Halloween Masquerade 4

Yes I was going to talk about the label; I just needed a little more time.  You see, my other daughter did manage to find a decent skeleton costume at the Chinese 5-and-dime, which was a near miracle because you never know what those things are going to look like until you put them on.  And more often than not your first reaction is, “Skeletons don’t have tails, do they?  Don’t worry, I’m sure grandma can do something about it.”

         Later on I was picking up the cardboard label from the floor where it had been deposited and forgotten about a couple of hours before, when I stopped to take a better look at it.  The pause was well worth it.  It is not often that so little can say so much; almost like a haiku.

         It wasn’t my intention to devote so much attention to something destined to end up in the city dump in the near future, I think I’ll forgo recycling thing, but there was just too much there to ignore.  To begin with, there was an issue concerning the photograph that depicted the costume: a young man dressed up as a glaring skeleton with an arming cap and wielding an executioner’s axe. The model looked about as threatening as a mailman, but he gets credit for trying.  Everything up to that point was fine until I glanced at the vertically printed sign on the side that read “Pink Fairy”.  That didn’t look quite right.  In fact, the full name was “Pink Fairy: Adult Costume”.  That sounded even odder.

         I scratched my cheek and sat down for a little think.   Obviously, there had been a mistake at the assembly line.  The wrong name had been matched with the wrong costume, from what I could tell.  It is my guess that they have probably picked up on this error by now, unless, of course, they don’t know that “pink fairy” does not mean “skeleton with an axe”.  In that case, I am comforted by the thought that should the crisis in Spain rage on so long that even the English teachers will have to abandon the country, and that would be serious because, after all, we are about the only sector thriving in these rough times, since now that no one is working, all anyone does is try to perfect their English so that they can leave country.

         The day we have to go will mean turning off the lights and locking up.

         Oh well, assuming this was a simple oversight back at the factory, I gave them the benefit of the doubt.  But I have to admit that the misnomer did grab my attention, and now that I was nearly reclined with the cardboard label in both hands like an iPad, I decided to move on and study what else the packaging had to say.  The result was the discovery a whole world of curiosities.

         For example, the size category had two points worth remarking on.  You had:

          □      Small/medium

          □      Medium/large

         □      One size fits all

Now I am sharp enough to get the idea of the “small/medium” and “medium/large”, but what was the “one size fits all” all about?  I mean, if you have an all-encompassing outfit, why would you need the others?  And what the heck is “one-size-fits all”?  This wasn’t a bathing cap or a condom, it was a costume to represent Death.  Yet, according to the label, my thirteen-year-old daughter and a friend of mine who weighs 280lbs. could count on the same suit with the same results.  If true, this would be a stunning find in my book, worthy of international recognition.

       Once she tried it on, though, I new no miracle would happen.  It was one size fits all, as long as all sizes were one.

         I moved on.  Just over to the right, down in the corner, I spotted a helpful caveat: Warning! Keep away from fire.  Did it suggest that the outfit was particularly favorable for engulfing the wearer in flames?  Or was this just a simple safety tip for life in general?  After all, fire does tend to be hazardous to anyone who gets too close to it, even if you are buck naked, and most clothes tend to succumb to its heat no matter what they are made of.  This warning is a standard caution for all costumes, but when you think about it, it seems strange to single them out.

         Not yet satiated, I turned the label over and found more.  Here was another piece of advice: Not Recommended for Children under Age 3.  Well, that surely cleared up things.  It was an adult-sized costume, albeit called Pink Fairy, but I guess this notice must have been the result of some prior lawsuit, like “Do Not Dry Your Pet in the Microwave Oven”.

         The very last item got another chuckle out of me: it was the part that said 100% polyester right above the green recyclable symbol.  There is something about polyethylene plastic and making the world a cleaner place that makes me think they shouldn’t even be in the same room together, let alone complement each other.  But as it turns out, polyester is apparently quite recyclable and even coveted by many companies.

         Oh, well.  I conceded that point.  They weren’t perfect, but nor was I.

Halloween Masquerade

Ever since Vicente Rico’s closed down a few years ago, the choices available for getting a halfway decent costume in Madrid have been reduced drastically, by about 50%, I’d say.  Now there is only one place that I can think of that offers any serious range of costumes without having to resort to the Chinese 5-and-dime stores, which is where you end up going in the end.  But we will get to them later.  Vicente Rico had a store just off Serrano.  It had been there for as long as I can remember before it suddenly disappeared.  I guess the crisis got the best of it.

         So, now my daughters and I slip down to the center to Maty, another classic in town.  Maty opened its doors in 1943, right smack in the heart of the crude post-Spanish Civil War days.  It originally sold dance slippers, but later expanded into marketing outfits related to dance and ballet as well.  It eventually diversified its offer to include costumes to cater to the growing demand at Carnival and Halloween.

         Halloween has no place in Spanish tradition but it is growing in popularity, and in part English teachers like me are to blame.  It was supposed to be a fun way of incorporating culture from the English-speaking world into the classroom.  But you don’t just mention getting dressed up as a monster and raking in 5lbs. of candy and expect children to passively sit back and accept it as an entertaining curiosity of faraway lands.  Eventually one child stands up and demands in a low voice, “I want that too!  And I want it now!”

         Wearing a witched costume and getting a muffin doesn’t mean the kids get any closer to the true spirit of the day.  Halloween just sort of comes and goes in the psyche of the children here, and they don’t seem to know when or how or why.  That sppoky, eerie, haunting feel you sense in the days leading up to that magical night, doesn’t take hold here.  It’s simply not deeply rooted enough, which is why you get scenes like the following.

         I’ll write a date on the blackboard and ask, “O.K. kids, what does October 31st mean?”

         Most will stare back with blank looks on their faces and three will shout, “Thanksgiving!”

         “All right, let’s try that one again.  October 31st.  October 31st!  Come on!”

         One raises his hand and announces, “My birthday is on the 28th.”

         “Fantastic Pedro.  That wasn’t what I had in mind but God bless you.”

         How could they not know this?  They love the ay but they can never recall when it is.   Back home that date is ingrained in your memory before you even learn the names of brothers and sisters.  It’s simply that important.

          I’ll need to change strategies.  “Let me give you a little hint which I think will help out.  I’ll slowly spell it on the bored and you can guess when you think you know the answer.  Here we go:  H-A-L-…”

         “¡Hala Madrid!”  One screams with delight, proudly under the impression that he has gotten the answer right.  He has just called out Real Madrid’s victory cry, and the class has suddenly been interrupted by an ensuing heated debate about what the best soccer team is.   There tale doesn’t end there.