Make Death a Monster

The cactus and Joshua tree’d villa at 30th and Quince in North Park lent the perfect aesthetic for a Halloween Dia de los Muertos party. Roommates Hannah and Emily, both half Mexican, had decorated the stairs to their apartment with sugar skulls, pumpkins, Virgin de Guadalupe candles, and marigold petals. Everyone was invited to bring photos of passed loved ones for the altar, which held candles, pastries, and a grandfather’s medallion. Paper skeletons dangled from the white ceiling and a crucifix of flowers hung from the wall.

Hannah dished out hot cider in her Gretel costume while Emily, dressed as a bottle of Tapatio hot sauce, passed out homemade caramel apples and marshmallow pretzel spiders. Hannah explained that the reason you get so hungry at Disneyland is because they pipe vanilla concentrate onto Main Street to stimulate the appetite. Operating on the same premise, she had already boiled cinnamon and oranges over the stove to enhance the olfactory ambiance.

Sergeant Pepper’s played over the stereo as someone shouted from downstairs “Are you ready for this?” and one leg at a time extended into view in the doorway, then a black sequined dress and a dude’s grinning face.

“Every man wants to dress like that once in his life,” Hannah laughed.

Tina Turner was followed by a beaver, a vampire, Hunter S. Thompson, a pirate, and a couple dressed as Groucho and Harpo Marx.

Jason from Friday the 13th and I chatted around the altar about the difference between the Mexican and American treatments of death. Americans tend to dread death, shun it, make it a monster. The Mexican relationship with death — as exemplified by the holiday, anyway — has an air of celebration and good humor that American culture lacks altogether. Accordingly, Hannah handed out rounds of Jell-O shots every time a new friend arrived at the party, and she showed us how to perform divination with the patterns in the bottom of the cup.

“I have half left on the bottom,” she said, smiling, “so the best half of my life is before me.”

The topic shifted to Mexican candy — how every San Diegan of our generation ate it regularly as a kid, how chili coating goes on everything, how Lucas seasoning was reported to contain dangerous levels of lead.

A geisha arrived with bound, bloody feet. Hannah, a UC Santa Cruz alumnus, said the costume would be considered offensive at her school. The geisha said she wore her costume to UCSD and endured no protest from the student body. Objection did erupt, however, when Hunter S. Thompson declared that he hated when people start a conversation with, “Have you seen that Chris Angel skit?” Emotions ran high as several of us debated the Mindfreak’s credibility as an illusionist, a performer, a man.

Our exchange was cut short by the arrival of the second-best costume of the night: Facebook. Adam’s cardboard cutout framed off his face to make the perfect simulated Facebook profile page. The costume intensified when Adam explained that he didn’t have a Facebook page of his own, on principle.

The best ensemble of the night went to the Lichtenstein girls, whose red-dotted faces made some in the room wonder if their costume was smallpox. Jell-O shots made their rounds as the pop-art reference was revealed. My costume, meanwhile, had deteriorated entirely. My facial blood had gone thin and smeared all wrong. Once a zombie hipster, I had devolved into a hipster who had just eaten a messy plate of ribs. I bicycled off into the night, then, in search of blood. ■

Crash your party? Call 619-235-3000 x421 and leave an invitation for Chad Deal.

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