewed campaign shwag in Texas. Last week, the "Tea Party Express" kicked off its second national tour in San Diego and, light bulb, I had it.
The T-shirt was easy; the clearance rack overflowed with far-right propaganda and I decided that "Peace through Superior Firepower" was too cliché, whereas "The Strong Survive" was pitch perfect for my satirization. Right-wingers were surely oblivious to the downright Darwinistic implications of the slogan.
I needed a gun, something hand held and automatic that I could strap to my calf as Kostric did. For some reason, wearing the gun down there feels so much more militia than a belt holster. I dropped $16 on an "UZI Rescue Force" kit -- body armor, handcuffs, gas mask, whistle and "light and sound" Uzi,
Frightening thing #1: The whole kit was sized to fit a five year old.
Now, what's a tea bagger without an outrageous sign? After great thought and Googling, I combined some of the most ridiculous (and common) tea-bagger catchphrases into this single sentence: "THE LIBERTREE IS THIRSTY FOR THE BLOOD OF ISLAMO-SOCIALISTS." I picked out the Castellar font because, to me, it looked most like the one used on American currency, the great symbol of capitalism. Next to the words, taped together like a kidnapper's note, I mounted the ubiquitous Obama-as-Heath Ledger's Joke image: yet another intentional jab at tea-bagger gullibility. As the LA Times reported, The image was created by a Dennis Kucinich supporter screwing around with automatic image-transformation software.
On the reverse side, I taped the full Obama's Kenyan certificate of live birth, itself a hoax design to punk the birthers. Above it, I affixed a Sarah Palin-Glenn Beck 2012 bumper sticker I found through Google images. I attached it all to the short side of plank stolen from canvas frame, pointed on both ends.
I needed a visual cue, something that would spell out the costume for the confused. So, using tape and the strap from my dog's airplane carrier, I manufactured a tea-bag bullet sash.
Frightening thing #2: My roommate had no idea what a tea-bagger was.
A coworker and her husband picked me up and brought me to the party. The two-story house was fantastic, each room decorated in its own theme: heads on stakes in a blood-filled tub in the bathroom; a Big Bad Wolf munching on a decapitated Red Riding Hood in the guest room; a full homemade haunted house ride in the yard powered by a double-wide motorized wheelchair. The costumes were also incredible: a young woman in curlers and a grill, lugging a blue baby on an umbilical cord, represented one of the reenactors from Discovery Channel's "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant," a man who claimed to operate an oil platform for Chevron off the coast of Alaska wore a museum-replica of Henry VIII's robes.
Early on, an African-American guest -- wearing a horse codpiece attached to his neck by a noose (figure it out yourself) -- told me he was offended. He later said he was joking, but it made me realize that even though there wasn't anything to indicate racism, no swastika, no ape-in-a-turban stuffed animal, the elements were all there: Obama in white face, the Kenyan birth certificate, the secessionist implications of the hat, the selective survival shirt.
I slowly realized that I was dressed a white supremacist. I felt like Prince Harry learning too late that a Nazi uniform wasn't appropriate for any circumstance, not even a costume ball. What was worse: the whole costume wasn't as obviously satirical as I had intended. I looked like the real deal. Guests eyed me uncomfortably, read my sign and smiled nervously. Fact is, I should've known better. I'd written about white nationalists infiltrating tea parties only a couple of months ago.
I lost the get-up gradually over the night; I set aside the sign, then put the uzi in my pocket, stashed away the tea bag sash (potent Yogi tea was all I had at home and it was making me sneeze).
Frightening Thing #3: I zipped up my black jacket...and that made it even worse. I caught myself in the mirror; between the cargo pants, the short hair and the steel-toed boots, I'd transformed into a skinhead.
I put the tea-bag sash back on.
They say that a Halloween costume speaks loads about one's true self. The girl who dresses as a nun, with a habit that hangs to her toes, is self-conscious. A man who rolls in drag is comfortable with his testosterone. The skeleton t-shirt exposes the slacker.
I guess mine revealed how much I hate Halloween.
Follow Dave Maass on Twitter: www.twitter.com/davemaass