“Do you miss the back under?” – A strange customer who comes into my work and asks me bizarre questions, this time confusing “Down Under” and “Outback”.
Halloween has never been a big thing for me, it’s not really celebrated in Australia outside of a ‘Tree-House of Horrors’ Simpsons episode being aired. In fact, we only ever had trick-or-treaters come once to our house when I was a child and dad threatened to get the hose.
Now, I’m not a big fan of Halloween for two main reasons:
- I don’t like children.
- I can’t stand pumpkin.
But we did a few things before Halloween, so we’ll look at those first…
Anna’s cousin, Emilie, works at Pace Gallery and on Thursday there was the opening of Zhang Huan’s new exhibition, “Let There be Light.” We’re people who knows people, so I went down and met Emilie at the gallery and then we stood around waiting for Anna for about 20 minutes, who was late as usual.
The exhibition itself was fantastic. Here is the background according to the press release:
Zhang’s new body of ash paintings—made between 2011 and 2014—present passages from the Bible and “The Star-Spangled Banner” in braille. Emphasizing surface, the works continue his use of incense ash from Buddhist temples as a medium while demonstrating a departure from the figurative themes of his earlier ash paintings.
The exhibition also includes a figurative ash painting—Zhang’s largest to date—measuring 122 feet long. Based on a photograph taken on June 15, 1964, the painting represents Mao Zedong surrounded by the central leaders of his government and over 1,000 loyal followers. For Zhang, who was born a year after the photograph was taken, the image prompts memories from his childhood during the Cultural Revolution. It represents a time in China’s history fraught with disaster and disorder, when Chairman Mao sought to consolidate his rule over the country. By sourcing imagery from a media archive of government-approved material, Zhang is highlighting the fallibility of a constructed memory. The ash painting presents the appearance and spirit of China at the time, highlighting a collective devotion and ideology based in communist and socialist thought.June 15, 1964 demonstrates the potential for human history to be interpreted through multiple cultures and systems of belief, generating a growing dialogue and platform of communication.
The giant, 122′ (37.18m) ash painting was extremely impressive, especially the amount of detail that went into something so large while using such a coarse medium. Here are a few other angles of it:
After the exhibition we went out for some great Mexican food, found the final, finishing touches for Anna’s Halloween costume, then pulled up a seat in front of the TV for the night.
Friday started out the same as usual, after work drinks with Anna and her colleagues at The Bar Room. However, this time there was something on afterward, an all expenses paid drink and snack function. By the time this was over Anna was pretty tired, so she went to bed and I went down the road to Waterfront Ale House to watch the basketball. They had the MLB World Series on most screens, but the owners are huge NBA fans, so I knew I’d be able to watch it there. Had a few drinks, met some cool people, then it was back home to bed.
Ugh, Halloween. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Halloween isn’t really celebrated where I come from. When I was working in Singapore my boss, Kristina Thornton, (left) was American and I just figured she was just excited about Halloween because she liked the children and it is kind of a special day for them. But over the years it became obvious that she loves Halloween and she just really gets into it, I just didn’t realise that her level of enthusiasm for Halloween was par for the course among 20 and 30-somethings in the US. In the picture (left), she arrived at work like that, she painted her entire body blue to look like Smurfette and then caught the bus to work.
I also mentioned earlier that I’m not a fan of children or pumpkin. Well, children play an extremely minute part in Halloween celebrations here, but you can’t escape pumpkin! In fact, this page here ranks 119 different pumpkin-flavoured products, but tell a local that you don’t really like pumpkin or pumpkin spice and you are bound to be asked any number of these questions:
- “Are you insane?” – NO.
- “Do you hate autumn/fall and all of the joy that comes with it?” – Autumn and pumpkin aren’t one and the same
- “Is it because you are allergic to pumpkin spice? That must be the ONLY answer!” – No, it’s possible to just not like pumpkin…
- “You must have never had it before, right? Just give it a try…” – Please stop.
- “Did something traumatic cause your dislike for pumpkin spice?” – NO!
- “Do you hate all thing joyful in general?” – Well, I’m not a fan of Christmas, either, so I’m definitely headed in that direction…
- “Maybe if you try it again you’ll like it?” – I don’t need to try something 10 times to know I don’t like it.
- “Have you never been to Starbucks before?” – No, I haven’t. Even if I had, I’m sure you can go to Starbucks and not get a pumpkin spice latte.
- “Do you even know what it tastes like?” – Yes. Yes, I do.
- “Do you hate being happy?” – Nope.
Anyone who knows me would know that I will eat pretty much anything, but I just don’t like pumpkin. Period.
I also don’t enjoy children running around, but it turned out that they weren’t something to worry about, but something else I can’t stand was rampant, as far as the eye could see:
I saw endless amounts of stores catering for Halloween, particularly costume shops, but almost all of the shops catered for adults. For men it was simple, they can dress as almost anything. Women on the other hand really only had the option of “Sexy [insert character or inanimate object here]”. Sure, it looks like it could be some fun, except for the competitive nature of New Yorkers. Pretty much every news reporter, weather reporter and morning show host has dressed up at least once during the week, search it on youtube.
Anna’s colleague, Jesse McCann, was having a Halloween party at his apartment and we were all invited. It just didn’t seem like my kind of thing, so my plan was to go to a favourite old haunt of mine, Jeremy’s Ale House, and possibly drop around to Jesse’s later. Anna originally wanted to put on her costume at Jesse’s, only to be told that traveling on public transport in your costume is part of the ritual.
I took the train to the pub and it appeared as if that tradition was being enforced by law, as seen in the photo at the introduction to this post. The subway was full of drunk, 6′ tall cartoon characters, screeching and vomiting and as soon as I exited I had to do the vomiting drunk-chick gauntlet, trying not to step in their pavement pizzas as I went. I settled in to Jeremy’s for the night, watching the World Series and the basketball again, before getting a call off Anna at around midnight to join them at Jesse’s place. He had a spare costume and some beers, so I made my way up there, cashed in my dignity and stuck around for a little while.
It ended up being an interesting night, but I still haven’t converted to Halloween, the crappy decorations and crappier costumes, I’m just relieved we’re back to some level of normality. I did, however, spend quite a period of time wondering if this was a costume or just an every day, run of the mill transvestite.