Online Journal
Front Page 
 Special Reports
 News Media
 Elections & Voting
 Social Security
 Editors' Blog
 Reclaiming America
 The Splendid Failure of Occupation
 The Lighter Side
 The Mailbag
 Online Journal Stores
 Official Merchandise
 Progressive Press
 Barnes and Noble
 Join Mailing List

Commentary Last Updated: Jan 4th, 2007 - 01:08:31

Halloween in Greenwich Village as America
By Jerry Mazza
Online Journal Associate Editor

Nov 2, 2006, 01:41

Email this article
 Printer friendly page

Once, on the corner of Houston and Sixth Avenue in Greenwich Village, you could look downtown and see the Twin Trade Towers shining bright as the surrounding night life. These nights, you look and see Twin Voids downtown. Yet from them appears the 33rd annual Village Halloween Parade, as if the souls of the gone and their family of millions were walking back to life. Amen.

Yes, on this festival that celebrates the rising of the dead and the saints, the resurrection common to Christianity and the many primitive religions that preceded it, here comes America�s cultural collage, which has become the most popular holiday, raking in more than $4 billion for costumes, skulls, pumpkins, masks, and the paraphernalia of Trick or Treat.

The Trick tonight is to look above the tragedy and the rubble, some of which still sits downtown, with remains still being dug up almost unimaginably. The Trick is to look beyond it all or through its very heart to its complete truth. And the Treat will be the feeling you feel walking among these happy Americans and visitors from the world. Happy as this nation used to be, the way we were the day we won WW II, and people hugged and kissed in the streets, from Times Square to Timbuktu, in spite of all the death behind us then.

It is a joyful celebration of life, this Halloween night, with its kitschy twists on death, a night for even the straightest to be twisted in their thousands of home-made and store-bought costumes, from a 9-year old Statue of Liberty, to a seven-foot Jolly Green Giant, the Quaker Oats Man, the Sun Maid Raisin girl in her box. They march in food groups as the cameras of NY1, our city station, swirl from Houston Street to 23rd Street and up Sixth. There�s no business like show business, no city like New York.

We have marching bands from Brooklyn and everywhere here, the Gowanus Wildcats, the Big Apple Forever Band, a sea of people and a crashing wave of musical noise, a music that would make Charles Ives jump for joy. Corps of drummers beat on and on like the subways that run under the avenue, through the arteries and veins that bring the crowds from the boroughs and beyond, Jersey, Jamaica, Japan. Name it.

We have the Banana Boys and Carmen Miranda from Somerset, New Jersey; a float that celebrates dogs, legions of Potato Heads, the Princeton Marching Band, and the Grand Marshals from KISS, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley from New York who made it bigger than big. Their first hits were recorded a few blocks uptown in the Electric Lady studies on 8th Street. Now with their tongues curling from their painted black/white faces, they mime themselves. No freak has been left unturned, nobody left unhugged, unkissed, unacknowledged for their beauty.

And perhaps this is why America loves this holiday so much: it�s about diversity cubed by the square of imagination. It�s about who we are, really. Why there goes Michael Jackson�s Zombies, dancing en masse to Thriller, the eerie boy/man voice echoing through the streets. But then we have pirates by the boatload (from Wall Street?), clowns by the ringful, French Maids . . . oo la la in straight, gay, and bi combos, knock-outs all of them in their net stockings and patent leather heels.

We have cowgirls and cowboys, ghosts, goblins, mummies by the graveful, a walking phone receiver, a bull-horn rap group rasping the air, the Manheim Steamroller of Christmas, ladies of the evening in all shades, make up and do�s and don�ts, hi sailor, wanna dance? We have a night full of Mardi Gras that echoes New Orleans, our sister city in tragedy, and brings tears to your eyes and ears.

We have this frail bark of vulnerable humanity outing itself as same, yet curiously powerful in its China-like mass and muscle. We have costumes and dancers from the Dominican Republic, Guardian Angels in their red berets from Hell�s Kitchen. We have Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley six ways to Sunday, a gorilla chasing a banana, a Jewish Superman with a Super Jew Utility Belt (whatever that is). We have rabbis, priests, shamans, imams, gold-shirted dancers doing the samba, Little Red Riding Hood, Little Bo Peep, BORAT the film promotional truck, a Walking Building (a new one each year), The Brooklyn Bingo Brothers, eh, fuhgeddaboudit, Snow White and Seven Dwarfs at least.

