These past few years, Hallowe’en always seems to be wrapped around math midterms, which tends to sap my time and attention and prevent me from really getting into the spooky, scary spirit. But i finished with mid-terms yesterday afternoon and really wanted to rally for the night. Mags had put together an amazing Día de los Muertos costume and face paint. I didn’t have my act together to have a full costume, but mags painted my face in an appropriately ghoulish fashion, and I out on a skeleton hoodie to contribute to the look. I added my leather kilt and heavy stomping’ boots to the outfit and we headed out the door to meet up with an early Hallowe’en bicycle ride.
We weren’t early enough to join the start of the ride in North Portland. Instead we headed to the Lovecraft Bar where we had a few drinks and waited for the bike riders to descend upon us. And they did, in a fabulous array of costumes. There was a matched set of Anubis and Bast that looked amazing! There was an investment banker with a gaping headwound, a mummy and a Joker. There were a flawless Gomez and Morticia Addams and a very victorian Mr Hyde. Before long the bar started filling with artificial fog, flashing lights and lasers and we had a dance party raging. Part of me loved the energy and fun of the scene, but I wasn’t up to dealing with the small talk and I really wanted to be riding. So mags and I left the dancing, happy people and headed out to ride home.
Or that was the plan. Once we got back on bikes, I was entranced by the night. The inner neighborhoods of east Portland were dark and quiet, with drift piles of leaves blowing through the streets. There were few cars on the road, and roaming clusters of people walking about trick-or-treating, or just out enjoying the night. Plenty of houses had flickering candles in jack-o-lanterns, and twinkly orange and purple lights strung about. We biked aimlessly for an hour or more, soaking in the evening. We rode past the Lone Fir cemetery,with throngs of people following tour guides past the tombstones and paper bag luminaries. We stopped to watch a house that was using a large video projector to broadcast dancing ghosts on the side of the house across the street, twenty feet tall and luminous.
We took a brief break at the Hawthorne Cart Pod to refuel and then decided to track down a bike ride that was allegedly gathering at Col Summers Park. The crowd there was already fairly large and festive. Music was blaring from a cargo bike sound system, folks were dancing, talking and laughing. I joined a group playing dodgeball on the tennis courts for a few rounds. After what seemed like a terribly long time, people saddled up and started riding down the streets. There were something between 100 and 200 riders, almost all in some form of costume, bikes festooned with blinky taillights, flashing LEDs in spokes, electroluminescent wire. We rode through the neighborhoods for a bit and made our way to Hawthorne where we stopped in the parking lot of a convenience store for a beer run and more music and dancing. I’m not much of a dancer (and that’s a serious understatement) but I love that I live in a city where dance parties can spontaneously break out in a convenience store parking lot. I bounced up and down to the Violent Femmes, stomping in the heavy boots until we were ready to ride again.
Finally we got everyone back on bikes, weaving down quiet back roads. Dark, rolling laughter would occasionally break out from one rider or another and fill the streets. A girl rode up behind me as I was laughing and she said quietly, “That sounds positively evil.” I laughed more and said, “Actually, that was pure glee. It does not suck, being me right now.” Though it is hard to take malevolent cackling seriously when it is accompanied by bits of chatter between thoughtful riders. “Why are you stopping?” “Everything okay?” “Got the tools you need?” Though I only knew the names of maybe ten people in the entire crowd, I just felt a wonderful sense of community, biking in the dark with a bunch of other crazy people who refuse to fully grow up. One girl quietly called out in a sing-song voice, “Don’t kill me.” As an ethos, that’s not a bad starting point.
We eventually rode up to a ghost bike and had a very solemn moment. Everyone stopped and stood astride their bikes, silent, while a couple of people repaired some vandalism to the bike and touched up the white paint. The mood was only broken when headlights washed over us and the word started drifting through crowd. “Car.” “Car back.” “Make room, car coming.” I couldn’t help but wonder if the ghost bike was due to some fatal interaction with a car, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one sharing that thought. Sobering.
After more cruising through the neighborhoods, we finally came up alongside Laurelhurst Park, where ghosts and ghouls emerged from the edge of the park and hooted and called to us as we came up the curb and into the paths leading into the park. Eventually our ride came to a stop for the night and started the music and dancing again. I was a little surprised to realize it was midnight; I think I would have been ready and willing to ride for even longer, but I was done with the dance scene for the night. Mags and I mounted bikes yet again and started the quiet ride back to the Casa.
Such a wonderful, lovely night. My deepest thanks to all the people who rode and danced with us.