Scared stiff 

There's no disguising the truth. So when Halloween rolls around, I rarely drift far enough out of my hand-wringing self-consciousness to don a plastic face and pretend to be something I'm not. That's what my column's for, anyway.

A few years back, however, I did find it tastelessly appropriate to slip on a twig-battered wig and go out as a twice-dead Karen Carpenter, sketching scars on wrung knuckles and painting lines into my ribs. I held a copy of the Carpenters' Christmas LP with a lipstick stain of "Love, Karen" dripped across the front. Martyrdom's no stretch here.

This year, I figured the ruse of cracked-out, codependent columnist would do well enough, so I decided I'd cock-tail it out to the barricaded apocalypse of another downtown Halloween to watch as the Biffs and Brendas let go of their khakis in favor of devil horns and angel wings. There's a strange codependence there, too, after all.

"It's amazing to me how much skin the girls in Orlando are willing to show on Halloween," offers Hindu Cowboy Joseph Martens, perched on his throne in front of Bodhisattva Social Club. His whole life is a costume. "And by the way, my girlfriend gave me so much shit for the Music Awards!"

The night in question involved Mr. Nice Guy heckling my hosting stint at Hard Rock Live with misplaced sexual advances. And while I'm usually open to such mating calls in this postmodern (postmortem?) period of my sex life, I had a job to do. And not that kind of job, either, dirty. So I simply had Johnny Cash Lite come up on stage to present an award himself, adding a polite aside of, "Have you ever had a drunk redneck boyfriend that you wanted to sneak out of a bar before he embarrassed you in front of all of your friends?"

Which, obviously, I have.

The best, though, was to see Martens' supercute gal-pal jumping up and down in response to my query with hand-raised release, screaming, "I have! I have!" while Martens stumbled back and forth, making whimsy of such tastelessly appropriate subject matter as the anthrax scare.

"I think there's some susssssspicccciosss white powder on this envelope," he glubbed.

"Um, that's mine," I replied with a tasteful narcotic wink.

Aren't we funny? Anyway, Halloween isn't, not really; and wandering the broken stretch of downtown debris, I'm increasingly uncomfortable. People I don't even recognize in plainclothes are bidding me hello from beneath dead-guy face paint and Ku Klux Klan hoods (really). So I bow into the relatively safe confines of Sapphire. It's here that I realize who I really want to be for Halloween ... er, maybe next year. Too-tall glass of "whatever" Tyler Gray is having a difficult time finding a place to simply be. At 30-feet high, the Orlando Sentinel columnist can stand in front of no one without eliciting a grunt and a shoulder tap, banishing him to the corners of "whatever" room he's gazing over. "I'd hate to be him," explains a girlfriend once on his arm. I wouldn't. Then I'd have money. Um, whatever.

Down here from my level of hell, fast approaching is the devil himself, the hand-wringingly self-conscious J-Sun, sporting Bono's odd pomo devil look, replete with this year's Capri pant, light-up devil horns and a black plastic suit.

"She wore lem-ON," I coo, through my too-tall libation.

"Would you expect anything less?" he lemons, adding, "My mother didn't really like what you had to say about me in the [Orlando] Weekly. She thought you were making fun of me."

I was. So now I've upset girlfriends and mothers, not to mention boyfriends, which means I'm starting to think my work is done here. It isn't.

"Billy, can I have your number?" quizzes a nearby girlfriend. "I love your writing, but sometimes it doesn't make any sense to me. I want to call you and ask you what I'm missing."

That's the trick. You're not missing anything, dear. But maybe I am, so in typical fashion, I sneak away to a place where I might be more (un)comfortable, the fetish party back at Bodhisattva, where I'm greeted by some disrobed dishevel coming down the stairs. "Billy! Remember me from Tallahassee?" she strips, removing her mask. I remember nothing. That's my craft.

"You're about to lose your Band-Aid, baby," I hiccup to a barely mummie-d Jen Paxton, who's dancing her ass bandage off in the cage out front (earlier she was wrapping co-fetishist Tanya in a thin layer of blue Saran Wrap -- comfortable!).

"You shut up!" she cats.

OK, I'm not so hot with the sexy dead set either, so it's back to Sapphire where I can hide back in my non-understandable, textually offensive context. Crawl back into my grave, as it were.

Only, I'm not dead yet. Standing next to me is braid-fest electronico SUNNY, dressed as a nurse, and talking my talk. "Did you see me in Seventeen magazine?" she shames, having recently toured New Jersey casinos with never-gonna-get-it girlband Mpress. "Maybe this will help!" she dances, with arms out, bent over. I know that move.

Appropriately, a George Clooney lookalike in blue scrubs approaches and stumbles into our conversation. "Scalpel!" I wink to SUNNY, wondering if the guy plays doctor with boys or with girls. "He didn't even see me," she nudges.


Whatever. The lights are up; Halloween's over, and I'm standing between a doctor and a nurse.

Martyrdom's no stretch here.

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