We have open windows of parties staring down from endless buildings, revelers, working people, artists, old ladies, tycoons, the lusty and the lost, the over-sexed and the under-loved, pub-crawlers, street people, the whole nine yards of a rainbow cloth called America. And a few blocks away we have Washington Square Park, our first president up on his marble horse, watching as 911 Truth.Org, dutiful patriots, hand out free copies of Mysteries of 911 DVDs in the circle of the fountain. Call it the Fountain of Truth. Yup, watch all about it, folks. It�s free. And you don�t have to agree. Just look. Take a peek. It�s alright. We�ll still be friends.

It�s all good, as the brothers say on the street, the intricate streets that spin off Sixth Avenue, known too as the Avenue of the Americas. And I think back walking through them to when this parade started in Westbeth, the federally-sponsored artist�s residence (previously a New York Telephone Company building). It wound its way from Greenwich Street, discretely up Bank Street, crossing Hudson to Bleeker, turning left on Perry Street and winding its way east to Washington Square Park.

I think of how beloved the parade was even then (a miniature of this grand outing of imagination tonight). I think of how it was before AIDS had hit, before the gay community was laid waste by it. I think about all that was suffered since and how people have endured and turned grief to joy tonight, and refuse to be stopped by any terror threat or mindless petty tyrant sitting in a truly haunted White House, full of the freakiest of the freaky, the bluebeards of history.

I think of when I was a young(er) writer, living in Westbeth, my first marriage gone, wanting to be the next great American poet, walking with my new love and my first two kids. And life had given me back so much, and New York was my world, and America my country. I think of how I�d get dressed up in the morning and go to my first big ad agency job, working on the US Navy of all things. And how I went on a road trip with all the creative guys, ripped to the last. How we were shuffled through sub bases, warships, nuclear carriers, dark landscapes that led us to the Pentagon.

I think of walking through the belly of the beast, those marble hallways with a security clearance I.D. dangling around my neck. I think of all those military people, the same losing their lives, as we speak, in Afghanistan, Iraq, and bringing death consciously or not to hundreds of thousands of others. I think how life seems to churn out death. And so we have Halloween to remind us of the specter of the lost and the joy of living.

And so wherever I turn, I bump humanity. I can smell its sweat and perfume, its reefer and incense, its garbage and French fries. Vive La France! Vive this Democracy that has tried for 230 years to lift humanity to the next step and the next, and fallen back so often on its own mission, and still gets up to march, to walk this night, to show itself, to be its best and worst dream.

And so I say, post facto, Happy Halloween America. May you make your peace with your dream, your ghosts, your past, your present and your future! May you transcend as this crowd the pain of your days, the lies of your leaders and the vilest of the vile among us! May you survive the flood of true evil that has been unleashed on this land, this tsunami of corruption!

And look! It is a voting booth walking towards me, yes, a walking voting booth, and its curtain face smiles at me and swishes open. And, like a pair of arms, it opens to me, inviting me to embrace it, to press its levers, to reform this government of the people, for the people, by the people. Is this an illusion, a contact high, a vision of some sort, or someone�s grand imagination handing me my freedom. I think, use it. Use it, fragile, foiled, soiled, as it is. Use it. Use it. Do not go gentle into that good night, as Dylan Thomas said so often on these same streets, and in his hangout at the White Horse Bar on Hudson Street.

Amid the sounds of music, of pleasure, even the siren in the distance taking some soul to some emergency room, or putting out some new fire of apocalypse, I think of the life we must strive for, this October 31, 2006, and all days forward, in this Republic, gift of our fathers, raised by the blood, sweat and tears of generations since. So let me step once more into the throng and be swept to its eternity. Give me your hand, brother, sister, and let us go together.

Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer living in New York City. Reach him at

Copyright © 1998-2007 Online Journal
Email Online Journal Editor

Top of Page

Latest Headlines
The real gay agenda
Pat Tillman: Beyond the lies, hype, and denial
Ol� Smedley knew a racket when he saw (and slew for) one
Historic opportunity that Israel must seize
Honeybee capitalism
What if Jesus disrupted the New York Stock Exchange?
An outraged voice that speaks for the Middle East
After four years: A little contrite but still unrepentant
Pet food recall: What�s your cat eating?
Willkommen to the United States of Foreclosure
A commencement to remember
Killing two birds with one Mohammed
Too guilty to fly, too innocent to charge?
Obama�s Israel problem
America�s two illicit addictions: Drugs and immigration
More blues for your greenbacks
Impeachment: Winning by losing
Bring back the PLO: Palestinians must redefine struggle
POWs issue can threaten Egypt-Israel ties
Has the Christian Right found its candidate for �08?