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"I'm sorry. I'm at some Holiday Inn right now."

These are the holiday-themed words that seem to bleed from my friend Tony's Halloween mouth, but I could be wrong. I'm insisting to myself that I'm not even here right now, but rather at a swingers' party with a naughty key bowl. Apparently, neither of us is here. Not that "here" is really such a bad thing: the Peacock Room's annual spooktacular, replete with cotton cobwebs and bizarre lighting effects all leading to a costume contest. Nor is now such a bad time: The death of daylight-saving time equals more time for drinky.

It's just that I hate Halloween, sort of like I hate other amateur holidays that involve people who can't hold their drinks and the DUI checkpoints that they mandate. Take that, New Year's Eve.

Anyway, in order to insure my disaffected anonymity, I've acquired something that could pass as a black and grey wig and smudged on some black eye makeup. Effectively, I'm dressed up as Billy Manes in a wig on a bender, which will surely win me something, right? Considering that I'm always Billy Manes in a wig on a bender, probably not. What it does provoke, though, is the sense that I quite possibly will not get my standard preferential bartender treatment, cough cough. Within moments, I find myself squawking and exposing bleached roots just to dredge up a sympathy cocktail.

"I'm sooo Emmylou Harris right now," I twang, pushing my grey front back into the black.

"Yeah, when she was on dope in the desert fucking Gram Parsons," Tony snarks.

There's nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is that I look like Trent Reznor on an absinthe fast more than anything so regal as a country legend. No worries; for the next 10 minutes I'll make a point of repeating that I'm "Emmylou fucking Harris!" I was up above it. Now I'm down in it.

In truth, the whole point of my choosing this location for my extended hour of dolled-up debauchery, and not the blockaded riot of Orange Avenue, is that I'm not much for streetwalking. But I'm also here because my longtime companion (ahem) Dave Plotkin is to judge the costumes, along with my favorite Sentinel reporter Mary Frances Emmons, and surely there's some sort of key-bowl fun to be had in this swirling media alchemy. Surely, except neither of them recognizes me at first. "I was like, who's this fucking weirdo?" cusses Dave, dressed as a powdered-wigged judge, irony duly eschewed.

Mary Frances, ever the portrait of grace with bangs, is dressed like, well, Grace Kelly. In character, she initially just looks at me like an unsuitable heir with unseemly hair.

"I'm your No. 1 fan!" I skulk, prior to the obligatory Emmylou "fucking" bit.

But she's too busy to notice, really. She and Dave are taking this whole judging racket way too seriously, and within moments I'm back in anonymous mingle mode, bumping up against headband-tamed ironic Afros and various princesses from various eras.

"I'd be more impressed with the costumes if it wasn't Halloween," surveys Tony, before oddly adding, "I wish I had rented a costume."

And I wish I had purchased a magical theme-combining machine. One guy walks by in a cape and Michael Myers mask, prompting the obvious unison judgment, "Oh, he's the Michael Myers of the Opera."

Yes, we're that stupid. And the fun only continues when a grim reaper with Star Wars affectations drifts by and our notion that he's being slightly mixed is audible to him, even underneath his packaging. "Are you a grim reaper or a Jawa from Star Wars?"

"I'm a Grim Jawa."

I bump into crazyhead Doug Rhodehamel, who's got Smarties glued to his jeans. Naturally, I beg an explanation.

"All year, everybody's always saying, 'Oh, look at you, smartypants,'" he's less than serious. "So this year, I'm like, 'Well maybe I am.'"

And maybe I'm not. But I am cultured enough to realize that the person with the gory missing ear is supposed to be Vincent Van Gogh, and he's totally grossing me out. He goes on to tell me – in an uncomfortable conversation about vengeance – of his experience shaving his unshaven taint & hole with his enemy's goatee clipper, and I throw up in my mouth. This is pretty much the repeated reflex of the evening, stimulus or not.

In the couchy concert room, a pretend band is performing Pretenders songs in front of a giant Pretenders backdrop, and I'm too threadbare to even draw a conclusion. Somebody else has one, though.

"Acid reflux!" somebody screams in the audience, apparently missing the page of their thesaurus with "encore" on it. How does digestion end up in all of my columns? Why is Orlando so damn intestinal? I can't figure it out. But what I can do is begin to recompose Duran Duran's "The Reflex," changing it to "The Reflux," as in "flux-flux-flux-flux-flux."

And even though I think it's funny, it isn't. Just ask Tony.

"You know, didn't you expect that at least one person would come out in blackface and pretend to be a Katrina victim?" I feel shortchanged.

Again, not funny.

By the end of the evening (or technically, the middle of the morning), I'm channeling energy from Mary Frances, who I respect because she's a journalist who's not afraid to be drunk in public. But when she introduces me to an old friend of hers in a cape, even I'm at a loss. All cruelty aside, what is the etiquette for shaking the hand of somebody whose hand is virtually amputated?

"Can I include that in the column?" I Miss Manners in Tony's direction.

"I think you have to."

I hate Halloween

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